Platte County couple wants jail time for defendant
Platte County couple said their grief following the recent death of their 22-year-old son while he was working on a road construction crew in Arkansas has tragically twisted into a fight for justice.
The couple’s situation was chronicled in a story in the June 24 edition of The Landmark.
Although prosecutors in the case recently upgraded charges against the man who struck and killed their son, the parents say they continue to fight for a stiff penalty that they hope will include jail time for the defendant following the Saturday, May 30 accident.
Stacie and Jason Brayfield have made several trips to Jonesboro, Ark., which is near the site where their son, Preston, was struck by a drunk driver about 7:40 p.m. while cleaning up after a day’s work on U.S. 555 in Tyronza, Ark.
The couple said they met last week with a prosecutor and another official at the office’s request.
During the meeting, they learned that charges against the accused, Kristopher Gould, have been upgraded from misdemeanor to driving while intoxicated, a class B (second-degree) felony.
However, the Brayfields said officials in the office confirmed their fears during last week’s meeting: that Gould, 26, of Jonesboro, may not serve any jail time for the offense.
Their meeting with officials in the prosecutor’s office left them feeling the prosecutor, Val Price, was not concerned about justice for Preston.
“I’m not impressed by Val Price,” Stacie said. “He (Preston) has the right to bring in the best that Arkansas has to offer,” she said.
Instead, during their meeting, Price barely said a word and acted “nonchalant,” leaving the couple with the impression he felt more interested in protecting Gould than Preston.
In addition to Price, the Brayfields said they also had met with advocate Liz Wagner, who works in the prosecutors’ office.
Prosecuting officials dismissed as not true the couple’s fears that Gould will be treated less harshly because of his community connections to local law enforcement.
The parents and officials continue to wait for the results of several tests to determine Gould’s level of intoxication at the time of the accident and other information. Although Gould admitted to an officer on the scene that he had had six to seven drinks prior to the accident, he refused a breathalyzer test. Instead, he was sent to a hospital for a blood alcohol test. Those results are still pending.
Other tests to determine the speed at which his vehicle was traveling and whether he was texting or talking on a cell phone at the time of the accident also are outstanding and could take up to six months to receive, Jason said they were told.
Although the Brayfields are glad for the upgraded charge, they still are baffled by Gould’s low bond, which they said officials explained by stating it was Gould’s first driving while intoxicated offense.
The couple said they have learned the only recourse is to file a complaint with the judge who set the bond, and Stacie said they are pursuing that action.
When reached by The Landmark by phone on Tuesday afternoon, prosecutor Val Price, who is handling the case, said he is not at liberty to respond to questions since the investigation is ongoing.
Arkansas State Trooper Tommy Fitzgerald said in his accident report that he found an array of bottled liquor, including an opened whiskey bottle and beer can, combined with the driver’s slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, that indicated intoxication.
While the charges do not reflect intent by Gould, Jason said he and his wife believe Gould’s actions were purposeful.
“Oh, he knew exactly what he was doing,” Jason said during a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not like he just stopped by the bar and had a drink or two,” he said. “He made that choice to build a liquor store in his car,” he said, referring to the numerous alcohol containers, both opened and closed, that police noted were in his car and at the scene of the crash.
During visits to the Jonesboro area, the Brayfields have passed out fliers asking locals to pray for them in their quest for justice.
“It was very touching to see the support of the people (in that area), Stacie said. “But, it’s very sad we did not get that support from the prosecutor,” she said.
The couple also is working to resolve a mistake in their son’s time of death as listed on the death certificate, and have reached out to officials to get the mistake corrected.
They have considered purchasing a sign on an Arkansas billboard about Preston and their fight. But Wagner, the advocate in the prosecutor’s office, tried to discourage them from taking that step, stating it could force a change of venue if the case goes to trial. Stacie said she and her husband, instead, are concerned about justice for Preston.
After all, Stacie said, Gould “dismembered our son,” she said. “Every bone in his body was broken,” she said, referring to reports by witnesses at the scene that Preston’s body was “not viewable” and the fact that an area coroner did extensive work before the couple viewed their son.
Stacie said, “To tell us there’s a chance that (Gould) could walk is unfathomable.”