On the night of Thursday, August 8, 2013, twenty-six-year-old Brandon Mason Lawson got into his car and left his San Angelo, TX home after an argument with his girlfriend of over 10 years, Ladessa Lofton.
About forty-five minutes after leaving, Brandon calls his brother, Kyle Lawson, saying that he ran out of gas on Highway 277 in Bronte, Texas. Kyle and Kyle’s girlfriend, Audrey, set out to find Brandon and give him a ride to the nearest gas station to get gas.
Meanwhile, around 12 minutes after the seemingly normal call to his brother, Brandon makes an alarming phone call to 911. Unbeknownst to his family, Brandon hurriedly requests that police be sent to his location, even though he currently had a warrant out for his arrest. Though the call is difficult to understand, it seems to generally follow the transcript below (listen to video for actual call):
Yes, I’m in the middle of the field …
A scaper just pruching guys over ..right here, goin’ towards Abilene, on both sides.
My truck ran out of gas… there’s one car here…
(inaudible) got chased through woods.
Ok. Now. Run that by me…..?
(inaudible)…we’re not talking to em (inaudible)…ran into em
Ahhh…you ran into them? Ok.
(inaudible)…just the first guy.
Do you need an ambulance?
Yeah. No. I need the cops.
Is anyone hurt? Hello? Hello? Hello?
Kyle and Audrey arrive at Brandon’s truck, which is described as parked “haphazardly on the highway.” Around the same time, a police officer also arrives the truck and is believed to have been responding to a call that the truck was parked in an unsafe manner on the road.
Kyle and Audrey began trying to call and text Brandon. At this point, they did not know that Brandon had called 911 requesting the police, and thought that either Brandon was hiding from the officer, or that Brandon may be unaware that there even was a police officer at his vehicle and were trying warn him (due to Brandon’s outstanding warrant).
At one point, they do reach Brandon on the phone but the signal was extremely poor and the reception had a lot of static. Brandon’s brother recalls Brandon saying he “was ten minutes up the road,” and then, “just hurry up and get here” before hanging up. Audrey also talked with Brandon on the phone at some point, during which, she heard him say, “I’m [explicit] bleeding.”
The police officer leaves after 15-20 minutes and without running the license plates on the vehicle. After parking farther up the road and looking around for Brandon, Kyle and Audrey begin to worry but are unsure of what to do. Unable to reach Brandon again, Kyle eventually puts some gas in the truck in case Brandon comes back to it. There has been no activity on Brandon’s cell phone or bank account afterwards, and no sightings of or contact with him since.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
-Approximately 10:45-11:00 pm: Brandon has an argument with his girlfriend, Ladessa. He is described as being “in panic mode” and had “a confused state of mind.”
-11:54 pm: Brandon leaves his house. He has his keys, wallet, and cell phone. It is reported that Brandon phoned his father and was headed to his father’s residence in the Fort Worth, TX area.
Friday, August 9, 2013
-12:10 am: Kyle, Brandon’s brother, checks on Ladessa at the house after she had called Brandon’s family and was concerned. Kyle then left.
-Around 12:30 am: Brandon calls Kyle to say he has ran out of gas. Kyle and his girlfriend, Audrey, call Ladessa to let her know that Brandon ran out of gas. They go back by Ladessa and Brandon’s home and pick up an empty gas can to take to pick up Brandon.
-12:34 am, 12:36 am, and 12:48 am: Ladessa misses three phone calls from Brandon. He does not leave any voicemails.
-12:50 am: Brandon calls 911 speaking quickly and indecipherably. He clearly says that he ran out of gas, and makes it sound like something else is happening, ending the call with the clear “I need the cops” comment.
-12:58 am: The Coke County Sheriff’s office receives a call that a vehicle was parked on the side of Highway 277 and was “posing a risk to oncoming traffic.”
-1:18 am: Kyle and Audrey call Brandon to find out the exact location of his truck. They said it sounded like he was running through brush, and Kyle heard Brandon say that he was “10 minutes up the road” and to “just hurry up and get here.” At some point, Audrey also talks to him on the phone and could distinguish him saying, “Audg [her nickname], I’m (explicit) bleeding.” They eventually loose the signal completely or Brandon hangs up.
At this point, Kyle and Audrey are at Brandon’s truck, which is abandoned and undamaged. A police officer arrives at the truck, from the other direction, at the same time. The police officer approaches and asks if Kyle was the one who made the call about the vehicle. Kyle says the truck is owned by his brother who must have stepped away. Shortly after this, the officer leaves the scene, and proceeds to drive around looking for Brandon (who he assumes is walking).
Note: The police officer does not mention Brandon’s 911 call requesting police, and Kyle does not mention Brandon’s phone call saying he was bleeding. Kyle and the police officer also came from different directions on the same road, and yet, neither see Brandon or anything suspicious.
Since the cellular connection is so bad, Kyle and Audrey then try to text Brandon. They go farther up the road looking for him and Audrey sends him a text saying, “A cop is at your truck” as a warning, due to his outstanding warrant. They assume that Brandon is hiding out in the bushes because of the police officer, and perhaps, he is bleeding from scratches from the foliage. They expect him to reemerge after the police officer is gone.
-Approximately 1:30-4:30 am: Kyle continues to drive up and down the highway yelling out to and trying to find Brandon. He has previously claimed that a few of his co-workers helped him, but was not detailed about the depth of their search and whether or not they got out of their vehicle(s).
-3:30 am: Kyle reports that Brandon’s cell phone stops ringing, and it seems as though it has been turned off or died.
-4:30 am: Kyle calls Ladessa and says he’s found Brandon’s truck, but he cannot find Brandon.
-5:00 am: Ladessa calls the police station regarding the abandoned truck and to see if they had any information.
-7:00 am: Kyle puts gas in Brandon’s truck, in case he returns.
-8:30 am: The Sheriff’s Department has Brandon’s truck towed.
The editor and owner of the Coke County, TX newspaper, The Observer/Enterprise, published some fairly incendiary reports after the initial disappearance of Brandon Lawson. Interestingly, the county paper was bought by Sheriff Wayne McCutchen and his wife, Melinda McCutchen, in 2010. The Coke County Sheriff’s Department is the agency responsible for investigating Brandon’s disappearance, and the disparaging reports/FB posts associated with The Observer/Enterprise are all written by Publisher and Editor, Melinda McCutchen.
Melinda seemed to have been continuously suggesting that Brandon either staged his disappearance or was under the heavy influence of drugs and alcohol, or both, without producing or referring to any legitimate proof of either circumstance.
After Kyle admitted to speaking with Brandon on the phone, the Coke County Oberserver/Enterprise consistently reported that Brandon had been “hiding in the brush” from the officer, even though that was only Kyle’s initial assumption, and has never been proven.
Melinda is also quoted, by the Missing Brandon Lawson page, in a post (pictured below) as saying, “Let’s just say publicly, I was told [Brandon] couldn’t have gone more than 100 yards in his condition.” However, it is extremely unclear who told Melinda this or how anyone would have known of Brandon’s condition during his disappearance (since no one admits to actually seeing him after he left his house that night).
Melinda also published articles/posts with leading titles like “Law enforcement concludes man not in Coke County” and “Missing Man No Longer in Coke County,” as though Brandon had been conclusively determined to be elsewhere. It appears as though her titles were only in reference to search parties having been unsuccessful; however, it is unclear if this is an instance of poor word selection, or if it is the pointed framing of a narrative (which suggests Brandon is in hiding due elsewhere to his outstanding warrant).
The Observer/Enterprise also published a post with obvious bias, aggressively claiming the following:
“In conclusion, there were many poor decisions made that night and during the next few days. However, they weren’t made by the Coke County Sheriff’s Office.”
The above statement was made on October 2, 2013, less than two months after Brandon disappeared.
It is unclear whether there are unreleased facts which substantiate Melinda’s reports further, or if she is trying to the vindicate her husband’s department’s initial lack of assistance by disparaging the victim. Some have suggested that her biased reporting substantiates claims of police collusion, and potential involvement, in Brandon’s disappearance.
In the first comment Brandon makes on the 911 call, many people are convinced that he was saying something like, “Yes, I’m in the middle of the field. A state trooper’s pushing cars over right here, goin’ towards Abilene, on both sides,” but that the call had been edited. In an attempt, presumably by police, to wipe the words ‘state trooper,’ Brandon is made to say something indistinguishable like stay-per. Melinda McCutchen’s bellicose reporting tone could have been fueled by this kind of speculation regarding potential police involvement.
Regardless, Brandon Lawson’s loved ones, as well as the general internet public following the case, have been appalled by the casual prejudice and blatant conflict of interest demonstrated by the Coke County media outlet.
Theories and Further Speculation
A fairly popular presumption is that Brandon encountered some kind of nefarious situation on the highway that night. Some have raised the possibility of police involvement; however, this does not necessarily mean that authorities are responsible for Brandon’s disappearance. He could have encountered something else entirely, which was then subsequently mishandled or not thoroughly investigated by police.
There is speculation that the haphazard way Brandon’s truck was parked indicates a more complex situation. Brandon’s 911 call certainly makes it sound as though there are multiple parties involved:
- The ‘scaper’ person pushing cars over;
- “The First Guy” (which implies there was at least a second guy too);
- Brandon himself.
It also seems like Brandon may be using the word “we” several times, but it is hard to tell.
Another item of popular speculation is whether the muffled “Yeah” said right before Brandon clearly declares, “No, I need the cops” is an another, unknown person’s voice. It definitely seems as though this is said at a different distance or in a different tone, if it is not, in fact, said by a different voice entirely.
Some simple, and possible, alterations/assumptions easily make the 911 call more fitting to this narrative.
Yes, I’m in the middle of the field …
[Indecipherable] just pushing guys over. They’re out here goin’ towards Abilene on both sides.
My truck ran out of gas…
There’s one car here. He got chased into the woods.
Ok. Now. Run that by me…..?
There’s one guy talking to em. I assume he ran into em.
Ahhh…you ran into them? Ok.
No, just the first guy.
(Possibly as in, no I didn’t run into them, but I think this ‘first’ guy did.)
Do you need an ambulance?
Yeah. No. I need the cops.
Is anyone hurt? [Line goes dead.] Hello? Hello?
It’s hard to speculate regarding what Brandon came upon that night. It certainly seems that, by his tone and directness, something specific and unexpected had just occurred.
There is also the matter of the 911 call made by an unknown person who reported that Brandon’s truck was parked unsafely. Details about this call have never been made public. What if the second 911 call was made by someone who, a few moments later, saw Brandon walking and offered him a ride? What if something happened to both the caller and Brandon? Or, could this 911 caller have seen anything else that may bring new light to Brandon’s disappearance? In some reports, this caller is referred to as a trucker. Have police located, checked on, and questioned this individual?
Another potential item of interest is that there is an unattended rest area with picnic tables about a 9-minute walk from Brandon’s truck. Brandon could have attempted to walk to and wait there, as more distinguishable meeting spot for his brother to locate. Perhaps, Brandon meant that, while he was walking, someone ran him off the road on both sides pushing him into the woods, or some kind of variation of this.
Another possibility is that Brandon was not in his normal state of mind.
Some people point out that his outstanding warrant is due to drugs, and suggest that he relapsed; however, his family (including the last person to see him alive, Ladessa) is adamant that Brandon was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol that night. They do not believe he would have had enough time to ingest drugs or alcohol, and still make it as far along on his route as he did. Even if Brandon had been under the influence of something, there is still no explanation as to why he was not sighted by people in that area on the night of August 8th, or why his body has not been found after the passing of over two years.
The 911 phone call does have some parallels to other calls that have been made by paranoid drug users in the past. However, it is noteworthy that in most of these calls, the caller(/s) usually or eventually say something outrageous enough to suggest that they are definitively on drugs. Many people insist he sounds pointed and coherent, if not a little frantic and out-of-breath.
Brandon could have been picked up and driven somewhere on the night of his disappearance. Perhaps, the driver wrecked the vehicle in a hard to see (or search) area. A head injury could also explain the confusing nature of his 911 call, as well as his subsequent calls to Kyle and Audrey.
Another theory is that Brandon had a mental break. Brandon and Ladessa had argued earlier that night and were both stressed out. Ladessa recalled in an interview, that “Brandon was about to start a new job. We have three children, but there are four altogether. I have a stepdaughter. I was working at the time, so there was a little stress.” The only family that Brandon had close by was his brother, Kyle. Brandon was twenty-six years old, which as a male, puts him at risk for the onset of a variety of mental health issues. However, it does not seem as though he showed any previous indications of mental health problems.
Other Possibilities Abound
Initially, there were rumours that Brandon had abandoned his family and went into hiding because of his outstanding warrant. However, this seems extremely unlikely as he had taken steps to handle the outstanding warrant and was actively saving money to pay an attorney to represent him in the matter.
Also, logistically, if one were to stage their disappearance in order to go into hiding, why not disappear with the truck? It doesn’t seem reasonable to leave your only method of transportation behind. Why stage such an elaborate production complete with calls to his brother, a 911 call requesting police, and the abandonment of his own vehicle?
Brandon’s family feels very strongly that he would not miss the birthdays of and holidays with his four children. It is uncharacteristic of him to disappear without warning and they are very worried about his wellbeing. When broaching the possibility of Brandon having ran away, Ladessa stated emphatically that “[Brandon] would never do this. I mean, he’s missed our son’s first birthday, our other son’s second birthday. He’s missed Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, all kinds of things. I mean, I know Brandon. Brandon’s my best friend, besides he’s my soulmate. I’ve been with him since I was fifteen and he was sixteen. We’re high school sweethearts, like inseparable. We were each other’s best friends, like this would never happen.”
Brandon’s family feels as though some horrific had to have happened to him. The area that Brandon is missing from is called Bronte, TX. It is a small town in Coke County with a population of just under 1,000 people. The land is extremely rural and unforgiving.
According to Ladessa, “[Brandon] would give the shirt off his back to anybody but, I mean, he could’ve asked for help and something could’ve happened to Brandon. I don’t know. Or Brandon could’ve been scared running and he could’ve got bit by a snake or he could’ve hit his head or fell in the brush or something bad like that. I really don’t know.”
Brandon worked in the Texan oil fields around 75-80 hours a week. He and his immediate family had moved to San Angelo, TX for work, and had limited friends and family nearby.
Brandon has four children: two daughters and two sons, who ranged in ages from one to ten years old at the time of his disappearance. Ladessa Lofton has privately funded the hiring of a private detective and multiple air searches by plane.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, just not knowing. I mean, it’s devastating. You don’t know what to do anymore. Sometimes I just can’t believe that this has happened. I guess you watch stuff on TV and listen to radio stations and you look at the person and you hear something really devastating or bad and you listen to it for a minute and a lot of people just go on. But this, it’s me. Now it happened to me. So now, when I see other stuff, I try to share it as much as I can or care more, because you never know what’s going to happen in life.”
–Ladessa Lofton, Brandon Lawson’s Girlfriend
Brandon was last seen wearing a bright yellow shirt (pictured to the left), camouflage shorts, and white 2013 Air Max brand tennis shoes.
He has multiple tattoos on his arms, scars on his chin and left knee, and one pierced ear.
If you have any potential information, please call the TX Dept of Public Safety, MPC at 512-424-5074 – Case # M1308005, or your local police.