Timeline & Victim
Brandon Lawson, 26: August 8, 2013 (last seen)
~11:53pm: Brandon leaves his home in San Angelo, TX headed for his father’s residence in Crowley, TX
~12:00am: Brandon’s wife, Ladessa, calls his cell phone and asks him to return home
~12:10am: Brandon’s brother, Kyle, arrives at the Lawton home to check on Ladessa and the children
12:34am & 12:36am: Ladessa misses 2 calls from Brandon
~12:38am: Brandon calls Kyle to tell him his truck has run out of gas
~12:40am: Kyle calls Ladessa to tell her that Brandon ran out of gas
~12:48am: Ladessa misses a third call from Brandon
~12:54am: Brandon calls 911
~12:58am: A passing motorist calls 911 to report Brandon’s vehicle partially-blocking the highway
~1:10am: Kyle arrives on scene to find Brandon missing; an officer arrives around the same time
~1:18am: Kyle’s girlfriend, Audrey, receives a phone call from Brandon in which he states that he is bleeding. Audrey and Kyle begin searching for Brandon. Ladessa misses multiple calls from Brandon.
~3am: Brandon’s phone is either shut off or loses battery power
Brandon, 26, was an oil field worker from San Angelo, Texas. He lived with his common law wife of 10 years, Ladessa Lofton. Brandon had 4 children (3 of them with Ladessa and 1 from a prior relationship). He worked long hours to provide for his family and, by all accounts, would not have voluntarily gone missing. Ladessa claimed at one point that Brandon was working up to 95 hours a week and was due to start a new job soon.
Brandon was 5’9″, weighed approximately 230lbs, and had multiple tattoos as well as a scar on his chin and left knee. He had one ear pierced. At the time he went missing, Brandon was wearing a yellow shirt, green camouflage shorts, and white 2013 Air Max sneakers.
On the night of his disappearance, Brandon and Ladessa got into an argument. Brandon left their home in San Angelo, TX with the intention of driving northeast to his father’s residence in Crowley, TX, an approximately 3.5-hour drive. Shortly after he left, Ladessa called Brandon to ask him to not go all the way to Crowley for the night. Instead, she suggested he drive around to cool off for a bit before coming back home or, possibly, head to his brother, Kyle’s, to stay the night (Kyle’s home was only 5 miles from theirs).
It is possible this conversation persuaded Brandon as he began driving North on Highway 277 towards Abilene rather than East on Highway 67 which would have put him in the direction of his father’s home in Crowley. However, it is also possible Brandon was taking a slightly longer, backroads route to Crowley for some unspecified reason (perhaps there were less cops on that road and Brandon did have an outstanding bench warrant, perhaps it was just a more scenic route).
Brandon knew his truck was nearly out of gas but still attempted to make it to the 24-hour Stripes Convenience Store gas station in Bronte, about 30-minutes from his home. Brandon’s car was found on the side of Highway 277 just 4.5 miles outside Bronte and 1/4 mile from a rest stop. While Brandon was out driving, Ladessa called his brother, concerned about him and the argument they’d had. Kyle offered to come over to check on Ladessa and the children, one of whom had been sick the past few days with an ear infection. Kyle arrived at Brandon and Ladessa’s home around 12:10am.
Approximately 45-minutes after leaving home, Brandon called Kyle, and told him that his truck was out of gas on Highway 277 near Bronte, TX. Kyle had some difficulty understanding everything Brandon was saying because the call was repeatedly dropped due to spotty signal. However, he was able to make out Brandon saying “I’m 10 minutes up the road. Just hurry up and get here.” Kyle then called Ladessa to inform her that Brandon was out of gas. Kyle suggested that he and his girlfriend, Audrey, stop by Brandon and Ladessa’s home to pick up a gas can to deliver to Brandon.
Ladessa placed a gas can on the front porch before taking a shower and turning in for the night. Ladessa also placed her phone in her van to charge as the phone was running low on battery and she did not have a working indoor charger. Kyle’s paycheck had not yet cleared so his plan was to pick up the gas can from Ladessa’s porch, drive out to where Brandon was stranded, and get money from him to fill the can. When he and Audrey arrived at Brandon’s truck, Brandon was nowhere to be found.
Around the same time Kyle and Audrey arrived at Brandon’s truck, Deputy Neal from the Coke County Sheriff’s Office also arrived on scene, responding to a 911 call from a passing motorist about an abandoned truck blocking the road. None of the parties observed any damage to Brandon’s vehicle, however, the truck appeared to have been hastily or sloppily ditched with the back end protruding into the road. The truck’s doors were unlocked, and the keys were missing as was Brandon’s cell phone and wallet. There has been no bank account or cell phone activity on Brandon’s accounts since his disappearance.
At the time Kyle, Audrey, and Deputy Neal arrived on scene, none were aware of Brandon’s 911 call 15 minutes prior. The 911 Operator had not obtained Brandon’s name or location and the call was likely dismissed once it dropped signal and the line went dead. Three days after Brandon’s disappearance, Ladessa was scrolling through his phone records and saw the outgoing call to 911 on the night he disappeared, bringing attention to this critical piece of evidence.
Back at the scene, Deputy Neal informed Kyle about the passing motorist’s call to 911 regarding Brandon’s vehicle in the road. Unaware of Brandon’s recent 911 call, Kyle informed Deputy Neal that Brandon should be returning to his vehicle shortly. Deputy Neal then turned on the truck’s hazard lights, locked the doors, and requested a tow truck to retrieve the vehicle at 8am if it was still on the road. He left the scene at 1:18am as did Kyle and Audrey. As they drove down the road, Audrey texted Brandon at 1:19am to tell him that there was an officer at his vehicle (again, Audrey and Kyle were unaware that Brandon called 911 and was likely in danger. Brandon had a bench warrant out at the time and Kyle believed he might be hiding from Officer Neal for this reason).
At some point, Brandon was able to get a call through to Audrey and told her that he was bleeding but the call dropped before she could get any further information. Kyle and Audrey then began driving up and down the road searching for Brandon and calling his name. Kyle rang Ladessa’s phone multiple times to no answer before calling some friends from work to come help with the search. Kyle also attempted to call Brandon’s phone. Around 3am, Brandon’s phone stopped ringing, either due to losing battery or because it was shut off.
Around 4:30am, Ladessa retrieved her phone from her truck and saw the missed calls from Kyle and Brandon. She attempted to call Brandon but the call went straight to voice mail. She then called Kyle who updated her about finding Brandon’s truck but no sign of Brandon. Kyle decided to head home and search again once the sun came up, leaving the gas can in the back of Brandon’s truck before heading home. Ladessa then called the Sheriff’s office to see if they had found Brandon; they had not.
By 7am, Kyle’s paycheck had cleared so he returned to Brandon’s truck and filled the gas can. Becoming increasingly alarmed, Kyle then informed LE about the earlier phone conversation in which Brandon stated that he was bleeding.
Ladessa subsequently hired a private search plane to comb the area for any sign of Brandon. She also set up the Help Find Brandon Lawson Facebook page. Ladessa, Kyle, and other loved ones organized several ground search parties for Brandon. Just over a week after his disappearance, on August 16, 2013, law enforcement conducted an aerial search using infrared cameras. They detected nothing of relevance. On August 29, 2013, investigators combed over 2,500 acres around the site where Brandon’s truck was located.
On October 24, 2013, a final search was conducted using human cadaver dogs. The dogs found no sign of Brandon and some reports indicate the dogs may have been thrown off by the scent of local wild hogs which may have complicated their ability to track human remains. A total of 7 searches were conducted by law enforcement. Although Brandon’s family was denied access to some privately-owned land in order to conduct their own searches, it appears that law enforcement was able to access all areas they desired to check in their searches for Brandon.
The 911 Call
There are many clips online of the 911 call Brandon made just prior to his disappearance. Some of these clips are slowed down or otherwise altered in an attempt to enhance listening quality. Here is a clip of the unaltered 911 call. Brandon sounds out of breath, either because he has been running, is scared, or both. His thick, Southern drawl also makes it challenging for some listeners to discern what he is saying. Adding to the difficulty, the 911 call goes in and out of signal. Some theorize that Brandon is high or inebriated, further garbling his words. From what I am able to discern, below is a suggested transcript including popular variations proposed by other listeners. In bold is what I believe to be the most likely transcript:
911 Operator: 9-1-1-Emergency
Brandon: Yes, I’m in the middle of a field….[I/a state trooper/staper*/bikers/State Street*] just [pulled/pushed] some guys over….[we’re/they’re] out here goin’ towards Abilene on [both sides/Bronte* side]. My truck ran out of gas. There’s one car here….[the guy’s/they got/I got] chasing [him/me] into the woods. Please hurry.
Operator: Ok, now run that by me one more….
Brandon: [There’ll be no talking to ’em. And, we’re not talking to ’em/Tell ’em I’m talking to ’em]. I [accidentally/totally] ran into ’em.
Operator: Oh, you ran into ’em? Ok.
[possible background noise]
Brandon: [They shot/Just/That’s] the first guy.
Operator: Do you need an ambulance?
Brandon: Yeah, No, I need the cops.
[more background noise]
Operator: Ok, is anybody hurt? Hello? Hello? Hello?
Brandon probably put his cell phone into his pocket and took off running at this point, which accounts for the line not going dead but us also not hearing him speak any further. Some listeners claim they hear heavy metal music playing at end of the tape when Brandon is no longer responding to the operator. Other listeners claim they hear a male voice in the background and that, at times, Brandon may be speaking to this person and not to the operator.
*Note: Bronte is pronounced “Brawnt,” not “Brawn-tay”
Staper — some people contend that “staper” is a slang term for oil field worker. I have not been able to find any evidence of this being a slang term prior to Brandon’s disappearance. Others claim that “staper” is a portmanteau of “state” and “trooper.” I think this is a possibility, however, most Texans do not refer to law enforcement as “state troopers” — they say “cops, DPS, or rangers.”
State Street — some people contend that Brandon was saying “State Street,” not “state trooper” or “staper.” This would make sense as Highway 277, where his truck was found, is called State Street nearer to where it enters Bronte, TX.
- A local named Alice states: “My ex owns a ranch. I think an important aspect of this case is what a nothing town Bronte is. It’s like…3 neighborhoods and a juvenile correctional facility? The correctional facility is new-ish I think, too, although it predates this incident. They don’t even have a grocery store there, just a really big convenience store. Who are all these people who might have been picking him up/chasing him/shooting at him? There is literally nothing happening in Bronte at any given time. It’s one of those places where they roll the sidewalks up at 6pm.”
- A second local going by the screen name of “nannymo” concurs: “I travel that road often. I live in Abilene and my grandkids are in San Angelo. This area is busy during the daytime with travelers, but not super busy. There would be very little if any traffic at 1am. I have traveled that area late at night and it isn’t very busy at all.”
- A local named Carol notes: “I live in San Angelo, and if someone here is driving to Abilene, they will usually take one of two routes: Bronte or Ballinger. If Brandon thought he was speaking to San Angelo’s 911 dispatch, ‘on (the) Bronte side’ would identify exactly what road he was on: between San Angelo and Abilene, on the Bronte route, as opposed to the Ballinger route.”
Theory #1: The State Trooper Conspiracy
When Brandon’s car ran out of gas 4.5 miles from Bronte, he pulled over abruptly to the side of the road but was unable to make it all the way into the breakdown lane. Somewhere near his truck, he encountered a situation he was not supposed to witness — something involving a person resembling a state trooper pulling over a vehicle with at least 2 “guys” in it. From there, some kind of altercation ensued with “the guys” chasing the “state trooper” into the woods where the “state trooper” shot the first guy. Following this, he shot the other guy/s before killing Brandon, knowing that Brandon was a witness. Some proponents of this theory contend that it was an actual state trooper or law enforcement officer who was involved in the altercation. Others contend that it was someone impersonating an officer.
Those in favor of an actual LE officer committing the murders also believe the 911 tape was edited and vital information redacted before being publicly released. For whatever it is worth, the True Crime Garage podcast took an in-depth look at this angle and were unable to find any obvious evidence of tampering with the audio (i.e. splicing Brandon’s “state trooper” to create “staper.”). Fueling this conspiracy theory is the fact that the local county newspaper was bought by Sheriff Wayne McCutchen and his wife, Melinda McCutchen in 2010, 3 years prior to Brandon’s disappearance. Many claim Melinda’s news reports on Brandon’s disappearance have been less than favorable of his character and that her serving as an editor and publisher of the paper is a conflict of interest given that her husband was the sheriff overseeing the search for Brandon.
Problems with this theory: If a massive coverup was involved, that’s a pretty big undertaking and would involve many people and many moving parts. That’s a lot to keep quiet. There’s also just not really any evidence of this. If Brandon was shot out in the field or bushes, where is the evidence of his murder? Where is the blood? Why did no one report the sound of gunshots? If Brandon was attacked by someone else, what happened in between his 12:54am call to 911 and his 1:18am call to Audrey, some 24-minutes later? Some proponents of this theory claim they hear multiple gunshots in the background of the 911 call. If he was hiding in the brush evading his attacker only to be killed around 1:20am, why did Audrey, Kyle, and Deputy Neal not hear any gunshots or see any other vehicles or persons in the vicinity? More importantly, how did the perpetrator manage to drag Brandon’s 230lbs body out of the bushes and bramble and dispose of him elsewhere prior to daylight? 230lbs is a lot to carry not to mention when it is literally dead weight.
Theory #2: Brandon the Helper
Similar to the state trooper theory, this theory contends that Brandon encountered a state trooper or a person impersonating a law enforcement officer (LEO) who had pulled a vehicle over. The situation got out of hand for the LEO and one or more of “the guys” took off running. Brandon hastily pulled his truck over to assist, leaving the truck partially in the road. He ran after one of the men and, briefly, held him before the tables turned and Brandon and the LEO were killed.
Problems with this theory: There is no record of an actual LEO being on the scene night or going missing or anything like that which leaves only the option that someone was impersonating an LEO. Why, then, pull a car with “guys” over? Why be outnumbered if you’re trying to commit a crime? If the tables turned and Brandon and the LEO were killed, how were their bodies so neatly and quickly disposed of in the short time between Brandon’s 911 call and Deputy Neal arriving on scene?
Theory #3: Brandon and the Bikers
Another proposed explanation is that Brandon encountered some “road hogs” along Highway 277 who were traveling “on both sides” of the road when they should have only been occupying one lane. Brandon was crowded off the road, which explains the strange position his truck was found in (many online sleuths contend that, had he simply run out of gas, he should have been able to glide his truck onto the shoulder). A road rage incident ensued and Brandon was killed, his body transported elsewhere and disposed of. Some contend they hear heavy metal music and the revving of a motorcycle engine at the end of the 911 call, lending credence to this theory.
Problems with this theory: This theory seems a bit more plausible to me than the first two because it involves less moving parts and might explain the “both sides” conundrum which otherwise seems difficult to fit into the narrative. I don’t believe there is heavy metal music or the revving of a motorcycle engine at the end of the 911 call — or that, if there is, that it has anything to do with bikers killing Brandon. If they gravely wounded him then why did he wait 24-minutes to call Audrey after calling 911? What happened in that interim? Did the bikers come back to finish him off? Why did no one else report seeing “road hogs” that night? Essentially, this theory has the same problems as the first — how did bikers lug Brandon’s body onto a motorcycle and drive off with him without anyone else seeing this transpire? Additionally, while this theory explains the “both sides” conundrum, there are other viable explanations as well: For instance, “both sides” refers to an actual location where the road would head toward Abilene on both sides. Importantly, Brandon told his brother he was “ten minutes” up the road. This location is a 13-minute drive north from Brandon’s truck.
Theory #4: Brandon and the Bad Ride
In this theory, Brandon ran out of gas just south of Bronte, where Highway 277 turns into State Street. Brandon flagged down a passing motorist (“just pulled some guys over, we’re out here going towards Abilene on both sides. My truck ran out of gas”) to drive him into Bronte to get gas. Along the way, something went terribly wrong (“there’s one car here, got chased into the woods, please hurry”) This explains why Brandon was saying “we” when he should have been alone — he was in the company of the man or men who picked him up at the side of the road. Something happened that caused him to flee from their vehicle and head towards the field/woods. This theory also explains why some people say a voice other than Brandon’s can be heard in the background toward the end of the 911 call.
Problems with this theory: Not everyone believes they can hear another person’s voice in the background of the 911 call. What could have possibly gone so wrong in 1-2 minutes’ time while driving toward Bronte? What did they do with Brandon’s body? What happened in the 24-minutes between Brandon’s 911 call and the call he placed to Aubrey? Why didn’t he tell Aubrey he was being chased or was in danger?
Theory #5: Brandon Killed A Guy/Brandon 2.0
The main evidence for this theory is the phone call itself as well as Brandon’s prior behavior. Proponents of this theory believe Brandon was in “a state of extreme physical and psychological distress” and hitched a ride toward Bronte when his truck ran out of gas. The citizen who picked Brandon up drove PAST Bronte (for some unexplained reason) which caused Brandon to become further distressed. An altercation broke out in the car and Brandon fled the vehicle, running toward the woods in an area where the road diverges and veers toward Abilene “on both sides.” Brandon was chased by the man through the woods and eventually pinned him down, calling 911 while doing so. Brandon kills the man and then summons his brother and Ladessa to help him dispose of the body and disappear from town. Given that he already had a warrant, Brandon was fearful he’d be put away for life so Kyle and Ladessa create a diversion at the scene of his abandoned truck while Brandon gets out of town, leaving his cell phone behind. Brandon has been voluntarily disappeared of his own volition ever since.
Proponents of this theory believe they can hear a second person in the background of the 911 call, whom Brandon had pinned down or otherwise detained (“I got the first guy” – who also appears to be saying “yeah” to the dispatcher’s offer of an ambulance). They also believe they can hear the man gasping “help me” after the dispatcher’s second “Hello.” Supporters of this theory also point to rumors about Brandon’s “pugnacious” state the evening he disappeared — the rumors that he accosted Ladessa during their argument and rumors of an altercation in the Walmart parking lot. They also note that Brandon’s loved ones appear to be withholding information at times.
Problems with this theory: No other men were reported missing that evening so who did Brandon kill and why wasn’t he missed? What happened to the man’s truck? His body? Would Brandon really abandon his 4 children when he could potentially plead self-defense? People with strong roots don’t tend to up and leave and not leave some kind of trail. Often, they return back home at some point. Why did the man drive past Bronte? How did a fight break out in less than 10 minutes? When Brandon fled the vehicle why did the man chase after him instead of just driving off? So many holes….
Theory #7: Brandon and the Altered State of Mind
Various reports indicate that Brandon had about a year of sobriety under his belt at the time of his disappearance. He had prior criminal charges for possession and there are indications that methamphetamine was rampant in the San Angelo area around the time Brandon went missing, although it is unclear what, specifically, Brandon was in recovery from using (however, there are numerous online reports that he had previously abused meth).
Some people theorize that the intense fight between Ladessa and Brandon the night he disappeared pushed him over the edge and caused him to relapse. We do know that the fight was bad enough that Brandon was initially planning to drive 3.5 hours to his father’s home in the middle of the night, leaving his 4 children behind. That’s not a disagreement over the dishwasher; this was a major fall-out over something big.
This altered state of mind theory proposes that Brandon ran out of gas and ventured off on foot toward Bronte. At some point, he saw Deputy Neal approaching (responding to the passing motorist’s call to 911) and this caused Brandon to veer off into the brush to hide due to his outstanding warrant. From his hiding spot, Brandon witnessed Deputy Neal drive south on Highway 277 while Deputy Fox drove north. He became further paranoid and called 911, reporting a “state trooper” going towards Abilene “on both sides” and a situation involving “some guys.” The “both sides” Brandon references in the call is an observation of two police cruisers going in opposite directions on the same road. What is most striking to me about the 911 call is that no one has been able to make heads or tails of it. This lends itself to Brandon being in a disoriented state. The 911 call reminds me of the unfortunate story of a young couple who got lost in the dead of winter while high on meth. They called 911 to report that the people they were trying to get help from would not respond to them. The couple froze to death and it was later determined that they had likely been talking to cows in the pasture instead of actual people.
Brandon continued to wander into the brush, getting scraped up and bleeding. He called Aubrey 24-minutes later and told her he was bleeding and that she should hurry up to get him. Aubrey said it sounded like he wandering about in the brush in the background. Brandon’s phone battery died or was otherwise shut off (placed in a body of water?) and he succumbed to the elements. Word on the street is that wild hogs local to the area are vicious. It is possible he was running from them or was injured by them — or, perhaps, even mistook them for “some guys.”
At the time Brandon went missing, the temperature was a mild 78-degrees. Winds were calm at 0 miles/hour and the low for that night was a comfortable 73-degrees. However, the following day, temperatures rose to a high of 102-degrees. If Brandon was wandering the area, disoriented and possibly injured, that heat could quickly become deadly without any shelter or water.
There are some rumors that Brandon had accused Ladessa of cheating on him. Even if Brandon did not relapse and was not abusing substances on the evening of his disappearance, some theorize that sleep deprivation could have contributed to an altered state of mind. Ladessa stated at one point that Brandon was working up to 95 hours a week just prior to his disappearance. Sleep deprivation and stress can certainly alter a person’s perception of reality and cause them to behave in irrational ways. Additionally, if Brandon did relapse on substances, this might account for the missing time problem — see below.
The Missing Time Problem:
- A San Angelo local claims it is a 20-25 minute drive to get from the other side of San Angelo to the Stripes Convenience Store that Brandon was heading to in Bronte. Brandon’s truck was ditched 4.5 miles south of Bronte. Why did it take him 40 minutes to get there? He left his home at 11:53pm and first called for assistance at 12:34am. That’s 41 minutes. What was he doing during the missing 20-25 minutes?
- Did Brandon stop somewhere in San Angelo before getting on Highway 277? There are rumors that he called a friend from the San Angelo Walmart parking lot and stated that he had gotten into some kind of altercation. Is it possible Brandon took off in his car to escape? Is it possible he was pursued? Some speculate that Brandon was in the Walmart parking lot buying drugs and that this accounts for the missing 20-25 minutes. If he got into an altercation it would also explain why he drove on a near-empty tank of gas toward Bronte — fear makes us do irrational things.
- Driving 35 miles should only use up 2-3 gallons of gas. From the Walmart on 29th to the rest area near where his truck was found is 30.9 miles. Brandon should have known he was on empty prior to embarking toward Bronte. So, why make such an irrational decision to drive on an empty tank of gas, knowing it was likely he wouldn’t make it to Bronte before running out? Some contend he was being pursued and had no choice; others contend he was high or otherwise not in the right frame of mind — perhaps overly-confident from substances abused.
Problems with this theory: Ladessa claims that Brandon had not used the night he went missing and it seems reasonable to take her at her word on this. That said, she may not have known Brandon relapsed — especially if he didn’t relapse until after he left the house and, supposedly, stopped in the San Angelo Walmart parking lot prior to heading toward Bronte. Some argue that it is suspicious Kyle arrived at Ladessa and Brandon’s home so soon after he departed and surmise that Kyle was actually present the entire time, with all three of them (and, possibly, Audrey as well) using substances together. I think this is neither here nor there and also think sleep deprivation and stress from working 95 hours a week would be sufficient to alter someone’s state of mind and cause them to hallucinate and behave irrationally.
Other problems with this theory are that Brandon’s body was never found. If he did succumb to the elements, what happened to him? Many believe the wild hogs in the area and other wildlife may have disposed of any evidence. Others believe artifacts or other evidence are still out there waiting to be found and that, perhaps, Brandon was farther from his truck than anyone realized. In all, the main problems with this theory are that there is no concrete evidence Brandon was abusing any substances and no concrete evidence he stopped in the Walmart parking lot prior to departing for Bronte.
My Theory — A Little Bit of Everything
Brandon was distraught about his fight with Ladessa and incredibly stressed, overwhelmed, and sleep-deprived. He went somewhere for 20-25 minutes after leaving the family home and before heading to Bronte. It is unclear where he was during those 20-25 minutes. Perhaps just driving around trying to cool off. Perhaps the Walmart parking lot to meet up with an old drug contact. Either way, he was in a distressed state of mind, regardless of whether he was using substances or not.
Brandon was not making rational decisions. When his father told him not to come all the way out to Crowley for the night and, instead, to go home and work things out with Ladessa, Brandon did not. He got on the road to Bronte, knowing that he did not have enough gas to make it there. The most logical explanation for this is that Brandon was not of sound mind, either due to using substances or lack of sleep and stress from fighting with Ladessa. Apparently, it was common knowledge that Brandon and Ladessa often had arguments which resulted in one of them heading out for a bit to “cool off.” Whatever this argument was about, it was so bad that Brandon was really trying to get away for a significant “cooling off period” — he intended to drive 3.5 hours to Crowley and, when that plan was discouraged, did not return home after 20-25 minutes of driving around. Instead, he headed further away from San Angelo, Ladessa, and his children.
As he was driving on Highway 277 toward Bronte, Brandon got into some kind of road rage altercation with another vehicle. We know Brandon was in a sour mood and may have been more aggressive than his usual. This scenario also makes sense of his otherwise non-sensical 911 call: “Yes, I’m in the middle of a field. Just pushed some guys over. We’re out here goin’ towards Abilene on both sides. My truck ran out of gas. There’s one car here. Guy’s chasing me into the woods. Please hurry.” In this description, Brandon is attempting to tell the 911 operator that, while driving north on 277, an incident occurred between him and the driver of another vehicle which caused Brandon to try to push their vehicle off the road. This forced each vehicle to run parallel to one another, causing both vehicles to be headed “toward Abilene on both sides” (of course, this situation could also have happened in reverse with the other driver being the aggressor. In this scenario, Brandon may have pulled alongside the other vehicle to flip them off or something similar, causing both vehicles to be headed toward Abilene on both sides of the road).
Brandon then ran out of gas, causing his truck to end up in the strange position it was found in, with the tail-end of the driver’s side sticking out into the road. This suggests someone was chasing him and he was attempting to block the other vehicle and give himself enough time to run from his truck. There are few other logical reasons for why Brandon would pull his truck over in this way and not just pull it over parallel to the road. Brandon jumped out of the truck and ran into the brush. This makes sense of the rest of Brandon’s 911 call: “There’ll be no talking to ’em. I accidentally ran into ’em.”
Brandon tells us in the 911 call that there was more than one man present in this altercation. Whether he says “Just the first guy” or “That’s the first guy” (referencing a voice in the background), it is clear that there was a “first guy” and a “second guy.” It is evident two men were present on the scene other than Brandon. Brandon calls 911 as he is chased by the first guy, who has a gun and is stalking him in the brush. I do believe you can hear a gunshot go off in the background of the 911 call at this point. I also believe you can hear the man talking in the background of the call and that you can also hear something motorized getting closer and closer to Brandon in the background audio of the call — it is the driver of the vehicle Brandon tried to run off the road as he crawls down the road in his vehicle, watching “the first guy,” his passenger, stalk and then shoot Brandon.
The gunshot does not kill Brandon and he starts running again. At this point, the passing motorist who called 911 to report Brandon’s vehicle in the road begins approaching the scene. He slows down to check out Brandon’s truck. Seeing him approaching in the distance (many reports state the “passing motorist” was a truck driver so his headlights would have been easily seen from far off), the “first guy” jumps back in his vehicle and the driver takes off with both of them inside.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. One options is that the two guys who assaulted Brandon know they have to finish him off or else they could easily be found out by either Brandon or the truck driver. So, they return to the scene and begin stalking him again using the headlights from the truck and “the first guy” on foot. Brandon sees them return to the scene and runs farther off into the brush. Injured and exhausted, he calls Ladessa and his brother numerous times, perhaps to say his goodbyes, knowing his fate as the “the first guy” approaches again. Brandon’s insistence that his brother “please hurry” and that he was “bleeding” indicate that he was more than scraped up from the brush. Something was very wrong. Brandon may have been killed by locals who knew Highway 277 was mostly desolate that time of night and knew how to dispose of Brandon, perhaps on nearby private property. Another option is that they did not return to finish Brandon off and that he merely succumbed to his injuries in the brush.
The following is evidence Brandon was likely using substances the night he disappeared: the missing 20-25 minutes, Brandon driving to Bronte on an empty tank of gas, calling 911 when he had outstanding warrant and was likely the perpetrator in a road rage altercation, not knowing whether he needed an ambulance or not when asked (meth, in particular, will alter someone’s sense of logic, pain, and fear), the difficulty in understanding the 911 call (Brandon’s speech was slurred and he was intentionally withholding information from the 911 operator because, on some level, he realized his behavior could worsen his precarious situation with the law since he already had an outstanding warrant).
One must wonder if Brandon was, while not acutely suicidal, completely fed up with his life and on some kind of self-sabotaging binge. He was working 95 hours a week, had 4 children and an oft-contentious relationship with his common law wife. He had struggled with substance abuse on and off, had a bench warrant out for his arrest, and had just endured a huge fight with Ladessa. What bolsters this theory is the fact that Brandon only called 911 once. He called Ladessa, Kyle, and Aubrey nearly 10 times. Perhaps he was trying to say his goodbyes. He may have caught a glimpse of the peace he was seeking when taking off toward Bronte. He wanted to leave. He wanted to get away from the pain. Perhaps he just rolled along with a developing situation that would bring him relief.
Problems with my theory: If the guys did come back for Brandon, that would have been pretty risky. If Brandon was shot, why was no blood or evidence of a struggle found? Was it all internal bleeding that left no evidence? What happened to Brandon’s body? Was he removed from the scene by the assailants or was his body just never found?
Unanswered Questions That May Shed Light on this Case
- I don’t fully understand the timeline. How did Kyle get to Brandon so fast, especially if he had to pick up a gas can from Ladessa along the way?
- It’s a 31-minute drive from the center of San Angelo to the location of Brandon’s truck. If Brandon left his home at 11:53pm he should have arrived where the truck was found by 12:23am, give or take a few minutes. It appears he then called Ladessa at 12:34am and 12:36am. When she didn’t answer he called his brother at 12:38am. Kyle then called Ladessa 2 minutes later at 12:40am and she put the gas can out. Somehow, Kyle then made it to the location of Brandon’s truck in a clean 30 minutes, even while stopping at Ladessa’s, a 5-mile drive from his own home. HOW?? Was Kyle already at Ladessa’s?
- If it’s true Ladessa placed a gas can on the front porch before placing her cell phone in the truck to charge, how does this make sense? Your partner that you just had an epic fight with is stranded in the middle of the night with no gas so you take a shower and go to bed? I guess she thought Kyle would handle it….but, still….
- Deputy Neal came from the North but didn’t see anything unusual along the way? No bikers? No suspicious vehicles or activity?
- Why did Kyle leave the scene from 4:30-7am and what did he do during these 2 hours (not including driving time to/from the scene and his home ~30 minutes away)?
- Why did Brandon start driving on Highway 277 with an empty tank of gas knowing there was nowhere to stop along that stretch of road and that he was unlikely to make it to Bronte?
- Was there a gas station open in San Angelo at that time of night that Brandon could have more easily accessed?
- Why did Ladessa miss 3 calls from Brandon between 12:34-12:48am but received a call from Kyle around 12:40am?
- Why did Kyle go to check on Ladessa? What was he checking on? This doesn’t make sense. Was the argument that bad? Did Kyle and Ladessa know Brandon was at risk of relapse or hurting himself?
- Was it ever determined that Brandon’s truck was actually out of gas?
If you have information on the disappearance of Brandon Lawson, please contact the Cook County Sheriff’s Office at (940) 665-3471.