The parents of a Platte County man killed by a drunk driver as he worked road construction in Arkansas continue to fight for a conviction and the harshest possible sentence against the driver of the vehicle charged in the death of their son.
Family and friends joined Stacie and Jason Brayfield in Arkansas last week as they attended an arraignment for Kristopher Gould, 26, of Jonesboro, Ark., who is charged in the death of Preston Brayfield, 22.
Preston was working on a job site in a small town near Jonesboro in May when he was struck and killed by Gould, according to the charges.
Gould pled not guilty during a July 29 arraignment, where the couple said they were met by members of Gould’s family, whom the Brayfields said stared them down. Preston’s advocates held hands and prayed outside of the courthouse where they awaited the arraignment, Stacie Brayfield said during a phone interview.
Court officials told the Brayfields personal items must be left in their vehicles, but a member of Gould’s supporters had a cell phone and appeared to take photos and video of Preston’s advocates prior to entering the courthouse. Due to COVID restrictions, the group that was present for the arraignment waited outside until Gould’s hearing, she said.
The family has feared that Gould will receive preferential treatment in the case due to his family ties to several people who are in law enforcement in the area and his ex-wife, with whom he has a child, is an area attorney. The Brayfields’ young sons were seated near each other but separate from other family members in the courtroom.
“They “looked (Gould) right in the eyes,” she said, calling them “brave little soldiers.” But, the loss of Preston has profoundly affected the family. She said several of her children suffer anxiety and nightmares due to the accident and are fearful if both she and Jason leave the house in the same car, fearing an accident could leave them orphans.
The Brayfields said they have asked the case’s prosecutor, Val Price, for information stemming from blood and other test results that would reveal Gould’s alcohol content and how fast he was traveling at the time of the accident. But Price has refused.
In addition, they also have been denied access to photos of Preston’s body and the coroner’s report which would reveal the full extent of Preston’s injuries.
“Was it a broken neck, brain injury, his heart.We want to know what happened to our son,” Stacie said. The only information they have received is that Preston died due to “blunt force trauma.” The parents say they have communicated with witnesses at the scene of the accident who have indicated Preston’s injuries were incredibly severe, maybe even have resulted in his body being severed. The couple spoke with the prosecutor’s supervisor, Scott Ellington, who told them the office will not release the information until a week before the trial, which is scheduled for late September.
A date in early September is the next scheduled hearing date and could result in a continuance, she said. However, Gould’s attorney and the prosecutor could reach a plea agreement, which would pre-empt a trial. The couple said they hope for a trial because they believe it may result in a harsher sentence than that a judge would provide in such an agreement.
So far, the prosecutor has charged Gould with negligent homicide, driving with an open container of alcohol and failure to stay in his traffic lane. However, he has not been charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Although the couple was worried about the current charges not being as severe as DUI, Ellington told them because the charges were increased to negligent homicide, a felony, the charges carry a stiffer sentence of five to 20 years in prison as compared with DUI, which carries a lighter sentence.
While Stacie said she and her husband were somewhat comforted by their phone call with Ellington, they continue to be frustrated by being denied access to test results and information about Preston’s injuries.
“Right now, we can’t find anything out about it,” Stacie said. “This whole thing has been strange. A real eye-opening experience.”
She added that Ellington told her she and her family should brace themselves for what lies ahead as it will be “long, slow and painful.”