Friday, December 25, 2009

The Strange Tale of Brandi Lee Campbell


My brother passed away on 6/18/2008. He is missed very deeply by all of us! God rest his soul and I know I will see him again one day. - Brandi Lee Campbell


Brandi Lee Campbell entered the above quote on her MySpace page, the social networking site she opened on June 25, 2008. In reality, Brandi's brother, Bryan Ray Campbell, died around one o'clock in the morning on June 19. Brandi Lee Campbell shot her brother with a .410 calibre pump shotgun, and he was pronounced dead at Helen Keller Hospital later that morning.

Some friends and relatives of Brandi claim she had previously threatened the life of her 32 year-old brother, the single parent of a young daughter fighting acute myelogenous leukemia. Brandi, Brian, and Brandi's new husband, Charles Johnson, were all drinking the night of the shooting, so the truth may never be known, but Brandi claims she killed her beloved brother in self-defense and to protect her ten year-old son Brandon Williams, a witness to the killing.

Sheffield detectives who investigated the shooting were familiar with Campbell-Johnson, who had been involved in three previous death investigations and countless domestic disputes. They wanted her charged with murder, but the only witnesses were her husband and son. Despite her family's sworn statements, Sheffield police initially arrested Brandi Lee Campbell for felony murder, but they weren't prepared for what happened next.

Brandi Lee Campbell and her brother Brian Ray were the product of Terry Kiker's marriage to Ray Campbell. After her divorce, Terry Kiker Campbell became the breadwinner for her family, attempting to make the best life she could for her family.

Friends remember both Brian and Brandi as outgoing children, always seeking to be the center of attention. As Brian matured, he began to call himself "Big Daddy" and nicknamed both friends and family, usually including the word "Lil" in the appellation.

Brandi was "Lil Sis" to Brian, but she had big ideas. Pregnant at 17, she claimed to have graduated from Muscle Shoals High School in 1997, while according to her family, Brandi was a dropout who earned a GED. She enrolled at Shoals Community College the next year. Brandi Lee lists her major as "Paralegal" and her minor as cosmetology. Networking sites also list her occupation as paralegal, but her only job since graduation was at B & B Hair Salon in Muscle Shoals.

Brian had similar problems in settling on a career, but at the time of his death had become a truck driver, an occupation his friends thought suited his wanderlust. Both married, with Brandi Lee quickly divorcing, and Bryan finding temporary happiness. After the birth of their daughter, Madison, Brian and his wife Angela separated, but remained friends until her death from a drug overdose--a situation that enraged Brandi Lee, the last person to see her sister-in-law alive.

Single again, Brandi Lee began to live her life closer to the edge, often referring to her relationships with gang members. Sources say her penchant for flashing gang hand signals at random ultimately led to the death of a companion who took a bullet meant for her boyfriend. Another boyfriend died minutes after leaving Brandi, a veritable pharmacy in his system. By now, Brandi Lee Campbell was definitely on the local police's radar.

The year 2008 initially brought happiness to the Campbell siblings. Bryan Ray had started his new job as a truck driver, and his daughter Madison's leukemia was in remission. Brandi Lee met a new man and promptly fell in love. The fact that he was engaged to another woman didn't deter Brandi in her pursuit of her "soul mate" and she married Charles Thompson in June.

The night of June 18th, 2008, Bryan visited his sister and her new husband at their small house on Annapolis Avenue in Sheffield. Leaving Brandi's son Brandon Lee at home, the three adults decided to celebrate. After a night of heavy drinking, the three returned to Brandi Lee's home a short time after midnight. Realizing he was in no condition to drive, Bryan stated that he wanted to ride Brandon's bike the few short blocks to his mother's.

Bryan had given the bicycle to his nephew, but Brandi refused to let her brother take it. According to all present, the mood soon turned ugly, and Brandi and her husband began to beat Bryan with pool cues. From this point, the stories of the three survivors vary, but they all end the same way: Bryan Ray Campbell lay dead in the dining room of his sister's home.

Brandi stated she shot her brother as he attempted to force his way back into the house after being ejected by her new husband; however, only two empty shotgun shells were found--one on the front lawn and one in the middle of the street sixty-five feet from the front door. A trail of blood stretched across the porch into the house. After examining the scene, police took Brandi Lee in for questioning and formally charged her with murder the next day. Taking her past brushes with the law into account, the arresting officers felt the charge would be easy to prove. Even Brandi's mother announced she wanted justice for her son.

However, after reviewing the forensic evidence and reading the conflicting accounts of Bryan's death, the Colbert County District Attorney chose to charge Brandi with manslaughter, a crime that could bring up to twenty years in prison. Judge Hal Hughston set Brandi's bond at $10,000.00, an amount that would ordinarily be difficult to obtain for a hairdresser with no property. The next morning, Brandi Lee's stepfather, Curtis Johnson, arrived at the jail to post bond.

Family members were shocked by Johnson's actions, as were the arresting officers, but nothing prepared them for the grand jury's ruling. Despite the discrepancies between Brandi's statement to the police and the actual evidence, a Colbert County grand jury refused to indict her in her brother's death. Brandi Lee Campbell had once again escaped her actions unscathed.

With the threat of prosecution behind her, Brandi Lee Campbell was now free to put her life back together. A second chance is rare for many, but Brandi now had a third, or even fourth chance to become a productive citizen, a caring mother, a loving daughter.

What Brandi didn't have was a second chance to become a good wife; Charles Johnson immediately left Brandi and requested the dissolution of their marriage. According to Brandi's MySpace page, she's still looking for that perfect soul mate. Unfortunately, Campbell seems to be looking in all the wrong places.

Arrested twice in Colbert County in September for Public Intoxication, Brandi was also arrested early in October for DUI. Later that month, Sheffield police arrested Brandi on a domestic violence charge, an arrest that sources say stemmed from an attack on a new boyfriend. After her move to the Holiday Trailer Park in Muscle Shoals, the Department of Human Resources reopened its file on Campbell who faces the permanent loss of custody of her son who is now living with his paternal grandparents.

Still, Brandi told both friends and family that she was getting her life back together. On December 23, 2008, Brandi Lee Campbell drove her mother's automobile into the front of Lewis Electric on Second Street in Muscle Shoals. When the investigating officer attempted to take Campbell into custody, she resisted and was forcibly taken away.

We've heard that Christmas in jail isn't pleasant. Look for this ongoing saga to be continued.

*****

Brandi Lee Campbell, the Colbert County woman a grand jury refused to indict in the slaying of her brother, was again sought by Colbert County authorities in early November 2009. Besides several bad check charges, Campbell had three outstanding warrants for possession of a controlled substance. After being apprehended and serving a short sentence in the Muscle Shoals City Jail, Campbell entered a rehab facility.


Taken from columns originally published in Shoalanda Speaks on December 26-29, 2008, and November 9, 2009.