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The Pain of Injustice

Amanda's Story

June 2017 Letter

I sent the following five page letter with photos of Amanda’s injuries and the ligature to the new chief of police in hopes he would reconsider the previous ruling made by a Sherman Police Department detective. I also sent copies and photos to the Sheriff’s office,  Texas state attorney general, Sherman’s mayor and city manager, Representative Larry Phillips, and Congressman John Ratcliffe.

The follow up meeting after this letter was no different than any other. Minds were made up, and he didn’t see any reason to reopen her case  I am disappointed but not finished

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June 1, 2017

Dear Chief Zachary Flores:

I am writing this letter in regards to my sister’s case, Amanda Pierce, and the circumstances surrounding her death on May 20, 2015. This is a follow-up to our March 1, 2017 meeting and the March 15, 2017 email. It was my understanding that you would review the case file and get back to me within 1-2 weeks. It has been 12 weeks thus far. This letter briefly sums up what we know about the incident, and what we have dealt with over the past two years with the police department and its previous administration.

I hope you understand my level of frustration. I can only imagine that if this was a member of law enforcements’ sister, mother, daughter, or any other family member, that attention and concern for this type of case would be different. Her life was threatened with murder the day she was found with anoxic brain death on May 14, 2015, which ultimately took her life 6 days later. The word of a man who abused, tortured, and threatened my sister was taken over those of concerned family, friends, and a neighbor. The circumstances surrounding this incident tell a different story than that of Brayan Espana. This letter will explain our observations of the incident, and concerns about how Amanda’s case was handled by Detective Jeff Jones and others in Grayson County as we have previously discussed.

We asked Detective Jeff Jones why Amanda’s death could not have possibly been a homicide, he gave me three reasons why this was a suicide:

1. There were no defensive wounds, as if she was fighting back
2. There were no witnesses
3. There were no bags packed to indicate she was leaving

He leans on the autopsy results to support his theory of suicide. I had to insist that an autopsy be done. When we realized that Amanda’s brain injury was grave, we started reaching out to anyone about the proper procedure concerning the autopsy. We were finally able to reach Judge Atherton on May 17, 2015, and were told that based on her past history of substance abuse and depression that no autopsy would be done. This report to the judge must have come from Detective Jeff Jones, so it is apparent he never intended to fully investigate her case as anything other than suicide. The conversation between Jeff Jones and Judge Atherton happened prior to our meeting with the detective at Sherman Police Department on May 18, 2015. We were told that if we wanted an autopsy, it would be at our expense. After researching the Texas law, we found out that it was her right to an autopsy. It was at this point we began reaching out to District Attorney Joe Brown for help concerning the autopsy, which was later approved. We are grateful that Amanda did not pass away prior to this approval.

After preparing Amanda’s body for organ harvest, and making sure nothing would interfere with a proper autopsy, we took her off life support on May 20, 2015. She was taken to Southwest Institute for Forensic Science. Dr. Jill Urban performed the autopsy on May 21 at 10:00 am, and it was immediately ruled a suicide by hanging. We received permission to speak to the medical examiner on May 22, 2015 about her ruling, and asked how it was determined to be suicide and not possible homicide? How is it different between hanging and strangulation? She stated she was not aware of any circumstances around Amanda’s death. Amanda was presented as female, possible suicide by hanging. Detective Jeff Jones did not disclose any evidence or other information to the medical examiner’s office, and lied in his report and to us about doing so. He stated in his report that he spoke to her extensively about the case, which she denies. Is it standard procedure to send a body for autopsy with no information, evidence or circumstances around the death, only to disclose what the detective suspected happened? Would there have been a different outcome to the autopsy if the report with her body would have stated, ”possible homicide, rule out suicide” OR “possible suicide, rule out homicide”?

After speaking to Dr. Jill Urban, she stated her results were based on two observations: no defensive wounds and no hyoid bone fracture. We have questions about her findings. Dr. Urban did not have the ligature, crime scene photos, photos of Amanda’s injuries one week prior, lab results, blood alcohol level, hospital records, domestic violence history, history of choking as form of torture, multiple witness reports of a murder threat the day of her injury, the outstanding warrants related to a prior assault on Amanda, etc. Her ruling was immediately ‘suicide by hanging’. There was no room for any other consideration. She never asked about the circumstances, never raised any questions around her death to the Sherman Police Department prior to the autopsy and ruling. It was only after we questioned her results that there was documented communication with Sherman Police Department and SWIFS.

Concerning the defensive wounds, questions can be raised if Amanda was even awake or did she have the motor skills to fight Brayan with a blood alcohol of 382? Did she injure Brayan during the struggle? Were her hands held down as he had done previously per witness statements? Detective Jeff Jones assured us Brayan had NO wounds, and stated that he had taken photos of Brayan at the scene to prove it. There were NO photos or videos of Brayan Espana in any of the evidence photos in the open records I obtained. Choking was a common form of torture and abuse by Brayan. Maybe with her dangerously high blood alcohol level, he rendered her unconscious and when she didn’t wake up, he had to make it appear self-inflicted.

Also, Dr. Urban reports the hyoid bone was not broken. I have done extensive research about this subject, and it is not a “black and white” sign either way. There are multiple articles I would be happy to provide you with, but here are references from two. According to one article on http://www.pjmhsonline.com (In Strangulation Deaths: Forensic Significance of Hyoid Bone Fracture), this department of forensic medicine found that fracture of the hyoid bone is related to where the application of force and injury is located, which in Amanda’s case is clearly below the level of the hyoid bone. It is actually more common, according to this article, for the hyoid bone to be fractured in hanging victims as well as someone who is manually strangled. Also in this article, it states that only 4 of the 18 ligature strangulation victims studied had a hyoid bone fracture; hyoid bone fracture is more common in the >40 year old age group, (Amanda was 32); and of the 35 victims, there were no hyoid bone fractures with any injuries below the thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone.

Another article on http://www.astm.org website, titled, “Fracture of the Hyoid Bone in Strangulation: Comparison of Fractured and Unfractured Hyoids from Victims of Strangulation,” Journal of Forensic Sciences states:

“….hyoid bone is fractured in one-third of all homicides by strangulation. However, since many cases lack a hyoid fracture, the absence of this finding does not exclude strangulation as a cause of death. The reasons why some hyoids fracture and others do not may relate to the nature and magnitude of force applied to the neck, age of the victim, nature of the instrument (ligature or hands) used to strangle, and intrinsic anatomic features of the hyoid bone.”

It must be concluded that Dr. Urban’s implication that “all strangulation cases have a hyoid bone fractures” is not always the case. Amanda’s injuries were at the base of her neck and the hyoid bone is higher. I have included a photo of Amanda’s injuries to refer to this fact.

To his statement there were no witnesses, I hardly believe that a murderer would invite someone to watch a murder and cover-up. There was one witness in the house, David Adams, who gave different accounts of the incident to different people—the responding officers, Detective Jeff Jones, the next door neighbor, and myself (which I have recorded). Even though he told police that Amanda was already taken down by Brayan before he came into the room, he told a neighbor, my friend, and myself that he helped take Amanda down before calling 9-1-1. He stated Brayan knocked on his door and told him Amanda hung herself before going upstairs to help. This contradicting story has been of no importance to any law enforcement agency thus far. I have visited with David Adams twice and he is adamant about witnessing Amanda hanging. There were also at least three witnesses to the threats of murder the day she was found if she was not out of the house by 7:00pm: Amber Brinlee, Dustin Mouser, and a neighbor. All three spoke to Detective Jeff Jones prior to Amanda’s death.

The statement by Detective Jones that there were no bags packed is contradicted by police reports and evidence photos at the scene. Police photos show a garbage bag full of clothes sitting next to the bed as if she was packed to leave. Amanda did not own a suitcase. Police photos also show there were very few clothes hanging in the closet. Both Brayan and David Adams made statements that she had a bag downstairs by the front door, which they noted was out of the ordinary. Detective Jeff Jones tried to convince me that the bag downstairs was her “lunch bag” by saying that Amanda’s supervisor at Royal Case told him that. Her human resource director stated that Mr. Jones never questioned her about a lunch bag, and that can be backed up with the interview recording. She also told me she would give a statement concerning her meeting with the detective. You agreed that the bag in question was obviously an overnight bag and not a “lunch bag” based on the items inside during our meeting on March 1st

We have questions about the rationality of Brayan’s account of this incident. Brayan’s timeline for that day changed from arriving home at 6:00 pm as he reported to responding officers, to 7:00 pm later that evening in an interview with Detective Jeff Jones. David Adams also reported that Brayan arrived home at 6:00 pm, and that time never changed. Brayan’s work records, as noted in Detective Jeff Jones’ report, states he clocked out at 5:17 pm. His audio interview indicates he left work, made a stop at the gas station to get cash from ATM, and then drove straight home. That would support him being home about 6:00 pm as he first reported to officers at the scene. David never wavered from that time. When giving statement to Detective Jeff Jones, Brayan changed his arrival time to 7:00 pm. Jones then mentions an extra stop (hung out with some friends after work) to Brayan’s trip home which cannot be supported with any audio interview recordings. This is another discrepancy in his report. With responding officer’s reports and David Adams statement of Brayan arriving home at 6:00 pm, that would give him 1 hour and 15 minutes with Amanda prior to calling 9-1-1.

Brayan’s account has the following scenario concerning the ligature: Amanda (with a blood alcohol of 382) used a box cutter and cut the cord off a clothes iron; she tied this 5-foot long cord in two places on her clothes rod in the back of the closet behind all the clothes; she twisted it around her neck (not tied); she sat on her knees, as in praying (per Brayan’s recorded conversation and re-enactment to me) and “hung” herself. He then stated he broke the electrical cord (which was NOT tied around her neck) with his hands that was loosely tied to the rod. Questions: How did her body weight not break the cord, and he could by “pulling it apart”? How did he not see her until his second trip into the closet, stating she was hidden behind the clothes in the back of the closet? Evidence pictures show clearly there were very few clothes hanging on that side of closet and the cord was hanging in the middle, in the open, where he would have had to walk past to get to the clothes hamper as he stated. The length of the cord, the height of the rod, and the position he said her body was in does not make sense—the cord could not have been long enough to be twisted around her neck while she was sitting on her knees. I encourage your department to recreate this scenario and have the outcome Brayan Espana wants everyone to believe.

The injuries to her neck tell a different story than that by Brayan. The bruising and abrasions on her neck clearly show THREE distinct marks. One injury that really bothers me is in a downward direction with bruising and an abrasion that does NOT encircle the neck. The second injury completely encircles the base of her neck, and a third that slopes upward on each side and criss-crosses in the front. With there being three distinct marks, the cord would have been looped at least two times—how could she have been kneeling as he stated? How could that 5-foot cord be long enough? How did the lower mark, that does not encircle the neck and go in a downward direction happen in “hanging”?

Other circumstances to take into account are: the extensive, documented history of domestic violence; Brayan’s two outstanding warrants related to an assault on Amanda in 2014; Brayan vacating their house three days after this incident leaving everything he owned; Brayan shutting off his cell phone 4 days after the incident even though the bill was paid on 5/14/15; Brayan never returning to work after 5/15/2015; Brayan telling hospital staff that Amanda had no family just minutes after he called and told me she was going to the hospital; Brayan’s 10 year long criminal record in Grayson County alone, including other charges of family violence; Amanda being found in pulseless electrical activity and resuscitated, so she could not have been without oxygen for more than 3-5 minutes; and finally, no suicide note. Because of his illegal immigration status, he virtually disappeared and was never questioned again by Sherman Police Department. Detective Jeff Jones reported he attempted to contact Brayan but the phone was disconnected.

Amanda and Amber spoke at approximately 5:20 pm on Thursday, May 14, 2015. The last conversation was that Amber would come get her, either that night or the next morning after Amanda got paid. Amanda was supposed to call her back that evening when Brayan got home from work, but she never did. This conversation was witnessed by the next door neighbor whom Amanda borrowed the phone from. There was desperation to get away, and she had someone to help her. Detective Jeff Jones and Assistant Chief of Police Stephen Dean want us to believe the following scenario—Amanda made arrangements at 5:20 to leave, walked back to her house, decided to commit suicide by hanging herself 40 minutes later, Brayan arrived home at 6 and doesn’t find her until 7, he performed 10-15 minutes of CPR then called 9-1-1, and she was resuscitated before being placed on life-support. They want us to believe that in that 40 minutes from talking with her friend about leaving Brayan and being scared he was going to choke and kill her, to the time he got home at 6:00 pm, and the call being made to 9-1-1 at 7:14 pm, that Amanda decided to take her life and there was no possibility that Brayan strangled her and tried to cover it up as a hanging. There is no way a person can hang for over 1 hour and be resuscitated.

Detective Jeff Jones denied knowing about the outstanding warrants, but I do know the responding officer, Boyle, was aware of the history and warrants, and that was the reason the detective was called in to look at this incident. We had reached out to Officer Boyle prior to this incident and asked for help. The detective told us that Sherman PD records do not cross over to Grayson county records, so he no idea there were active warrants. I feel like this is another lie; if this is true, something has to change. He wants us to believe that this responding officer never mentioned the history or warrants. Another concern is that Detective Jones never came back to the hospital despite the many attempts by our family and medical staff to reach him. We were told by dispatch that the detective would be back in on Monday and had to wait to discuss our concerns. We had to meet with him at Sherman Police Department to discuss our concerns 4 days later.

I am asking you to please reconsider the rapid ruling made by Detective Jeff Jones. I need answers to circumstances around her death. I need someone to prove it was in fact a suicide and not a homicide. I’ve been told by this detective that nothing indicates homicide; I want to say that nothing indicates suicide either. She was scared for her life if she was not out by 7:00 pm, she made arrangements to leave at 5:20 pm, she needed his permission to stay one more night in her own house, she was packed, and she did not leave a suicide note or anything for her boys. Again, imagine that if your family member died under these circumstances, what would be done differently? I feel that Sherman Police Department, including Detective Jeff Jones and the Assistant Chief of Police Stephen Dean did not handle Amanda’s case in a fair manner. Her case was immediately ruled suicide, but took one year to close. The Sherman Police Department’s Mission Statement is “We stand to prevent, reduce and disrupt crime and disorder by aggressive, professional and compassionate enforcement of the law”; Integrity, compassion, fairness/equality, and courage are just a few values your department strives for. It takes courage to treat everyone equal, speak up against an injustice, and do what is right. Amanda’s family and friends are asking you to do what is right for this beautiful mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Mullens

 

Cc: Sheriff Tom Watt, Grayson County Sheriff’s Office

Honorable Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General’s Office

David Plyler, Mayor’s Office, Sherman Texas

Robby Hefton, Sherman City Manager

Congressman John Ratcliffe, Texas U.S. Representative

Larry Phillips, Representative District 62

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To this point, we have met with multiple people at Sherman PD, the district attorney’s office and Grayson County Sheriff’s office. No one is willing to help us and look at Amanda’s death as anything other than suicide. Where is the justice for Amanda? She was due a process.

Amanda’s Service

Amanda Pierce

March 29, 1983 — May 20, 2015

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kimberly, and I am Amanda’s older sister.

Even though today is tragic and such a sad event, I pray that everyone can have hope that she is no longer suffering from the battle here on earth but experiencing a love she never knew. Amanda would have wanted us to celebrate her life and share fond memories with a smile on our face. Let’s not dwell on our significant loss, but instead focus on paying tribute to Amanda’s life.

One thing we all can agree on is that she Loved her children, she loved my children, she loved Brian’s children and she loved Vivian’s children. When going through 1000’s of pictures this week, honestly I think she was mom’s favorite because after she was born, she was in a most of them, I saw how much she enjoyed each one of hers and our babies. She was so drawn to children and they connected with her so easily. Always smiling and laughing with them.

She always had a smile on her face even on her darkest days. One thing she would say is “it’s all good”. Being able to talk to people who knew and loved her over the past 2 weeks shows me how much she made such an impact on their lives.

Many of us know that Amanda struggled with the loss of my father, brother, mother and sister. She had a lot of guilt, pain and grief that she carried around but still wore this mask that everything was ok. After Vivian and Mom died in 2009, it seemed the struggle intensified. She blamed herself, and no matter how much we tried to convince her, she bought into the lie that she could have done something to save them.

The last couple of years have been the hardest for all that love her. To watch her decline and struggle hurt all of us. I personally was a few decisions away from being exactly where she was, using something other than God to ease the pain and hurt inside. We all if we are honest tend to fill the hole in our hearts with something. That hole is intentionally placed there by God, and it is there to remind us that we need to depend on Him for strength, peace and rest, but because of our free will that he has given us, we get to choose what we fill it with. The numbing we tend to use is only temporary and does not bring any kind of peace. It’s destructive and tears us away from knowing the love of God.

I don’t want anyone to leave here tonight not knowing that inspite of Amanda’s daily, even hourly struggle that she did not love God, and know Jesus. She was saved, and accepted Christ at a younger age. But that’s where her battle began. Satan used hurt, pain, and past familiar family coping skills to blind her and lie to her about God’s love for her. His goal is to destroy us here on earth so our testimony about God’s incredible love and sacrifice becomes tarnished. God did not cause this tragedy, but choices made here on Earth by others did. What she endured just to survive breaks my heart, but I know God will use what was intended for harm and evil, for good. He will use this tragedy and other tragedies in our family’s lives to bring something beautiful and good to others. That is where my hope and peace comes from.

Tonight, if you don’t know Christ, I pray you talk to God about that. But if you do know Christ, you have to know that our struggles here are not a question of your salvation but a journey to the “promise land” of peace and rest here on earth. We don’t get saved to just hold our breath and get into heaven. But to live under promises made to us throughout the Bible. The bible is a love story to us.

I have heard a 100 times, how do you deal with so much death and hurt? You are so strong…. The bible tells me when people ask you where does your hope come from, that’s when I’m supposed to tell them about God and what He has done for me and about my journey. Let me tell you, it has been a journey to realize how much God loves me…His love for me never changes no matter my mistakes or decisions. My perception of that Love is what has changed. You only know love and can give love to the measure of how you are loved here, starting with your earthly father and mother. No parent is perfect but how you love your own children starts that journey. I have forgiven my father, because I know he loved us the best he knew how. The love he showed my son Kole and all his other grandchildren still amazes me.

And the fact that I realized that every one of my sins, past present and future, were forgiven at Jesus death on that cross, has given me so much relief from guilt and shame that I wasn’t good enough or strong enough to be Loved. When you realize that, that’s when you can love others unconditional, despite who or where they are on their journey.

The church in general has to become a hospital to the broken. We have to give love and find mercy to give those such as Amanda a safe place to grow. We have to extend grace and love, not rules and regulations, to help them. I personally don’t know what that looks like, but If we see someone broken and hurting, all we have to do is point them to help, it’s their responsibility to get it. We have to show mercy and love. And realize that God’s grace means I’m forgiven and loved even though I did nothing to earn it and sure don’t deserve it. That’s what is so amazing about Grace….given and not earned.

I want to leave you with a quote I read last night as I fell exhausted into bed that nailed my heart’s voice:

“Only where there is mercy is there growth – and hope for change. Mercy is what begs us to be mercifully safe places for the suffering and victimized and abused and all the broken in our families, our communities, our churches, in our aching, breaking world, — so every soul can enlarge and grow strong.  The mercy of God is like a womb for the children trafficked, the vulnerable and abused, the suffering who cry soundlessly behind masks. Lay your ear up against any suffering and that’s the beat you can always hear – – the heartbeat of our God, Emmanuel: God always with you”

Thank you for coming tonight and honoring Amanda’s memory and life.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMANDA

1-Amanda

Tomorrow is the second birthday we will miss celebrating with Amanda. She should be here celebrating her 34th birthday with family and friends. I miss looking for that perfect gift. I miss buying her favorite cake. I miss trying to surprise her. I just miss her infectious smile and gracious attitude. Ever since she was a baby, I have made it a point to make her birthday special in some way. I am so incredibly sad to not have her here, and I never want her forgotten.

I have no idea of how her story will end, I am trusting God with that.  I may never know the impact her life and death may have made on others. She is loved and missed by so many, and her story of injustice has reached thousands. She loved her family unconditional and the best she knew how. Looking back over years of pictures, it’s a beautiful reminder of the beautiful times with this beautiful woman. She always had a smile that lit up a room.

What is hard now is the inability to grieve her death. I have been in limbo between saying good bye and pursuing justice. Two years ago, I took her a cake and some presents for her 32nd birthday. I remember that day so vividly, as we stood outside of her house and ate cake, and I cried over the bruises on her face and arms. I wanted to save her so bad from the hell she was living in, but was not able to. The terror and abuse she suffered at the hands of pure evil was beyond my control, and now I know, hers as well.  Since taking her last breath on May 21, 2015, I’ve spent countless hours trying to make sense of her death. I made her a promise that day to never give up on finding answers to legitimate questions. Her life matters to me, her children, family, and friends—and it should matter to law enforcement.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE LOVED AND MISSED. YOU ARE NEVER FORGOTTEN. YOUR LIFE MATTERS!

 

Undisputed Facts

Facts of Amanda’s Case

  1. Amanda’s life was threatened with death the day she suffered anoxic brain death per 2 witnesses. She was told according to witnesses that she had to be out of the house by 7:00 pm.
  2. There was a documented history of choking by Brayan as a form of abuse and control.
  3. Amanda used next door neighbor’s phone at 5:15 to call her friend Amber to be picked up. She was supposed to call her friend back that night for pick up time.
  4. Amanda had at least 3 bags packed with clothing and personal items. One bag was downstairs by the front door.
  5. There was NO suicide note.
  6. The “Fist-print” bruise on chest was from an assault on May 10, 2015.
  7. Amanda’s blood alcohol was tested in the ER, at least an hour after she was found, and it’s reported at 382 (0.382).
  8. Amanda’s liver and kidneys was healthy enough for organ donation.
  9. Amanda had no physical brain changes per autopsy associated with chronic alcoholism.
  10. Brayan Espana had two outstanding warrants: one for domestic violence charge on 8/28/2014 and one for failure to appear & bail jumping.
  11. Brayan has a 10 year long police record in Grayson County alone. Charges from traffic violations, driving intoxicated, escape from custody and family violence.
  12. Brayan clocked out of work at STARR Aircraft at 5:09 on 05/14/2015.
  13. Brayan and housemate both reported Brayan getting home around 6:00 pm to responding officers. That gave him over an hour in the apartment with her.
  14. Brayan claims when he found Amanda, she was sitting on her knees, not suspended, leaning into an electrical cord.
  15. There were no knots tied around Amanda’s neck, only the two ends loosely tied at two different points on a clothes rod.
  16. Brayan claims he “broke” an electrical cord with his hands. States he couldn’t find anything to cut it with, yet the box cutter was in the room. It appears the cord had been cut, not ripped.
  17. Brayan was only interviewed once, which was at the scene by Detective Jones and it was an audio recording. Other witnesses at scene were video-taped statements and were interviewed also at a later date by Detective Jones. He was questioned by two other officers that night.
  18. Brayan’s audio statement states that on 5/14, he left work, stopped at the gas station, and then drove straight home. That’s not reflected accurately in Detective Jones report, as he adds an additional stop to Brayan’s statement.
  19. Brayan left the house they lived in on 5/17/2015 per next door neighbor, and left behind the following: baskets of clean and dirty clothes, shoes, toiletries, various false immigration documents, computer, phone SD cards, photo albums, family photos and letters from Guatemala, Bible, television, gaming system, and furniture. He never returned to that residence.
  20. Brayan disconnected his phone on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 even though the bill had been paid on 5/14/2015.
  21. Brayan never reported back to work after May 15, 2015 to STARR Aircraft.
  22. Responding officer was acquaintance and knew about the warrant and past history between Brayan and Amanda. He asked for detective to look into case. Detective denied knowing about outstanding warrant and history, stating Sherman PD records do not cross over to Grayson County Records.
  23. Detective Jones refused to come back to the hospital to see Amanda after she was admitted to ICU until she was removed from life support 6 days later to follow up on our concerns. We had to meet with him at Sherman PD.
  24. Justice of the Peace told me and the attending ICU physician that there would be no autopsy because of her “past history”. We had to fight for an autopsy to be done. The law protects Amanda and it was her right to have the autopsy based on the circumstances of her death.
  25. There were no photos or videos of Brayan taken when he gave his statement; Detective Jones reassured us Brayan was photographed to show there were no wounds inflicted by Amanda. They don’t exist in the file CD’s obtained by Sherman PD.
  26. Detective alleges overnight bag downstairs by front door was her “lunch bag”. States he spoke with HR director and confirmed – not true. The audio interview with HR director does not reflect that question and answer. She also denies him asking her about a bag she brought to work every day. It contained personal items-hair products, make up, Bible, lotion, kids pictures, blow dryer, and wallet. Debit card was missing.
  27. Autopsy performed 5/21/2015 at 10:00 am. We spoke to Dr. Urban on 5/22/2015 at 12:00 pm to discuss her ruling of suicide. She stated she was not aware of domestic violence history, threats made by Brayan, no crime scene photos, no initial photos of Amanda taken by police 7 days prior, no ligature, no report related to how she was found from Sherman Police Department, blood work (blood alcohol level), EMS report, hospital records; only white female possible suicide by hanging. We sent all the photos we took 2 days after she was in ICU and photos the day she was taken off life support. She reported she received them on 5/23/2015 at 6:43 am. In Detective Jones report, he states he spoke to Dr. Urban at 1445 on 5/21/2015 (almost 5 hours after autopsy), yet we spoke to her on 5/22/2015 and she denies knowing anything.
  28. There were multiple marks, with varying degrees of intensity and levels, as well as deep muscle contusions and abrasions at the lower level of her neck, completely encircling the base. Marks going downward, upward, and straight across. This is not consistent with what Brayan and the police say happened. The trauma noted to her neck was done with so much force, how could it have been done by “leaning” into a ligature?
  29. In the initial copy of the open file I received inadvertently (case not closed yet) in September of 2015, Detective Jones report with the printed date of 09/15/2015, has the final sentence on his report as, “This case will now be exceptionally cleared as a suicide”. I requested another copy of the records on March 29, 2016, and a certified letter was sent to the State Attorney General on April 8, 2016 in regards to me requesting an open file, and that it should not be released to me because of “pending criminal investigation. The premature release of the information could interfere with criminal prosecution of that case.” I was then sent a letter from the State Attorney General denying me access to Amanda’s file. It was not officially closed until May 2016. Why did it take 1 year?
  30. We met with someone from the District Attorney’s office and the Sheriff’s office, as well as the Assistant Chief of Police, which none agreed that this case needed further attention based on the fact they were unwilling to help us. It is apparent they stand behind the investigation done by Detective Jeff Jones and the autopsy performed by Dr. Jill Urban.
  31. I am currently waiting for a return phone call from the new Chief of Police at the Sherman Police Department to schedule a meeting to discuss her case that I requested on 1/5/2017.

AGAIN, WHY CAN’T THIS BE CONSIDERED A POSSIBLE HOMICIDE?

Renewed Hope for Justice

December 15, 2016

This is a follow up from my last post in October. We met with the newly elected sheriff and his deputy with our concerns about how Amanda’s case was handled by Sherman Police Department, and they assured us they would look over her case with an open mind and fresh eyes. I spent several hours copying pictures, notes, reports, blogs, and records. I left my file with their office for over 2 months to be reviewed, and we finally had our follow up with the chief deputy last week. The emotions were almost overwhelming in anticipation of this meeting, but regardless of the outcome, I knew that if this was not the time or place, God was still in control. Needless to say, this was not the time or place, but a necessary step in this journey for justice.

When we arrived in the conference room in the sheriff’s office, the chief deputy had a pad with written notes. I did not sense this meeting would be in our favor from the beginning, and as it turned out, it was not. He started by explaining that there has to be enough evidence to prosecute a case, and even if Brayan walked into his door, confessed to killing Amanda, and turned himself in, there still would be problems with prosecuting him because the evidence doesn’t support murder. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure.

Following are some points he made to Justin and me about why it would be impossible to get a conviction:

  1. The issues that I had raised about Amanda’s blood alcohol level and being conscious or even able to hang herself at 384. He said because of her history of alcoholism, that level may not affect her like it does a normal person. He said he had arrested someone with a higher BAC that was driving a vehicle and able to function. He said that point would not hold up in court. My questions then become, she was 120 pounds, could that level at least affect fine motor skills? Just because she was drunk, does that make it automatically plausible she committed suicide? What’s normal alcohol level for her? There’s no baseline. I’ve seen her put back a 6 pack of beer not too long ago and she couldn’t even hold a cigarette.
  2. Brayan had a history of choking her “with his hands”, why would he all of a sudden use a cord? Really? No one can vouch for every choking incident she suffered through. He kept her isolated from everyone. How can it be determined that an abusive psychopath will only choke a certain way? He said he would kill her, maybe the hand choking method wasn’t successful in the past (assuming that’s the only way he choked her) why not do it with something more forceful to make sure he carried through with his promise?
  3. If Brayan intended on killing Amanda, why would he attempt CPR for 15-20 minutes before calling 911? Why would he try to save her life if he intended on taking it? His efforts kept her alive to make it to the hospital. Well she was brain dead and her heart had stopped beating, she was only alive because we had her placed on a ventilator.  Question here is, did he really do CPR? The witness (who told me he helped take her down but told the police he didn’t)and Brayan had different accounts of what happened in the moments around this event. Why didn’t he call 911 first instead of letting her lie there not breathing? Everything that happened in those moments is what Brayan said happened. It takes 5 minutes for anoxic brain death, times just don’t add up. I’m sure with some research, I could come up with men or women who try or even kill their partner’s and try and stage it as accident or suicide.

I began asking about the marks and bruises on her neck and how it didn’t add up to what Brayan and the police said happened, he said the autopsy supports Brayan and Sherman PD’s ruling. I reminded him that the autopsy wasn’t fair because Dr. Urban didn’t have any evidence, reports, etc. with Amanda; he came to her defense and stated that he knows Dr. Urban and she does a great job. I asked about the threat of murder, Amanda being packed to leave, inconsistent timelines, lies in the detective’s report, Brayan leaving town….he said “I don’t have answers for your questions”….. There was nothing I could say to convince him, and there was nothing he could say to convince me. After reviewing my entire file, there was nothing outside the autopsy that led him to believe that Brayan could have taken her life.

I left there brokenhearted, but not hopeless. I called him after leaving the meeting and asked him what would he do different if this was his wife, daughter or sister….he just said the evidence doesn’t support homicide, it’s been ruled a suicide. He reminded me that I’ve leaned on the Lord so much during this and to keep trusting Him. I can now say that I have gone through all the channels in Grayson County. No one has been willing to help me. I clearly see that everyone to this point have supported Brayan and the Sherman PD, including the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department.

God doesn’t plan to leave it here. After leaving the meeting at the sheriff’s office, I knew everyone was hiding behind the autopsy and we had to get that issue addressed. One week later, an article about misconduct in the Dallas Medical Examiner’s office comes across my newsfeed on Facebook. I contacted the reporter immediately about my story, and she has agreed to look over Amanda’s file. This reporter went on a talk show and talked about Amanda’s case. Her passion for justice and interest in Amanda’s case gives me renewed hope. She has seen the pictures of Amanda and the crime scene and she is even more convinced of a grievous mishandling of her case by Sherman PD and DME.

Another God thing is an awesome advocacy group, Riding4Justice. They are leaving this Saturday to ride to Austin to bring awareness to the injustices happening in Grayson and surrounding counties. This group has believed in me from the beginning and kept me going in times I didn’t think I could go on. Amanda is one of the cases they are taking to the state capitol. I am so grateful for what they are doing to stand in the gap and help family’s struggling to find answers! And by the way, I just found out this group has worked with the reporter I contacted earlier this week on other cases…there are no coincidences!

Thank you for reading, liking and sharing Amanda’s story of injustice.

 

What Needs to Change?

September 19, 2016

All afternoon, I have been preparing a notebook for Amanda’s case. I am presenting it tomorrow at a meeting with an official who has agreed to look it over. No matter the outcome, I will trust God. I’m realizing how emotionally removed I have become from all the detailed police reports, witness statements and photos of Amanda. It has had to be this way because it’s difficult to see this beautiful woman, my baby sister with bruises and marks on her neck and body. I will be so relieved the day we get answers and she gets the justice she deserves.

This disconnection has helped me move forward with a factual based research of her case rather than emotionally driven. Tonight, I am so sad and grieved for everything she had to endure at the hands of a man that controlled every part of her world. I’m thinking about the other women (& men) all over the world that suffer at the hands of people that are supposed to love them. How can we have a different outcome? How can we make these tragic stories end differently? It has to be one of three ways: stop the abuse, leave the abuser, or the likelihood that someone will die. Those are the only solutions to this senseless, preventable crime.

Stopping the abuse has to start early. Abusers were most likely abused themselves. There must be early intervention, education, and programs to help the abuser figure out what’s going on inside them. We have this deep need to control our world, but we do not have any right to control the actions of others, whether physical, psychological, and/or emotional. We have to break the generational cycles of abuse. We have to be the generation that says ENOUGH! The abuser needs to be loved on as much as the abused if safe to do so. The flip side though is that they have to want healing, acknowledge the problem, and take responsibility for their actions.

Leaving the abuser is a complicated matter. Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most dangerous times. Often women stay because there is so much fear of leaving safely. People often get frustrated at women for staying with an abuser. I know I got frustrated with Amanda many times. As a child, I got frustrated with my mom for staying with my dad. Blaming the woman for staying is NOT acceptable. They get caught up in the domestic violence cycle – abuse, remorse and apologies, calm, & abuse. If we can’t get the abuser to stop, how can we help the abused feel safe in another environment?

If abuse continues, there is a pretty good chance that someone will die. I’ve lost three women in my life to domestic violence homicides (I’m praying that the truth be revealed in Amanda’s case). In the loss of my sister Vivian, she was leaving her boyfriend, and he killed her. My mother went to check on her hours after it happened because Vivian wasn’t answering the phone, and he killed my mom as well. When I asked Damon why he did it, he said he didn’t want to lose her. Amanda was threatened to be killed numerous times if she left Brayan; but the night she suffered brain death, he told her to be gone by a certain time and if she wasn’t he would kill her.

I have poured my heart and many hours into Amanda’s case. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. If he is never held accountable here, God has the final say for him. There were times when police were involved with Brayan and Amanda, and he just walked away, and not held responsible by our justice system for his violent actions, not to mention his illegal immigration status. I’ve taken hold of her, and am not letting go until we get answers. Until then, I pray that God use me to help others have a different outcome than Rebecca, Vivian, and Amanda Pierce. There are so many people supporting and praying for our family. I am so grateful. Remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

Amanda’s Advocate

September 8, 2016

Someone recently asked me a few questions about Amanda’s case. What if nothing gets changed? What if the police and medical examiner get the final word on the outcome? What do you want to happen in telling your story? Honestly, I don’t know. When I started writing her story back in May of this year, I wanted someone in the “law” world to say there were enough circumstances and unanswered questions to warrant another look at her case as something other than suicide. I also did not want her death certificate to read “suicide by hanging” if in fact someone took her life. I did not want that to be her legacy.

Recently, I have removed all expectations, I don’t have an outcome in mind. I have given up control of where this story ends. All I can do right now is tell her story by pouring out my heartfelt words on this Facebook page and blog site. God is in complete control of the outcome, and justice is in his hands. By releasing my control, I have had so much more freedom and peace to speak from my heart and gut.

From the moments I found out that Amanda’s life had been threatened with murder, heard the ridiculous story Brayan told about the evening of May 14, and learned of the police department’s position on her death, I have tried to be her voice. I will continue to be her advocate until we are heard and her death gets a fair, proper investigation. I will continue to gather information, research, and write until someone listens. If we would have accepted the detectives initial report findings, her case would have died on that table during our meeting on May 18, 2015. I’m not going to let what has been ruled as a suicide slide by until we get the answers we deserve about the events surrounding her brain injury and death.

The detective was called in on Amanda’s case because we had recently talked to the officer, who responded to the 9-1-1 call, in social settings about her situation and asked him for help on getting Brayan picked up on his outstanding warrant. Our involvement to help her started way before May 14. It is noted numerous times in the detective’s report of our concerns for Amanda. We were told that we just could not accept that my sister committed suicide more than once.

In his report, he has noted the following statements about our concerns and persistence  of wanting answers on Amanda’s behalf:

  • “On 5/16/15, I started receiving emails that Kim and Justin Mullins wanted to talk to me and believed that Amanda’s suicide was a homicide.”
  • “On 5/17/15, I came to the Sherman Police Department and made some follow-up calls. I spoke with Kim Mullins and she advised that she believed that Espana may have killed Amanda….”
  • I gave him names and phone numbers of witnesses that claimed to know that Brayan threatened to kill Amanda on 5/14 if she was not out of the house by 7:00 pm. Each person gave a statement to the detective.
  • “On 5/19/15, I met with Kim and Justin Mullens at the Sherman Police Department. They advised they had additional information as to what occurred at 1200 E. Lamar.”
  • On 5/28/16, we met with the detective again. “…at 0900 hours, I met with Justin and Kim again at their request. They advised that they are not accepting the ruling as a suicide and wanted me to change the investigation to a homicide.” Actually we asked why with all the circumstances around the event that this could not be even be considered a homicide?
  • “They advised that based on that they did not feel that I had conducted a proper investigation and would be pursuing other avenues to assure the case was investigated properly.”
  • “Kim advised that she was unable to accept my investigation and believes Brayan killed Amanda and covered it up…..”
  • “I later received emails from Kim and Justin challenging what I had told them and questioning pieces of evidence that they were made aware of in the meeting.”

 

There were a few times he exaggerated my pleas of looking at it more than a suicide. In my heart I feel like Brayan did this to her, but never asked for the ruling to be changed to homicide, only to be investigated as a possible homicide. We don’t feel her case was treated fairly, and there is no one else that cares for her as much as Justin and me; therefore, it is our responsibility to be her voice and her advocate.

I am hearing of similar cases being handled this way. So if my story just helps one other person become brave enough to step out and get justice, then I will be satisfied. If something doesn’t make sense or there are legitimate questions, don’t be afraid to ask! God knows the end of my story, and he has placed a deep desire in my heart to share it through writing.

“This is God’s Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!”  Jeremiah 22:3

Thank you for reading and sharing The Pain of Injustice.

‘Illegal’ Criminal

September 5, 2016

One fact that we were sure the police department would find suspicious is that Brayan left town. Got in his car on May 17, 2015 and drove away. A witness said he carried a small brown envelope under his arm, got in his car, and drove off; that was the last time he was seen. When we asked the detective if that seemed suspicious, he never really thought it was a big deal. When we asked the assistant chief of police the same question, the answer we got was this is typical behavior for illegal immigrants. They want to skip town if there is anything that brings attention to them to stay out of trouble.

Brayan Espana has a criminal record that goes back to 2006; that is 10 years. He has had multiple citations and arrest. In Grayson County alone, under this alias, he has been arrested 6 times.

  1. 2009 assault causing bodily injury/family violence, no license no liability insurance, spent 3 days in jail
  2. 2010 driving while intoxicated, driving with no driver’s license, spent 1 day in jail
  3. 2011 driving while intoxicated, open container, escaped from custody, in jail from 1/29-2/25
  4. 2011 assault family violence, spent 1 day in jail
  5. 2011 display fictitious license plate, no driver’s license, violate promise to appear, spent 1 day in jail
  6. 2014 assault causing bodily injury family violence, no liability insurance, spent 1 day in jail (this is the assault to Amanda witnessed by a Sherman police officer, and that his active warrants are for)

There are other traffic violations, such as no driver’s license or liability insurance in 2006, and bail jumping and failure to appear from 2014.

He apparently hasn’t been too worried about attention being drawn to himself over the past 10 years. What makes this different? He had been pulled over numerous times and never had a driver’s license or insurance, he has been in front of a judge with no legal paperwork, he has sat in the Grayson county jail numerous times, he drinks and drive’s on our local streets with no worries about harming other’s lives, and he has escaped custody and jumped bail and failed to appear…. I don’t think he has been too worried about getting into trouble. How is this time different? What was he so worried about to just drive away and left everything he owned in that ratty house they lived in? After all this time in Grayson County, working at gas stations and STARR aircraft, living here, beating on women, why leave now? I think I know why, but police say otherwise; it’s just not suspicious behavior according to them.

Thank you for reading, liking, commenting and sharing Amanda’s story of injustice.

Police Department’s Conclusion–Part 2

September 4, 2016

Part 2 of the Sherman PD official conclusion of Amanda’s Case: Assistant chief of police official conclusion to close the case on 5/18/2016, over 1 year later. Continued from previous post:

Possibility of other causes:

The bruise on the right side of her chest was observed by (witness) prior to the incident

Pierce reportedly claimed the bruise was caused during an altercation with Espana several days prior to 5/14/15

Pierce’s initial condition (unconscious but alive) as reported by SPD Paramedics tends to support Espana’s account of the events

Dr. Cardenas examined Pierce upon her arrival at Wilson N. Jones hospital and confirmed her condition was consistent with the evidence and circumstances found at the scene.

According to SPD Paramedics and Dr. Cardenas, Pierce’s body showed no other signs of trauma at the time of the incident.

No other person was believed to be in the home at the time of the incident.

 None of the items listed are even ‘possibilities of other causes’. Espana told the ICU staff that the bruise was from CPR he performed on her. Her initial condition was unconscious and asystole, that IS NOT alive, that’s not just ‘unconscious’. That means NO heartbeat. He stated he did 10-15 minutes of CPR before calling 9-1-1, why do that much CPR if someone is alive? I intend to speak with Dr. Cardenas about his professional opinion and forensic knowledge, to say the picture of an iron cord matches the trauma to her neck, if he even said that at all. There was someone else in the home, it was the housemate who gave inconsistent statements to the police and me. His story is all over the place and doesn’t make sense either.

Espana as a suspect:

Time lines established during the investigation confirm Espana’s reported whereabouts prior to and at the time of Pierce’s hanging.

Espana immediately took steps to resuscitate Pierce and quickly contacted Paramedics.

Witness statements from (housemate) and (witness) tend to corroborate Espana’s account of the incident.

There is insufficient evidence to charge Espana with any criminal offense related to this incident.

There is virtually no physical evidence that indicates Espana contributed to Pierce’s death.

 Where do I start…timelines during investigation confirm his reported whereabouts. Which one? The one where he clocked out of work at 1709, verbally told the detective that he got off work, stopped by the gas station and tried to use debit card for cash but declined, got on 75 South, then Lamar Street, got home and walked in the back door and talked to the neighbor for 5-7 minutes? That timeline or the one the detective WROTE about him not getting home until 1900 (15 minutes before he called 911) after he hung out with friends after work? Which one does he get to use? There are many more discrepancies in the timeline. Immediately took steps…after going downstairs and getting a witness, then attempting CPR for 10-15 minutes before call 911? I am confident that one of the witnesses did not corroborate his story and the other one told different stories to different detectives. Your position on the case is noted—no sufficient evidence that he contributed to her death.

Confusion in the case:

Due to a history of abuse, Espana was suspected of possibly causing or contributing to Pierce’s death.

In the days following the incident, theories were voiced by uninvolved and/or misinformed individuals which may have caused confusion and concerns for the Pierce’s family.

Alternative conclusions raised during the investigation of this case are unsubstantiated and fail to implicate anyone of a crime.

The definition of abuse is to treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly. He was suspected by the family because he threatened to murder her that day if she was not out of the house by 7:00 pm, not solely on the abuse; also that he had an active warrant for domestic violence and multiple witnesses to that ‘abuse’. I cannot wait for comments by “uninvolved and/or misinformed individuals”! Who exactly are you referring to? The witness, her friend, who she called for help out of desperation? Or her ex-husband she spoke to that day who confirmed what Amber said, that she was scared for her life and needed to get out of the house. The one that was giving her a place to go after her life was threatened with murder? Our confusion comes from the police’s disregard to that information days after she suffered brain death. That they jumped on the suicide wagon and put blinders on to any other possibility. This whole ‘confusion in the case’ section infuriates me!

Conclusion:

All verifiable evidence in this case indicates that Pierce’s death was a suicide by hanging. My review file, containing photos, copies of recordings, and documentation were submitted as evidence with this case.”

That is the lead detective’s supervisor’s official report on Amanda’s case. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the turning point we were hoping for, but definitely gave us an idea where the Sherman Police Department stood on her case.

Thank you for reading, liking, commenting and sharing Amanda’s story of injustice!

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