Exposing Racism In East Texas – Details of the murder and dismissed charges against the accused killers of Brandon McClelland
In our continuing series on Exposing Racism In East Texas we cover more details of the death of Brandon McClelland that were unknown to the public in 2008. In 2013 Shannon Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley actually sued Lamar county and law personnel for False arrest, Malicious Prosecution, and Wrongful Imprisonment. During this suit official court documents were released which are absolutely EXPLOSIVE to say the least and gives us quite a vivid picture of what possibly happened that night to Brandon. We are calling Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley the “accused” as they have not been convicted of this crime at this time. We hope that with new interest in this case, that will change.
I want to say before you continue to read this article to those that spoke with Ryan and Shannon about what happened that night, it is time to clear your conscious… It is time to do the right thing before you meet your maker… Do the right thing.
Please note that I contacted the Lamar County Sheriffs Office today on 5/2 and was told that the Brandon McClelland case is closed… Why is the case closed? There have been no convictions. That tells me that no one is investigating and no resources are being manned on this case. There are so many unsolved murders in this part of Texas, however we will save those stories for our next documentary project.
If you recall in our previous articles both Shannon Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley’s charges were dismissed against them after a truck driver stated he could have ran over Brandon’s body approx 4:30AM. However many witnesses rode past Brandon’s body BEFORE the truck driver would have ran Brandon over and some of these eye-witnesses are adamant that they passed the truck driver so Gary couldn’t have ran over him. Gary Clark has also denied that he was the cause of Brandon’s death and witness statements seem to back this up.
What Shannon Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley say happened the night of the murder
On September 15, 2008, Shannon Finley and Brandon McClelland installed sheet rock together for a man in Paris, Texas. After work, they picked up their friend Ryan Crostley, bought beer, and drove to another friend’s house nearby to begin drinking. Once there, all three drank beer and smoked marijuana. At some point in the evening, McClelland and Finley also took Xanax, a central nervous system depressant. Because they could not purchase alcohol in Texas after midnight, at some time in the early morning of September 16, all three left and drove in Finley’s Dodge Dakota to Oklahoma to purchase more beer, taking Highway 271.
On their return trip, the group drove slowly and only on back roads because the transmission in Finley’s truck was malfunctioning. While they were traveling on one of these country roads, McClelland and Crostley began arguing with Finley about whether he was too intoxicated to drive, and tried to convince him that either McClelland or Crostley should drive instead. When Finley refused, McClelland continued to argue with him. Finley eventually told McClelland that if he preferred not to ride with him, he could get out of the truck. McClelland then exited the truck and Finley and Crostley drove away. After about a mile, Crostley suggested they go back and retrieve McClelland. Finley agreed and turned the truck around. When they found McClelland walking along the side of the road on which they had left him, he again refused to ride with Finley. McClelland took two beers from the truck and continued walking. At some point that night, Crostley vomited in the front seat and out the front passenger window down the side of the truck. Crostley and Finley ultimately returned to Finley’s apartment without further interaction with McClelland.
Lamar County’s official version of the death of Brandon McClelland
Sometime around 4:20 a.m., McClelland, now walking along FM 2648, was struck and killed by a semi-trailer truck driven by Gary Clark. Clark felt a bump from the right side of his trailer tires, but otherwise had no indication that he had hit anything. Clark continued down the road for about five miles before stopping to see if he had gotten a flat tire. Finding that he had not, he continued to his destination in Idabel, Oklahoma.
Around the time of the accident. Brandon Smith and Clint Frachiseur, two friends driving on FM 2648 in separate cars, passed an eighteen-wheeler coming the opposite direction that was allegedly driving over the speed limit and partly over the center dividing line. Moments after passing the truck, they came upon McClelland’s body in the road. They then pulled over and called 911. Smith later told authorities that McClelland’s body was still emitting steam when they arrived. Two other witnesses also attested to passing a truck similar to Clark’s shortly before passing McClelland’s body in the road.
DPS Officer Keele, DPS Sergeant James Kain, Lamar County Investigator Joe Tuttle, and Lamar County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Barr were all dispatched to the scene. Tuttle recorded the witnesses’ statements. DPS Sergeant Chris Brooks arrived at the accident site sometime close to 5:00 a.m., after the witnesses had left. The officers at the scene noted that McClelland, who weighed 284 pounds at the time of his death, had been severely injured by the impact. He suffered a complete fracture of his pelvis, blunt head trauma so serious that brain matter was found on the highway, and lacerations of his legs approximately thirteen inches above the heel. No debris from any vehicle was found at the accident site.
Police inform Brandon’s mother of his death and Jacqueline provides more details on the previous night
Later in the morning of September 16, Keele met with members of McClelland’s family to deliver the news of his death. McClelland’s mother informed Keele that McClelland had been with Crostley and Finley the night before, and gave him their telephone numbers. Keele called Crostley and Finley and asked them to come to the Paris DPS office. When they arrived, Keele obtained a written statement from Finley while another officer simultaneously obtained a statement from Crostley. Both statements contained accounts of the argument between Finley and his passengers, and neither suggested that Crostley and Finley saw McClelland at any point after they drove away the second time. After Crostley and Finley left, Keele called Finley again to ask him to bring his truck into the DPS office, which Finley did. At some point before Finley brought in his truck, Finley and Crostley had cleaned the vomit out of the area in front of the front passenger seat, but it is unclear whether this occurred before or after they were first contacted by DPS personnel. Keele and Kain examined the truck and noticed no significant damage to the truck’s body. Photographs of the truck indicate there was no observable damage to the bumper, hood, or windshield. Keele noted that a part of the truck looked like it had been washed, but not very well. There was grass, rust, and dirt on the truck’s undercarriage. The truck was released back to Finley after the officers had finished their examination.
Witness say Shannon Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley admit to killing Brandon McClelland
The next evening, on September 17, Crostley and Finley were visited by two acquaintances, Trey Laster and Josh Newkirk. Laster had been arrested earlier in 2008 for injuring Finley in a fight. When they arrived at Finley’s apartment, Laster and Newkirk made statements suggesting they were seeking vengeance for McClelland’s death and wished to harm Finley and Crostley. Crostley, as well as an elderly neighbor who could hear the argument, each made 911 calls to report that Laster and Newkirk were trying to kill Finley.
The next day, on September 18, Keele interviewed Lisa Deninfield, the mother of Finley’s estranged wife Ashley Finley, who stated that her daughter had information about McClelland’s death. Keele then interviewed Ashley Finley, who said that she had spoken with Newkirk, who said that he had talked to Crostley, and that Crostley had told him he had been in Finley’s truck when Finley ran over McClelland and killed him. Ashley also stated that she had been told Finley had washed his truck at a car wash in Powderly, Texas, after the incident. That afternoon, either Kain or Keele reviewed videotape from the car wash Ashley Finley identified, but found no indication in the footage that the car wash had been visited by a Dodge Dakota.
Was it a Dodge Dakota or a Toyota Tundra that possibly dragged Brandon McClelland to his death?
The same day, Billy Pillars, a Paris police officer on patrol at the time, was flagged down by Laster, who said that he had information about the events of the night of September 15–16. Laster stated that Finley had told him about fighting with McClelland and that Finley had admitted to running McClelland over. Laster claimed that the vehicle in question was a Toyota Tundra. Pillars provided an incident report to Brooks, who had been briefed on the investigation that day by Keele. That evening, on September 18, Ranger Stacy McNeal also began working on the investigation. After he and Brooks were briefed, they went to Crostley’s residence and asked him to come into the Paris police station to give another interview. Crostley agreed, and gave an account consistent with his September 16th statement. Keele prepared an affidavit for a search warrant to allow the investigators to search Finley’s truck, which was signed by a magistrate later that evening.
Police find the correct truck and identify areas of human blood
On September 20, McNeal and Brooks executed the search warrant after they located Finley’s Toyota Tundra truck in a field on Finley’s father’s property. They noticed that the carpet on the floorboard was wet and that water was draining from the drain plugs. McNeal and Brooks had the vehicle towed to a garage where they put it on a lift to inspect the undercarriage. Using a Hemastix test, they identified two areas on the truck where the presence of human blood could not be ruled out (the areas tested “presumptively positive” for human blood). The samples were sent to the DPS Crime Lab three days later for a conclusive determination of whether human blood was present.
Shannon Finley leaves Texas immediately – Some say Mr. Finley went on the run.
While they were still at Finley’s father’s residence, McNeal and Brooks interviewed Finley’s father, who stated that he had moved Finley’s truck to the field because Finley had been receiving threats related to McClelland’s death, and Finley’s father was concerned that if people saw his truck at the residence, they would believe Finley was also there. Finley’s father said that Finley had left Paris to stay with friends in Kansas because he feared for his safety, but that he would willingly return if the authorities needed to talk to him.3 Finley’s father also provided Finley’s contact information to Tuttle. On September 23, McNeal called Finley’s father regarding Finley’s whereabouts. Finley’s father told him the name of the family friend in Kansas with whom Finley was staying, and that while he could not remember Finley’s telephone number, it had been provided to Tuttle.4 McNeal called Tuttle and successfully obtained Finley’s phone number.
More witness come forward accusing Finley and Crostley of killing Brandon McClelland.
On September 22, McNeal and Brooks interviewed Laster at the Paris Police Department. Laster said that Newkirk had told him that Crostley and Finley had dragged McClelland under Finley’s truck and killed him, and that Crostley had said he did not remember very much about the events of that night. Laster also stated that he and Newkirk had gone to Finley’s apartment on September 17, where Laster spoke to Finley while Newkirk spoke to Crostley. He said Finley had told him that Finley and Crostley dragged McClelland under the truck for thirty to forty feet and that McClelland’s body was “messy,” but also that they had not meant to kill him. Laster stated that Finley had told him he washed his truck after the incident. During the interview, the topic of Laster’s January 2008 arrest for assaulting Finley was discussed. Brooks and McNeal apparently laughed when Laster mentioned having knocked out Finley’s teeth.
Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley arrested for the death of Brandon McClelland.
The following day on Sept 24, 2008, Brooks and McNeal prepared affidavits, sworn by Brooks, for use in obtaining arrest warrants for Finley and Crostley, charging them both with murder and evidence tampering. The affidavits corresponding to each of the four charges were identical, and gave an account of the events of the night of September 15 that largely tracked what Laster had stated in his interview two days before. The affidavits claimed that in his September 16th interview, “Finley advised that he last saw McClelland walking east on FM 2648.” They stated that Ashley Finley had told Keele that “Crostley stated that Finley began to ‘bump’ McClelland with the front bumper of the truck until McClelland fell down” and then Finley ran him over, a statement Ashley Finley never actually made.
The affidavits also included the statement:
On September 18, 2008 affiant traced Shannon Finley to an area outside of Wichita, Kansas. Affiant beliefs [sic] after reviewing reports and statements and speaking with all officers involved in this investigation that Shannon Finley is attempting to elude officers and conceal evidence that maybe [sic] on and or under Finley’s vehicle.
What about the human blood found under Shannon Finley’s truck?
Regarding the samples from Finley’s truck that were sent to the DPS Crime Lab the day before but had not yet been processed, the affidavits say, “Upon viewing the undercarriage of the truck two separate parts of the truck contained human blood.” The affidavits were presented to a justice of the peace, who signed and issued the desired arrest warrants. Crostley and Finley were arrested shortly thereafter. McNeal and Brooks continued to collect evidence and conduct interviews. In interviews, Finley and Crostley each repeated their account of the relevant events, which were consistent with their earlier statements. On September 29, McNeal spoke to residents of the apartment complex where Finley’s apartment was located and learned of the threats Laster and Newkirk had made against Crostley and Finley on the night of September 17. McNeal and Brooks interviewed employees at Wesco Trucking, the company that employed Gary Clark, about a turquoise “truck tractor” that Wesco personnel thought may have run over McClelland. It was determined that this truck had been out of service on the night McClelland died. McNeal and Brooks executed a second search warrant for Finley’s truck, finding a fiber that ultimately proved to be plant matter, and noting a “water line” on the truck’s door.
Cause of Death Ruled Homicide
On October 21, Keele called the medical examiner, gave the examiner the account Laster and Newkirk had provided, and allegedly asked the examiner to change the autopsy report so that McClelland’s death was listed as a homicide, rather than an accident. Please note that 10 medical examiners signed the death certificate and all agreed that this was no accident and was clearly homicide.
Shannon Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley Indicted
On December 11, a Lamar County Grand Jury returned an indictment for Finley on counts of murder and evidence tampering, and an indictment for Crostley on counts of murder and retaliation. They remained incarcerated while the investigation continued and the parties prepared for trial. In March 2009, McNeal read the statements given by Smith, Frachiseur, and the other two witnesses, and interviewed them for the first time. In April 2009, defense investigators working on behalf of Crostley and Finley found information that led them to Gary Clark. On April 19, Gary Clark gave a sworn, video recorded statement detailing the events of September 16, 2008, in which he said it was likely he had run over McClelland. McNeal was informed of Clark’s statement on April 22, and Clark was then interviewed by the prosecution.
Witness start changing their statements and the charges against Finley and Crostley are dropped
McNeal interviewed Newkirk again, who now said that Crostley never made any statements to him about the way McClelland was killed, effectively recanting the accusations that had led investigators to arrest Finley and Crostley. When McNeal interviewed Laster again, Laster stated that he could not remember the conversations he had with Finley because he had been drinking heavily on the day he spoke with him. On June 4, all charges against Crostley and Finley were dropped.
Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley sue Lamar County and several police officers.
Crostley and Finley filed the present suit on January 26, 2010, nearly eight months before the two-year anniversary of their arrest. In the original complaint, they named Lamar County, Brooks, McNeal, and Special Prosecutor Toby Shook as defendants. Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, they sought damages stemming from alleged due process violations (in later pleadings, Fourth Amendment false arrest), false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and defamation. On July 21, after each Appellee had filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the district court granted leave for Appellants to amend their complaint to remedy pleading deficiencies with respect to claims against Brooks, McNeal, and Shook, but dismissed all claims against Lamar County with prejudice and without leave to amend. On August 17, 2010, Appellants filed their first amended complaint, naming the same four defendants in the caption of the complaint, but providing specific arguments only with respect to Brooks, McNeal, and Shook (and not Lamar County). Appellants eventually settled with Shook. Brooks and McNeal each filed motions for summary judgment, asserting qualified immunity. After the deadline to join parties to the litigation had passed, Appellants claimed they had discovered new information about Lamar County’s investigation procedures and Keele’s role in the case, and so filed a motion for leave to amend so that Lamar County could again be added as a defendant, and Keele could be added as a defendant for the first time.
On October 12, the court denied Appellants’ motion for leave to add Lamar County and Keele as defendants, deciding, among other things, that amendment would be futile because the statute of limitations had elapsed. The district court also granted summary judgment for Brooks and McNeal, finding they were both entitled to qualified immunity with respect to the federal false arrest and state malicious prosecution claims, the only claims still at issue. On November 17, 2011, Appellants filed a motion for reconsideration of their motion for leave to amend, which was also denied.
Appellants now appeal the grant of summary judgment on the false arrest claim in favor of Brooks and McNeal, the grant of summary judgment on the malicious prosecution claim in favor of Brooks, and the denial of their motion for leave to amend.
So What Now?
LeakYou is currently working on a documentary about Paris, Texas and the racism that permeates the area. In our next article, we will tell you the story of companies who for some reason in Paris, Texas have allowed racist behavior including blacks finding nooses in their work area, the word “Nigger” written on their clothes and in bathroom. LeakYou has pictures and they will shock you. In 2017 Post Civil War America, this is not something that should still be happening. LeakYou hopes to bring attention to this matter to not only get justice for Brandon McClelland but to get people to come together and look past skin color.