What happened to the Brandon McClelland case?
The case of Brandon McClelland drew extremely stirring parallels to the case of James Byrd Jr who was brutally murdered in Jasper, Tx after being chained to a truck by three white men who then dragged him for over three miles. A grand jury in Paris Texas returned first degree murder indictments against Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley who were accused of killing Brandon McClelland after the three men went on a late night beer run.
Shannon Finley was also indicted for evidence tampering for attempting to wash Brandon McClelland’s blood from the undercarriage of the vehicle and for pouring beer onto Brandon’s body AFTER the dragging. Charles Crostley was also indicted for retaliating against a witness in the case. Remember that Brandon’s body was found lying in the middle of a very remote Farm to Market road in Lamar county.
The extreme violence to Brandon’s body and rumors that Shannon Finley was a member of a white supremacist prison gang shook many who called for this incident to be treated as a hate crime.
An autopsy report signed by 10 medical examiners of the Dallas Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science stated that:
“Initial investigation suggested that the blunt force injuries sustained were the result of an accidental hit-and-run.”
However, additional investigation and developments in the case indicate that the decedent was intentionally run over with a truck. The report further states
“Therefore, based upon the autopsy findings and the history available to us, it is our opinion that Brandon Demon McClelland, a 24-year-old black male, died as a result of blunt force injuries.” Also, the manner of death declared by the examiners is homicide.”“I had the opportunity to review the post mortem report on the body and the majority of his (McClelland) brain was absent from the body at the time it was examined,” stated Dr. Joye Carter, a forensic pathology consultant.
New prosecutor appointed to case
Lamar County D.A. Gary Young came under fire from many for statements he made stating that the killing did not appear to be a hate crime due to friendship ties between the victim Brandon and the accused killers Shannon and Charles. Mr. Young also had previously represented Shannon Finley on another case for murder 4 years prior. The special prosecutor Toby Shook who took over from District Attorney Gary Young stated at the time that he elected not to present potential hate crime charges and that under Texas law such charges would not result in any enhancement. However many wanted hate crime charges brought against these men.
In the previous case, Shannon Finley was charged in the fatal shooting of a “friend.” This was the same case in which Brandon McClelland who was killed, was charged with perjury for providing a false alibi for Shannon Finley’s whereabouts. Both of these men served time in prison. Note that just because these two men may have been friends, it does not mean that a hate crime was not committed.
Toby Shook is known for trying the Texas 7, a group of prisoners who escaped from the John B. Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas in 2000. They were apprehended a little more than a month later as a direct result of the television show America’s Most Wanted.
Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley were released from jail on a Thursday afternoon only months after being charged in Brandon McClelland death. The special prosecutor Toby Shook was granted a mostion to dismiss the case. The prosecution stated that the case was hampered by a lack of eyewitnesses and physical evidence. A gravel truck driver gave a sworn statement in the case acknowledging he might have accidently run over Brandon McClelland’s body.
No restrictions were placed on the freedom of Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley after they were released from jail and the gravel truck driver did not face any charges either.
Toby Shook later said
“After investigation, it has been determined this case should be dismissed in the interests of justice. The decision is about the state of the evidence in the case as it exists today.”
One thing that we all wondered was how did this happen. Apparently after the three friends (Shannon Finley, Charles Crostley, and Brandon McClelland) drove across the Oklahoma border to buy beer, they argued on the way back home about whether Shannon Finley was too drunk to drive. Shannon Finley has stated that he would not let anyone else drive his truck. After a heated argument, Brandon McClelland got out of the car to walk home and was fatally struck.
After Brandon McClelland death, Shannon Finley left town for Kansas. Mr. Finley was arrested there and extradited to Texas which has led many to say that he went on the run and was fleeing after the crime was committed. Mr. Finley states he went to Kansas to clear his head after Brandon death and that he feared for his safety.
These charges against these two men were eventually dropped to the surprise of many in East Texas. Many thought it was impossible that something so obvious like the death of Brandon McClelland would end in charges being dropped for these two men.
Shannon Finley eventually went on with his life and was given a 17yr prison sentence for driving while intoxicated in 2010. We are still awaiting information on Charles Crostley. Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley even filed suits against Lamar County for defamation, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.