Was a defense attorney in ‘West Memphis Three’
he parents of a Platte County road construction worker recently struck and killed in Arkansas are hopeful that justice will be more swiftly served for the man charged in their son’s death than that of three men falsely accused in a famous murder case from the same area.
Stacie and Jason Brayfield recently met, on behalf of their son, Preston, with a now-prosecutor who participated as a defense attorney in the widely publicized “West Memphis Three Trials.”
In that case, three young men from the area were falsely convicted and spent nearly two decades in jail after the bodies of three eight-year-olds were found after being dumped in a creek, their wrists having been bound to their ankles.
Since their deaths in 1993, several movies and a documentary have detailed the case in which Chris Beyers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch were killed while riding their bicycles near their homes in the area, which borders Tennessee and Arkansas and is known as the West Memphis area-the same court system in which Preston’s case will be tried.
Preston’s parents met in June with Val Price, now a prosecutor in Preston’s case. When reached by phone by The Landmark, Price acknowledged that he “coincidentally” was a defense attorney in the famous case, but he declined to comment on Preston’s case due to the ongoing investigation.
In the previous case, which remains unsolved, Price provided defense for one of the accused, Damien Echols, who spent time on death row.
Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley also were charged and served time before all three were exonerated based on DNA evidence and the reversals of “witnesses” who years later admitted they had lied.
But, the Brayfields are not sure the cold case lacks meaning when it comes to their pursuit of justice for their son. A recent anonymous message alerted the couple to the famous case, which also took place in Jonesboro, Ark.
While they successfully lobbied for stiffer charges against Kristopher Gould, who originally faced a misdemeanor (charges were later upgraded to a class B second-degree felony,) the parents have expressed doubt that their son’s death will lead to jail time for Gould. They say that they fear that Gould’s ties to local law enforcement and an area attorney will lead him to walk with a lesser sentence, such as probation.
Stacie says she already was doubtful about the case’s outcome given that Gould’s ex-wife is reportedly an attorney who now is dating a Jonesboro police officer and his ex-brother-in-law is reported to be a sheriff’s deputy serving in the same jurisdiction as the deputy who investigated the case.
Gould and his ex-wife have a child together, Stacie said.
The couple were bothered by Gould’s $500 bond, which they said was “ridiculously low” and which Gould immediately paid, granting his release.
When reached by telephone last week, Jason Brayfield said he is, however, trying to remain positive the case will end with jail time for Gould.
“I just hope they do the right thing,” he said, “the best job they can. I hate to even think of that (the West Memphis Three case). I just hope they do their job with a conviction for (Gould),” he said.
The couple plan, along with other family and friends, to attend an arraignment scheduled for Wednesday, July 29 in Jonesboro “to show support for Preston,” Jason said. During that appearance, Gould is expected to enter a plea and a court date for trial is expected to be set, he said.
Test results such as blood alcohol content, which will determine Gould’s level of intoxication at the time of the accident, as well as cell phone results which will show if he was texting or talking while driving and tests to determine his car’s speed at the time of impact continue to be pending.
The Brayfields said officials told them it could take up to six months to receive the results.
The responding sheriff’s deputy stated in his report that a lack of skid marks shows Gould did not attempt to stop. In addition, authorities say several containers of liquor were found in Gould’s car and on the ground at the site of a subsequent crash after Gould’s vehicle struck Preston and careened off the road. While Gould refused a breathalyzer test, Arkansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tommy Fitzgerald sent him to an area hospital for a blood draw and wrote in his report that the suspect had slurred speech and admitted to having several beers earlier that day.
Stacie has said she and her husband were “not impressed” by Price, the prosecutor, during their meeting with him and another official from the prosecutor’s office. She said Price was “nonchalant” during their meeting, leading her to fear that Price could be more interested in protecting Gould, a local man, than Preston, who was from out-of-state.
However, Stacie said Price and Liz Wagner, who also works in the prosecutor’s office and attended their recent meeting, reassured the couple that Preston’s death would be fully investigated, and denied the couple’s fear that Gould would be given preferential treatment because of his ties to law enforcement and an attorney.
Stacie and Jason have said they felt they were met with community support while distributing fliers in the area, asking locals to pray for them in their quest for justice. The couple said the support was “very touching.” Stacie said: “Now we are asking for prayers for justice.”