Story by Karla Vanatta
On the night of August 8, 2013, Brandon Lawson left his house in San Angelo, Texas. He and his common law wife of 10 years, Ladessa Lofton, had just had an argument. They were both stressed about Brandon beginning a new job soon, raising three kids, and having one of their children being ill with an ear infection for a few days. Before he left, Brandon discussed with his father Brad Lawson about coming to his house in Crowley, Texas for the night. His father told him to just calm down then work things out with Ladessa.
Like any other couple that has been in a relationship for a number of years, one of them would, at times, leave for a few minutes to cool off and calm down after an argument. The absence didn’t usually last more than 20 or 30 minutes. Then they would go home and finish talking through whatever it is they were trying to work out.
Brandon left their house at 11:53 p.m. He had on white Air Max shoes, green camo shorts and no shirt. As he was walking out the door he grabbed a yellow Tap Out t-shirt to put on. He picked up his wallet and keys and left their home. To date, that would be the last time Ladessa saw her husband and soul mate.
Brandon and Ladessa grew up together, in a sense. They were high school sweethearts. They have been together since Ladessa was 15 and Brandon was 16. They were inseparable. They were best friends. What happened next would cause a void neither of them were prepared for.
But what exactly happened to Brandon that night to keep him away from his family? Neither law enforcement nor his family know for sure, but there are a few clues. The hope is that someone will read the clues and remember something from that night that will bring Brandon home.
February 9, 2017 will mark 3 1/2 years that Brandon has been missing. That is 1,277 days that Brandon will have been away from his wife, his 4 children, his parents, his siblings, his friends, his family and everyone else that knows and loves him. Ladessa and the rest of his family agree that Brandon would never knowingly leave his family. He just would not do that to them. He was a hard-working and loving husband and father. His wife and kids were his world. He and Ladessa had never officially gotten married, though they lived as husband and wife, but he had discussed with a close friend his plans on buying a ring as soon as he got the money and making it official. He never got the chance.
Shortly after Brandon left his home Ladessa reportedly called him. She was still upset over their argument but she wanted to reassure herself they were ok. She told him to just drive around for a little bit then either come home or go sleep at his brother Kyle’s house, who lived just 5 minutes away from Brandon and Ladessa. She spoke with him for a bit more then hung up. She didn’t tell him she was sorry and she didn’t say I love you. She was still too upset. She has since played that conversation over in her head a thousand times.
After speaking with Ladessa, Brandon must have changed his mind about going to his dad’s house because instead of heading East on HWY 67 towards Crowley, Brandon headed more North on HWY 277 going towards Abilene. His truck was almost out of gas but he thought he could make it to the gas station in Bronte, Texas, which was only about 40 miles from his home. Instead he made it about 4 1/2 miles South of Bronte, 1/4 mile from a rest area.
Meanwhile, Ladessa called Brandon’s family concerned about Brandon and told them about the argument so at 12:10 a.m. Brandon’s brother Kyle came over to Brandon and Ladessa’s house to check on her.
12:34 a.m., 12:36a.m., and 12:48 a.m. Ladessa misses calls from Brandon.
A transcript of Blog Talk Radio interview with Ladessa Lofton quotes Ladessa as saying that Brandon called Kyle at 12:38 a.m. to say he ran out of gas. Kyle hung up with Brandon and called Ladessa to tell her that Brandon ran out of gas and him and his girlfriend Audrey needed to come get a gas can. Ladessa told him she would put the gas can on the porch and leave it. She said she was taking a shower then going to bed. She put the gas can on the porch. The battery on her phone was getting low and she did not have a working phone charger in the house so Ladessa put her phone on the charger in her van. Kyle and Audrey picked up the gas can and headed to get Brandon. Kyle could not put gas in the can because his check had not yet cleared the bank so the plan was to pick up Brandon and take him to the closest gas station to get the gas, then drop him back off at his truck and go home.
At 12:54 a.m. Brandon called 911. His signal was in and out and some of the call is inaudible. The recording can be heard in several different versions by typing Brandon Lawson 911 Call into the search bar on social media sites such as You Tube, Google and Facebook. The following is an approximate transcript.
9; 2013; 050 and 38 seconds (there is a ding heard at the beginning of the recording made from recording equipment)
9-1-1 Emergency: 9-1-1 Emergency
Brandon: Yes, I’m in the middle of a field. (Escaped. We)? just pushed some guys over. We’re out her going towards Abeline on both sides. My truck ran out of gas. There’s one car here. A guy’s chasing me through the woods. Please hurry!
9-1-1 Emergency: Ok, now run that by me one more.
Brandon: There’ll be no talking to ’em. I accidentally ran into ’em.
9-1-1 Emergency: Oh, you ran into ’em? Ok.
(someone says something in the background)
Brandon: (inaudible) the first guy
(loud noise like a gunshot in background)
9-1-1 Emergency: Do you need an ambulance?(someone says something in the background at the same time)
It sounds like Brandon chuckles and says yeah. Some people say it is not Brandon’s voice saying yeah.
Right after that
Brandon: No, I need the cops.
9-1-1 Emergency: Ok. Is anybody hurt. Hello? Hello? Hello?
Brandon does not respond. A background noise gets louder and louder as if it is getting closer and closer to the phone.
At some point a motorist puts a calls into 9-1-1 stating a vehicle is sitting partially in the highway. Around the same time Kyle calls Brandon to find out the location of his truck. The signal was not good and the calls keep getting dropped but Kyle did make out that Brandon said, “I’m 10 minutes away. Hurry up and get here. I’m bleeding.” At 1:10 a.m. Kyle and Audrey arrive at Brandon’s truck. When they get there they see Deputy Neal from the Coke County Sheriff’s office at the vehicle and Brandon is nowhere to be found.
Deputy Neal tells Kyle about the call to 9-1-1 about the stranded vehicle. He does not mention Brandon’s 9-1-1 call. He ask Kyle if that is his truck. Kyle tells him it is his brother’s truck and he should be back any time. The deputy notes there is no damage to the vehicle. There is nothing in the seats. Brandon had taken his keys and his wallet with him.
Kyle talks to Brandon on the phone while the deputy is there. He does not mention to the deputy the he was speaking to Brandon or that he was close by. ( Note: Brandon found out a few months prior about an old warrant. He had been looking into getting the money to hire a lawyer to sort it out. Kyle was afraid that if the deputy knew Brandon was close by they would run his license and he would be arrested on the warrant.) Deputy Neal notices the doors are unlocked on the truck. He put the hazard lights on, locked the door and ordered a tow truck to pick the vehicle up at 8 a.m.
By 1:18 a.m. Deputy Neal leaves the scene without running the plates. He drives up and down the road searching for the driver. Kyle and Audrey leave the scene too. As they get further up the road Audrey text Brandon from her phone at 1:19 a.m. to warn him about a cop being at his vehicle. Around this time Brandon gets through to Audrey on the phone long enough to tell her that he is bleeding before he loses his signal again. Kyle and Audrey drive up and down the road searching and calling out for Brandon. Kyle tried to call Ladessa repeatedly but the phone kept going to voicemail. He calls in some guys he works with to help search for Brandon. They come out to help search. It is unclear at this time if they got out and searched on foot or if they searched from their vehicles. Kyle continues to try to call Brandon’s phone. Around 3 a.m. the phone stopped ringing, either because it was turned off or because it had died.
At 4:30 a.m. Ladessa gets her phone off the charger and sees the missed calls from Brandon and Kyle. She tries to call Brandon back but his phone keeps going straight to voicemail. She listens to several frantic voicemails from Kyle so she called him back. At this point Kyle tells Ladessa he has found Brandon’s truck but has not been able to find Brandon. He tells her about the conversation with the officer at Brandon’s truck. Kyle decides to go home and try again when the sun rose. He put the gas can in the back of Brandon’s truck, just in case he came back. Ladessa hangs up with Kyle and calls the sheriff’s office to see if they had any luck finding Brandon. They tell her they had not.
By 7 a.m. Kyle’s check is loaded into his account. He goes back to the truck to see if Brandon has arrived yet. Brandon still was not at his truck. By this time he is starting to get really worried. He fills up the gas can and puts it in Brandon’s truck. He decides it is time to be honest with police about the phone call that happened between him and Brandon while Deputy Neal was on scene. He tells the officers that Brandon said he was bleeding and that he needed help. At this point police still do not inform the family that Brandon had called 9-1-1. In fact, the family did not find out Brandon called 9-1-1 until Ladessa saw a call log of Brandon’s phone from records that the police ordered from Verizon.
From the beginning there has been controversy not only surrounding Brandon’s disappearance, but also between law enforcement and Brandon’s family. Accusations have been made on both sides about the other side not doing enough or helping in the right way to bring Brandon home.
Ladessa started a Facebook page for Brandon called Help Find Brandon Lawson. It is currently being followed by over 12,500 people. People have offered prayers, their support, their help and even tips. That has all been very helpful. What has not been helpful is the accusations against law enforcement and the fact that they are not doing enough to help. Due to the conflicting stories and the disagreements about Brandon’s disappearance, many major news programs have declined to cover Brandon’s story. Though I was given some information off the record that helped me write this story I was also told I would not be given a quote I could print due to the controversy this case has brought up in the past. Despite their differences in opinions though, both Brandon’s family and Law Enforcement agree that they have the same goal, and that is to Help Find Brandon Lawson.
Just after Brandon’s disappearance, Ladessa hired a search plane with her own money and did an aerial search for Brandon. Ladessa, Kyle and others in Brandon’s family and community also searched the ground. There were only about 14 of them, but they searched what area they could cover. On Tuesday, August 16, 2013 law enforcement conducted an aerial search using infrared cameras. None of the searches showed anything. On Thursday, August 29, 2013 law enforcement conducted a comprehensive search of over 2,500 acres surrounding the site where Brandon’s truck was abandoned. DPS used an algorithm to determine “likely lines of travel”. Among those involved in the search were The Coke County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, San Angelo Fire Department, Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol, Department of Public Safety, Criminal Investigative Division, and search and a search and rescue tracker. Carl Beal of Texana Ranch also provided all terrain vehicles to aid in the search. The final official search was held Thursday, October 24th. 6 HR (human remains) dogs were brought in by members of Texas Search and Rescue to rule out the possibility that Lawson had become lost in the bush and died. Along with the dogs themselves Texas Search and Rescue brought in the dogs handlers and flankers as well as numerous support and logistics personnel. In total Law Enforcement did 7 searches of the area where Brandon went missing.
Brandon’s family also did several searches, but the areas they could search were limited due to land owners refusing to allow access to their land. However, I was assured by an unnamed source in The Coke County Sheriff’s Office, that law enforcement was given permission to search all the land they requested per DPS algorithmic findings.
Since Brandon’s disappearance Ladessa has moved back to the Ft. Worth area so that the children could be closer to their grandparents and she could have help to be able to get a job to support them. Though she cannot go out and search by foot anymore, she still actively looks for tips and information on the Help Find Brandon Lawson Facebook page. Her weekly calls to the Coke County Sheriff’s Office have slowed as ach day passes with no new information. But she made a promise to herself to never give up until she finds him. That hasn’t happened yet.
As each month passes, each holiday, each birthday, Brandon’s 4 kids show strength as they get through another important moment in their history without their Dad by their side. Ladessa hears that little whisper to keep searching for Brandon in the children’s questions of why their Daddy can’t be there to celebrate with them, and it gives her just the strength she needs to make it through another day without giving up hope. Hope is everything when hope is all we have!
More about Brandon Lawson
** If you have any information regarding this case, please call the TX Dept of Public Safety, MPC at 512-424-5074 — Case # M1308005, or your local police department.
Story by Karla Vanatta