017 - The Disappearance of Brandon Lawson
In August of 2013, twenty-six year old Brandon Lawson was living in San Angelo, Texas, a small town boasting just over 100,000 residents. He lived with his longtime girlfriend, Ladessa Lofton, who is also defined as his common-law wife. Brandon was father to four children, three girls and one boy, one of whom he’d had with a woman earlier in his life, and three of which Ladessa was the mother to. Ladessa and Brandon had been together for nearly ten years, having moved from Fort Worth to San Angelo approximately one year prior. The two met when they were in high school, Brandon was sixteen and Ladessa was fifteen. They had been together ever since and some have described the two as not only best friends, but inseperable. Brandon was an oil field worker, described by friends and family as a hard working man who loved his children and Ladessa. The couple had hit some rough patches over the years, but they were ultimately described as well suited for one another and happy to be together. All of these factors ultimately make Brandon’s disappearance even more suspect.
Brandon is described as being five foot nine inches tall, weighing approximately 230 pounds. He had short, brown hair and blue eyes. He has multiple tattoos on his arms as well as scars on his chin and left knee. One ear is also pierced. When he was last seen he was wearing a yellow shirt, camouflage shorts and white 2013 Nike Air Max shoes.
Sometime between the hours of 10pm and 11:53pm, Brandon and Ladessa got into an argument. There were several factors that have been noted as being pivotal to the argument, namely that one of their four children had been suffering from an ear infection for a few days, Brandon was stressed out about beginning a new job. Factor that in with the complications that can arise between a couple who have been together for ten years and have four children to raise while still being in their early twenties and it isn’t difficult to imagine the context of the argument, though we do not know for certain what exactly was said by either side. This wasn’t their first argument, and typically when things got out of hand, either Brandon or Ladessa would leave the home for twenty to thirty minutes to cool off and calm down so that they could finish the conversation civilly and move forward.
On the other hand, I did read several reports that the argument was actually about Brandon’s lifestyle. Some people have reported that Brandon, excited to have gotten a new job and successfully passed his drug test, came home late and was possibly under the influence which caused an argument between the two. It appears to be speculative, but the exact context of the argument isn’t known for certain and considering factors which will be discussed later, whether or not drugs and or alcohol played a role in his disappearance is a point of high debate.
Whatever the reason for the argument, on this night in particular, Brandon makes the choice to leave but it isn’t going to be for just twenty or thirty minutes. Brandon made a call to his father, Brad Lawson, who lived in Crowley, Texas, not far from Fort Worth, approximately two hundred and forty seven miles and just under a four hour drive away. During this conversation, Brandon explains to his father that he had gotten into an argument and Ladessa and he wanted to come out to his house and spend the night there. Bare in mind, this call is made sometime between 10:45 and 11:53pm, meaning that were Brandon to drive out to his fathers, he likely wouldn’t have arrived prior to two or three in the morning. Reportedly, Brandon’s father tried to talk him out of making the trip and told him to just take a few minutes to calm down and to go back home to Ladessa and the children.
Brandon left the home at approximately 11:54pm, apparently planning to drive to his father’s place. In several places it is pointed out that rather than hopping on Highway 67, heading East towards Crowley, Brandon instead drives onto Highway 277, a very rural and desolate stretch of road which heads North to Abilene before turning East to Crowley. A lot of people have pointed to this choice as an indication that Brandon may have had a different destination in mind, or changed his mind at the last minute and decided to head towards Abilene. According to my research, if Brandon had taken Highway 67 instead, his distance traveled and approximate time of travel would have been approximately 220 miles and 3 hours and 43 minutes. On the other hand, the route that he took along Highway 277 is calculated as being 247 miles and 3 hours and 44 minutes. Essentially, these two routes, though taking different paths, would carry Brandon to his father’s home without much of a difference miles traveled and a one minute difference in travel time.
When asked later about the events of that day, Ladessa would state “It was a typical day. We got into an argument and he left the house. I talked to him one time after he left the house.” According to Ladessa, she called Brandon not long after he left the home. She was upset about the argument, but wanted to talk to him and make sure that everything was all right and they would work it out. She further says that she told Brandon to drive around for a little bit, clear his head and then to come back home. She also told him that if he didn’t want to come home that night he should drive over his brother Kyle’s house which was located just five minutes down the road. I’ve always found it fascinating that following their argument, and in his desire to leave the house, Brandon would choose his father’s home, and a four hour drive, over the option of his brother’s home and just a five minute drive.
There is some confusion around this time frame, at least from my perspective. Brandon left at 11:54pm. Ladessa calls him sometime after this, and tells him to go to his brothers or come home. At 12:10am, Brandon’s brother Kyle arrives to check on Ladessa. This means that in the sixteen minutes between Brandon leaving and Kyle arriving, Ladessa made a call to Brandon and then become so concerned that she also made a call to Kyle, who drove five minutes over to check on her. This seems to be contrary to the suggestion that whenever they argued they would take a few minutes to cool off, or perhaps the argument was worse than we are aware. Brandon could have only been gone a maximum of ten minutes before Ladessa called Kyle, since Kyle would have had to have left his home by 12:05am to make the five minute drive and arrive by 12:10am. That seems like a very small window of time for these calls to be made. Details such as these are also pointed at when people speculate that Brandon may have been under the influence of something which would have given Ladessa heightened concern, but again, this is only speculative.
According to the official timeline, sometime between 12:30 and 12:38am Brandon places a call to Kyle and tells him that he has run out of gas and he needs his brother to bring him some. Brandon has made it forty miles away and has run out of gas just four and a half miles south of Bronte, Texas. He is a quarter mile from a rest stop. Kyle then places a phone call to Ladessa, telling her that he and his girlfriend, Audrey will be stopping by the house to borrow a gas can so they can help Brandon out. Ladessa tells Kyle that she will leave the gas can on the porch since she is planning to take a shower and get to bed. It’s sometime around this phone call that Ladessa realized Brandon took the only phone charger they owned which plugged into a wall socket and the only other one she has is a car charger so she goes out to her car, plugs her phone in to charge, and goes back into shower and sleep. This is also a strange set of circumstances as Ladessa was so concerned about Brandon that she called his brother earlier, but when she finds out he’s broken down and needs gas, she doesn’t volunteer to go along, or take her own car. She instead decides to shower and go to bed. Some have speculated that she felt more secure knowing where Brandon was, while others have theorized that she didn’t want to go along and possibly have another argument. Either way, Kyle and Audrey stop by the house and retrieve the gas can.
The timeline shows that Brandon then places three calls to Ladessa, though she doesn’t get them since her phone is in the car. The calls come in at approximately 12:34, 12:36 and 12:48am. No voicemails are left and Ladessa won’t discover the missed calls until later. During this time, Kyle and Audrey begin driving towards Brandon’s last known location, just south of Bronte. Kyle had some issues with his paycheck not yet clearing into his bank account, so he can’t afford to fill the gas can. Instead, he plans to drive out to Brandon, take him to a service station where Brandon can pay to fill the can and then he’ll drive him back to his truck.
Something goes wrong, though, and no one has yet been able to figure out exactly what it was. At approximately 12:54, just sixteen minutes after his call to Kyle, and six minutes after his last call to Ladessa, Brandon dials 911. There is a recording of this call, but it is extremely difficult to determine what exactly is being said. There have been countless attempts to clean it up, to slow it down and break it down word for word, but that has only led to many different transcriptions of what was said and even then no one knows exactly what it means. What we do know is that Brandon sounds like he is either in a full blown panic, or is under the influence of something which impacts his speech. I’m going to play the full 911 audio for you without my interpretation, and then once more after.
[Insert 911 call audio.]
It’s extremely difficult to make out exactly what is said in the call, and it is very quick. In my interpretation, after the woman says 911 emergency I hear:
Yeah, I’m in the middle of a field, a scraper just pulled some guys over right here going towards Abilene on both sides. My truck ran out of gas. There’s one car here that got chased into the woods. Please Hurry.
The operator asks him to repeat himself, and it sounds like he says:
There’s one guy talking to him, I totally ran into ‘em.
The operator thinks she’s dealing with an accident and repeats that he ran into him. Then it sounds like Brandon says:
Just the first guy.
She then asks if he needs an ambulance to which Brandon clearly responds:
No, I need the cops.
I’ll now play the clip again, this time slowed down.
[Insert slowed down audio.]
A lot of times, when I listen to this call, I get the distinct impression that there is someone else there with Brandon. When he says “There’s one guy talking to him” it often sounds like he may be saying “No, we’re not talking to him” and it doesn’t sound like this statement is directed towards the 911 operator, but someone else. Others have said they hear other voices in the call, and though I can sort of pick up on that, I can’t say it for sure. It’s bizarre, extremely bizarre.
If you search for this 911 call you can find it in all forms and fashions, from slowed down to pitched up. People have extensively studied this call attempting to figure out exactly what was said, but no one knows for sure. There are theories that Brandon references a state trooper in the call, or that he witnesses someone being shot but it’s hard to determine what exactly is going on. The call, though, seems to suggest that after Brandon’s truck ran out of gas, he either began walking down the road and came upon something strange, or something strange came upon him while he was waiting at his truck. What’s interesting is that, during this call, at no point does the 911 operator ask for Brandon’s name or other vital information which is typically standard procedure. This has led to speculation that the released 911 audio has been edited. There may be another explanation, however; The Coke County Sheriff’s Department did not have a dedicated team of 911 operators. Instead, all inbound 911 calls were answered by nurses at a local nursing home. What level of training these nurses had in regard to emergency calls, if any, is unknown. The family, when they learned about the 911 call, requested a copy. It took the Sheriff’s department several months to provide them one.
The full circumstances around this call are highly suspicious. Some say that Brandon sounds intoxicated in the call, but that’s almost impossible to determine. Many believe he is simply talking rapidly because he has come across something very messed up and his adrenaline is pumping. In reference to the call itself, Coke County Sheriff Wayne McCutchen stated “Brandon said he had run out of gas, he needed he police, and something else about hitting somebody. But it was so garbled and the 911 kept having to ask him what he was saying. I don’t know if it was a bad connection, he was talking really fast and it was hard to understand him.”
Eight minutes after this call, at approximately 1:02am, the Coke County Sheriff’s office receives another call from a trucker who tells them that there is a vehicle on the side of the road, but sticking out partially in the highway. A deputy was dispatched to check out the vehicle and, if possible, remove it from the road. At approximately the same time, Kyle places a call to Brandon asking for the specific location of his truck. According to both Kyle and Audrey, the phone call reception was poor and their calls kept being dropped. Kyle states that on one of these calls he heard Brandon say “I’m 10 minutes away, hurry up and get here. I’m bleeding.” At 1:10am, Kyle and Audrey arrive at Brandon’s truck where they found Coke County Sheriff’s Deputy Neal beside the vehicle. There is also an account that Kyle received a call from Brandon while at his truck in which he only understood Brandon as saying “I’m in the field.”
According to the Deputy, there is no visible damage to Brandon’s truck and his keys and wallet are not inside. His cell phone is also missing. Interestingly, Deputy Neal informs Kyle that he was responding to a call from a passing trucker about an abandoned vehicle. Neal does not mention the 911 call which Brandon placed requesting cops and for them to hurry, possibly because he himself is not aware of the call at the time. In fact, the Lawson family will not be made aware that Brandon called 911 that night until much later when they review his cell phone records. Kyle doesn’t mention Brandon to the deputy, nor that he may be nearby as he is aware that there is a warrant out for Brandon. The warrant was issued in Johnson County in 2005, and up until a few weeks prior, Brandon wasn’t aware of it.
According to his former neighbor, Lori Norris, it was a felony warrant for possession of a controlled substance. This has lead some to believe that Brandon was hiding, not from a strange event, but from the police themselves. Of course, this completely contradicts with the fact that he called 911 and specifically asked for the police. Kyle would later state that when Brandon became aware of the warrant he began saving money to hire a lawyer and sort it all out, that he had never considered running. When asked about this later, Ladessa stated “Brandon would never run from his kids and while he had an outstanding warrant we were in the process of saving to pay his fine and addressing it through our lawyer.”
At approximately 1:18am, Audrey sends a text to Brandon’s phone telling him that there is a police officer at the vehicle. Deputy Neal opens the truck, turns the hazard lights on, locks the door and puts in an order for the truck to be towed at 8am the next day and he leaves. He shines his spotlight on the way down the road, on the lookout for the driver, but doesn’t see anyone. Shortly after this, Kyle and Audrey get back into their car and begin driving around looking for Brandon. Sometime while they are driving, Brandon calls Audrey’s phone but again poor reception makes the call drop. Audrey would later say that Brandon said he was bleeding and that was all she could make out about the call. Kyle makes several attempted calls to Ladessa, but they all go straight to voicemail. Frustrated and confused, Kyle calls several coworkers to help search for Brandon. The men arrive to help search, although we don’t know if they did a foot search of the area or if they just drove around the road calling out for Brandon. During this time, Kyle continually makes calls to Brandon’s cell phone and at 3am the phone stops ringing either because it has been powered off, or because the battery died.
At approximately 4:30am, Ladessa wakes up and retrieves her phone from the charger in the car. She finds missed calls from both Brandon and Kyle. She listens to her voicemail and finds several messages from Kyle in which he is frantically looking for his brother. First, she attempts to call Brandon but all of the calls go straight to voicemail. She then calls Kyle who tells her that they haven’t found any sign of Brandon and that he and Audrey are going to leave the gas can in the bed of Brandon’s truck and go home, planning to resume searching when the sun rises. Ladessa immediately calls the Sheriff’s department to ask if they have found Brandon, but they tell her they have not.
A few hours later at 7am, Kyle returns to the truck and fills the gas tank now that his paycheck has cleared. Extremely worried, and with no signs nor contact from Brandon, Kyle decides to call the police and tell them the whole story, including that the previous night when he met Deputy Neal at the truck he was looking for his missing brother and that he had received phone calls from him stating that he was bleeding. The response of law enforcement is not hurried, as they seem to take a stance that Brandon is not missing, but has chosen to flee due to his outstanding warrant. In fact, the first major search conducted for Brandon is done by plane which Ladessa herself pays for out of pocket. She would pay for two more later. Ladessa, Kyle and several friends and family members also conducted a ground search, but were severely limited as many of the land owners along Highway 277 wouldn’t allow them to search their property.
The Police don’t conduct their first search until Tuesday, August 16th, a week after Brandon disappeared. Their first search is done by plane utilizing infrared cameras. This was a controversial move considering that at this point, were Brandon out in the wildnerness somewhere, it was unlikely that he was still alive and an infrared camera wouldn’t result in anything helpful. Then, some thirteen days later, a total of twenty days after Brandon went missing, Police finally conduct a ground search in which they cover 2,500 acres of land surrounding the site where Brandon’s truck was found abandoned. The search team consisted of the Coke County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Rangers, the San Angelo Fire Department, the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol, the Criminal Investigative Division and a search and rescue tracker. All terrain vehicles were provided to assist with the search by Carl Beal of the Texana Ranch. No signs of Brandon were found. The final official search was conducted on October 24th, two months and thirteen days after Brandon disappeared and utilized 6 cadavar dogs and members of Texas Search and Rescue who also utilized the dogs trainers for the search. Nothing was found.
When asked about the searches, Sheriff McCutchen said “They covered about 3,000 acres. We only have one point where we know he was at. You can’t search all of Coke County, it’s a physical impossibility. And we have no idea if he went North, South, East or West. We don’t know if he got picked up by a truck driver, we don’t know if a member of the family came out there and got him.” McCutchen would go on to say that since his disappearance they had received several anonymous tips saying Brandon in San Angelo, Fort Worth and everywhere in between.
After Brandon’s disappearance, a bitter debate would begin between his family and law enforcement. The family has accused the Sheriff of being involved in a misinformation campaign. The Observer Enterprise is a local newspaper which services Coke County and surrounding areas. They have put out several stories on Brandon, the details of which have been hotly debated. Among these details is a cell phone ping which was done to locate Brandon’s cell phone. The ping had a hit on Brandon’s phone some three miles away from the location of his truck.
According to the Observer Enterprise, the investigation would be going in a different direction unless new evidence could be found, but the family argues that the cell phone ping is new evidence and that it is an area which has never been searched. The mistakes of the paper could easily be chalked up to poor research or improper fact checking if not for one important detail: The paper is run by Sheriff McCutchen’s wife. Aside from misinformation being published, there was also another concern: Details of the case which would be known only to those investigating it was finding its way into the articles of the Observer while other media outlets were being cold shouldered.
It has been argued that the paper, along with law enforcement, didn’t consider Brandon to be a missing person, but in fact, a fleeing felon and that they handled the case accordingly. The problem many people have with this claim is that a fleeing felon doesn’t typically call 911 and request that police come to his location. In addition to this, the warrant for Brandon was nearly eight years old by the time he vanished and according to friends and family, the authorities knew where he was and he had made no attempts to conceal his location so if they had wanted to arrest him, they could have.
In addition to these issues, the family has reported that the Sheriff’s department has actively attempted to deter their search efforts. On several occasions they were told not to search property for which they weren’t given permission, which they hadn’t been doing anyone. On one particular occasion, Brandon’s father Brad said that he was riding an ATV around the area when a Sheriff’s Deputy pulled up. When Brad asked the Deputy what he was there for, the deputy responded that he was just making sure that Brad didn’t go onto any property he wasn’t allowed to.
Several pieces of information came out following his disappearance which led many to be suspicious of the circumstances. First and foremost, there is a rumor that shortly before he disappeared, Brandon cashed out all of his 401k savings. When asked about this, Ladessa says that he thought about it, but didn’t actually do it. Riley Crain was Brandon’s supervisor at Renegade Well Services, and when asked about the 401k, stated “I am not sure if that is right or not. I’ve heard some people say that, but I don’t think he really did.” Then, just a month after Brandon vanished, Ladessa moved out of their home and back to the Fort Worth Area. Many people found it suspicious that after just a month she would move away, but Ladessa made it clear that she had spent an extensive amount of money on search efforts for Brandon and the lease was up. She had four children to take care of and simply couldn’t afford to live there any longer. There are quite a few theories about what could have happened to Brandon and they cover a wide spectrum of possibilities. Sadly, with the limited information that we have, theories are really all there is to go on.
The first theory is that Brandon ran into trouble somehow related to drugs. Many people have theorized that Brandon was on drugs at the time he vanished and have propped that theory up with the knowledge that there was an arrest warrant issued years earlier for possession of a controlled substance. The possible connection to drugs leads into several different theories regarding his disappearance. First and foremost, that Brandon was under the influence the night that he vanished. Following this line of thought, it is suggested that Brandon ran out of gas and was so out of it that his speaking was inhibited and he wandered off into the fields and woods of the area, getting further and further from the road and becoming more and more disoriented. Many people have even suggested that whatever he was calling 911 about was less something that was happening to him, and more something that may have been occurring in his mind as the result of drug use. Somewhat similar to the Rico Harris disappearance, many believe that Brandon got lost while under the influence and simply couldn’t find his way back, or was injured or killed in the rough terrain.
Another theory tied into the drugs is that Brandon may have been involved in the drug trade in the past and in some way, in the early morning hours of August 9th, he may have run into someone from that past who was looking to pay him back. People support this theory by suggesting that Brandon’s choice of road that night, Highway 277 instead of Highway 67 was not a choice made arbitrarily, but that due to the argument with Ladessa, the stress of his life, he was making a trip to purchase drugs from someone he knew in the area. It isn’t uncommon for former drug users to fall back into their own habits in response to stress and many surmise that Brandon could possibly have been falling back into that world, or maybe even was just looking to get a fix for the night. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Brandon may have contacted a former drug connection who decided to set him up. The reasons behind this though are typically much less vivid than the theory itself as many have a hard time coming up with supporting theories.
Outside of the drug related theories, there is the theory that Brandon left his vehicle in order to walk to the rest stop that was located just a quarter of a mile away and found himself lost. In several of the phone calls it is reported that Brandon makes reference to bleeding, and many people that Brandon may have cut himself on brush or even tripped and injured himself in the darkness. Under this theory, Brandon wandered deeper into the wilderness and became lost or severely injured to the point that he couldn’t make it out. It’s also been brought up that this particular area had some wildlife which could have hurt or killed Brandon, including wild boars and poisonous snakes. The area is described as being full of ditches and wells and many sundry places where a man could fall and never be found.
Some people have theorized that Brandon may have been murdered by one of the local land owners. We know police were very involved in making sure to keep the family away from that land, and have turned down offers to search more of it themselves. Typically, in areas such as this, land owners have a keen eye for tresspassers who maybe trying to steal or pass through their land. Many of them react violently when this happens, or at least threaten violence and when they live in that kind of a desolate area, they are going to own a gun. So many people think that Brandon wandered through the wrong man’s property and caught a bullet for his trouble and was disposed of in one of the numerous wells, ditches and gravel pits nearby.
Law enforcement believed one of two possibilities: That Brandon either ran off to start a new life, a theory which almost always gets put forward when an adult vanishes, or that Brandon chose to run because of the warrant that had been issued for him. Brandon’s family firmly believes he didn’t choose to leave of his own volition, and that the warrant wasn’t that big of a deal and was something Brandon was working to take care of. Unfortunately, Law Enforcement may not have acted as thoroughly or quickly as they could have given the circumstances and their own theories. Regardless of their flawed search, they still believe that this disappearance may have been the result of Brandon’s own free will. They point to the warrant, and to the argument he had with Ladessa the night he left the home as reasons behind Brandon choosing to disappear. In terms of why his truck was abandoned, the 911 call and the fact that there has been no activity on his bank accounts or social security number since that day, they have less to say.
Interestingly, many people believe that Brandon may have fled, and while the family have argued he would never abandon his children, some believe he didn’t. There is a theory that Brandon orchestrated his disappearance that night and that his family facilitated it, and knows exactly where he is. On the flip side of that coin, there is also a theory that a member of Brandon’s own family may have been involved in causing him to disappear. When asked about these possibilities, Marcus Jones, a former co-worker of Brandon’s stated “His brother was kind of tore up about it, but not acting like someone who had just lost his brother; more like he might have known something was coming. He wasn’t real informative, but kept the same story. It’s all kind of fishy to me.”
The theories turn darker from here, with all of them coming as a result of Brandon’s 911. There are a million theories on what was being said in that call, but all of them seem to agree on one thing: Brandon came across something that night that resulted in his murder. Some people believe that in the early part of the call Brandon says something referring to a State Trooper. Many have theorized that Brandon either witnesses a police officer involved in criminal activity, such as drug running or murder, and that he fled the scene which resulted in him either being hunted down and murdered or getting so deep into the wilderness that he couldn’t find his way out when his phone died. They point to the poor management of the case and the seeming lack of interest from law enforcement as support that the entire situation was covered up.
Others believe that Brandon either came upon illegal activity, or was offered a ride from someone who was up to no good. The last ping from Brandon’s cell phone was nearly three miles away from his vehicle. That is a large distance to cover if you’re moving through fields and brush in pitch darkness. So, many believe Brandon either hitched a ride or was offered one, and things went bad from there with Brandon escaping the vehicle and being chased. They also theorize he could have walked up on something happening, such as a murder or drug trade, and when he was spotted he got pursued and was either murdered or became lost and later died of exposure.
In the four years since Brandon vanished, there have been no new leads, no suspects, no real answers. Investigators have been stagnant in examining the case further, or conducting additional searches. When asked about whether he believed his son was located nearby where his vehicle was, Brad Lawson stated “There’s nowhere to go out there, pitch dark, 1 in the morning, his cell phone battery dies so he had no flashlight, it’s rocky cactus terrain out there, if he had fell down or something we would have found him in a search. Nobody has showed me Brandon, if they would I’d go get him and bring him home and I’d put him where he belongs, with his family but until that day I’m not giving up hope.”
Ladessa would state in an interview “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, just not knowing. I mean, it’s devastating. You don’t know what to do anymore. Sometimes I just can’t believe that this has happened. I guess you watch stuff on TV and listen to radio stations and you look at the person and you hear something really devastating or bad and you listen to it for a minute and a lot of people just go on. But this, it’s me. Now it happened to me. So now, when I see other stuff, I try to share it as much as I can or care more, because you never know what’s going to happen in life.” When asked what she believed happened to Brandon, she said “I think he’s out in that field. There are wild hogs, there are wild snakes, you know, there are all kinds of things out there that can do stuff to you, and coyotes… There’s so many ditches, so many wells, so many stuff that you can fall in, you know? I think something got him – I don’t know what got him.”
We may never know what happened to Brandon Lawson. It’s been over four years and nothing new had been brought to the surface. His family continues to be involved in search efforts, and Ladessa has setup a Facebook page called Help Find Brandon Lawson on which she frequently posts. The family have organized group searches, balloon releases and vigils. There is also a website located at missingbrandonlawson.com which is run by them. The case has grown in notoriety over the past few years, with several podcasts covering it, but at the end of the day, a father, a brother, a son, a husband is missing and we just don’t know what happened to him. At this point, his family believes he is deceased, and now they only hope to bring home his remains and give him a proper burial. Perhaps someday someone will come across a new piece of evidence, or some answers, but until then, the Disappearance of Brandon Lawson remains a strange and suspicious mystery.
[Thoughts & Theories]
Brandon Lawson’s disappearance isn’t exactly an unknown, though it hasn’t gotten total media attention as many other cases have. I first heard Brandon’s story a few years ago, and began looking into it. Like many, I was fascinated by the 911 call and I wanted to discern what was being said. Since that time I’ve read a lot of news articles and interviews. I’ve listened to a few podcasts, watched some youtube videos and if you are really fascinated by this case, more than likely you’ve already studied it a bit but if you haven’t, there’s a lot of information out there. The irony is that for all of the people who have studied the case, adjusted the audio and tried to figure out what Brandon was saying, we are still in the same place we were when Brandon vanished. Nobody has any answers.
This case has bothered me since the very beginning. Brandon was a father, he was a son, a husband, a brother. For those he left behind, his disappearance haunts every day of their lives. Unfortunately, they weren’t given the kind of help that you would expect. Instead, they were mired down in controversy with law enforcement acting almost disinterested to the media who, for the most part, barely touched on the story. Since the explosion of true crime podcasts, several have given attention to this case. I have personally heard it on the Vanished, Generation Why and True Crime Garage who did an amazing job breaking down the 911 audio.
I do try to stick to cases with less coverage, but this is a case that has been requested multiple times and for me and my format, I try to spend more time on the victims. I’ve seen people disputing podcasts for hitting on cases that have been done too much, but at the end of the day, someone is gone and their family is desperate for answers. Any attention that can be given can be helpful so if this case has grabbed your attention, definitely check out some of the other shows that have hit on it.
Before I get into the theories, I wanted to address a few details about the hours prior to Brandon’s disappearance. There has been a lot of debate about the context of the argument that Brandon and Ladessa got into before he left. Frankly, unless she comes out and gives the specific details, we won’t know exactly what happened. Some people have said it was just general life issues such as work and raising children while others have suggested it had to do with Brandon partying and possibly abusing drugs. If you’ve ever been in an argument with your significant other than you know the slightest comment can lead to an all out war within minutes. I don’t know that the details of the argument are all that important, though I do believe that if it was about drugs or alcohol that could play a role in Brandon’s disappearance. I think this issue can be a quagmire that a lot of people get caught up in and though it’s not an insignificant detail, it’s also not the most important. Brandon left, and for whatever reason, he wanted to make the hours long trip to his father’s house instead of the minutes to his brothers. I’ve always wondered why, but no answers have ever really come to the surface.
Also, Brandon’s father tried to talk him out of coming that night. There could be a myriad of reasons why with people speculating that maybe his father could tell he was under the influence, or he just didn’t want his son to be driving several hours through a desolate area in the middle of the night. Maybe he just had a level head and told his son to calm down, go home and things would be better in the morning. We don’t exactly know, but I don’t thik that his father trying to talk him out of the trip carries a great deal of weight in regard to what happens later.
I do think there is something strange about the consistency of phone calls that night. If Brandon left around 11:54pm, as Ladessa has stated, and she called him and spoke to him at least once before calling his brother Kyle, who arrived at the house at 12:10am that’s a very small window of time for a lot of things to happen. If I got into an argument with my girlfriend and she stormed out, and I called her, and she was still angry and told me she was going to her Father’s house, I don’t think I’d immediately pick up the phone and call her sister and ask her to come over. I feel like there must have been something in the argument itself, or in that phone call, that made Ladessa feel scared enough to call Kyle. This is completely speculative on my part, but I simply can’t accept that he’d been gone for ten minutes and already you’re looking for assistance from his brother. Kyle gets to the house, talks to Ladessa, and then goes home. He doesn’t go out looking for Brandon, he doesn’t try to call him, so whatever the details were, he didn’t feel as concerned as she obviously did. Maybe it’s just your general run of the mill upset from the argument and wondering if he is going to leave you stuff, but it is all strange to me.
The next thing is the 911 call itself. I’ve listened to it more than you could imagine over the years. Every time I do, I think I’m going to figure it out this time, but I never do. I typically hear the same thing, maybe with a little variation here and there. To me, it sounds like Brandon came across something or someone that has him seriously scared and he’s on the move. People have claimed to have heard other voices in the call, whispers, gunshots, etc. I can’t admit to hearing any of that which is partially because the call quality is so poor to begin with. It’s sort of like listening to white noise, after a while, you will start to hear things in it in the same way that when you stare at a pattern or into the darkness you mind finds a way to create shapes or, in many cases, faces. It’s how our senses function, but when I listen, I only hear the fast paced speech of Brandon and various environmental sounds. Whether or not his speech is impacted by the adrenaline rush of what he has experienced, the use of some kind of drug or alcohol, or a combination of all, I can’t say for sure. His speech doesn’t sound slurred so much as it is rapid. The call itself was a disaster for several reason, including the lack of a trained 911 operator and what amounts to an extremely poor quality recording.
So what happened to Brandon Lawson that night? We have several theories to examine and each of them has its own merits and evidenciary support. Of course, each theory has its detractors and there is so much conflict, controversy and contradictory evidence it can be difficult to really know which are more reliable than others. We begin with the first theory: That whatever happened to Brandon that night had to do with either his current use of drugs, current interest in getting drugs or his past use of drugs.
We know he had a warrant out for his arrest for possession of a controlled substance. This has been the foundation upon which many people have built a theory that at the time he vanished, Brandon was back on drugs and struggling. We don’t really have any actual evidence to support this and according to both his job and Ladessa, he had passed recent drug tests. Of course, I’ve known a great deal of people whose immediate response to passing a drug test is to go out and get high and a lot of jobs test you on the way in, but rarely test you once you’re already hired on. I personally think it’s possible that Brandon was doing something drug related, but I don’t know that it would have any connection to his past. If he’d had a warrant out for him since 2005, I have to believe that anyone from his past who was looking for revenge or payback would have gotten to him by then. In addition to that, Brandon’s decision to drive that night, as far as we are aware, was the result of an argument and therefore spur of the moment. No one could have been waiting there to ambush him and even if they were, they couldn’t have known the exact spot he would run out of gas. I think the idea that someone murdered Brandon as a result of something to do with his past is an extremely thin theory.
The family has his call records, which they got from Verizon. This is the way they found out about the 911 call in the first place. If there were other calls or texts from that time period that would suggest Brandon had contacted anyone else or was looking to make a connection, I think we would have heard about it by now. They haven’t been shy about releasing information they think could be helpful so I consider it highly unlikely that this is what happened here. I don’t believe Brandon was on his way to pick up any drugs, or to meet anyone in reference to them. Whether or not he was under the influence and they played a role, that could be a different story. It’s not completely unusual for someone who has been off drugs for a while to drive back in and become a little overwhelmed. I think that drug use could have led to Brandon being lost that night, not being able to find his way back, or being injured but I also believe that something drove him off the road in the first place. He had the clarity of mind to call 911, to call his brother and ask for gas, to call Audrey several times. This doesn’t sound to me like someone who is so inebriated that he can’t tell where he is going or what he is doing.
I think it’s possible Brandon was on something, as much as I consider it a possibility that he wasn’t, but I don’t believe whatever happened to him that night was related to drug use. At least not his own. Is it possible that Brandon came across some kind of a drug deal and when he was noticed they decided to kill him? I think that has to be a possibility. Some people have pointed to drug cartels being involved, and with the proximity of Texas to the Mexican border that can’t be ruled out. That being said, I don’t imagine that any major drug traffickers are going to be making exchanges in the middle of the night on a Highway. I could see them doing it in the woods, or far off the road, and it’s certainly possible that Brandon saw something from a distance or was spotted by someone acting as a lookout. I live in a rural area, and a lot of drug related activites go on in the deep wooded areas around here. Whatever was going on out there that night, Brandon was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Its definitely possible that he walked into something he couldn’t walk out of.
Another theory is that Brandon, either tired of waiting for his brother, or feeling like his brother might not be able to find him, decided he was going to make the quarter mile walk to the nearest rest area as a better point of reference for his brother to find him. If this is the case, you’d assume he would have called his brother with his plan but, he never did. Or, if he did, his brother couldn’t hear him because of the poor reception up there. Why he wouldn’t walk along the road, I don’t know, but this theory would lead us to believe that Brandon walked off the road and become lost somewhere in that rugged terrain, or worse yet, became injured or maybe even fell into a hole or well in the area and was unable to escape. Though this is possible, I feel like this theory completely rejects the 911 call. If Brandon were walking and merely found himself lost, I doubt he would have called 911 and sounded as panicked as he did. He probably also would have said that he was lost. Remember, in that call, he specifically asked for the police. I don’t think this is the type of thing you do if you’re lost, you would say you need help, you would say you’re lost, but I don’t think you’d say “I need the cop.” I don’t give much weight to this theory at all. Unless it began as a walk to the rest area and that’s when Brandon came across something strange.
Local land owners are another consideration. In areas such as these people can be very protective of their land, and it’s not uncommon for them to own guns and to threaten potential tresspassers. That being said, I think if this had been the case, it’s really unlikely that someone who owned land up there was going to notice a lone man walking by at that time. If they had, they might threaten him or yell at him, but it seems like a rather large leap to assume they would murder him. On the other hand, if they were doing something on their land at the time of night and didn’t want anyone else to see, that’s a completely different story. In that case, I could see Brandon being threatened, chased or even murdered to cover something up. The one piece of information which makes me wonder the most is that the police seemed interested in keeping the family off the land. The land owners themselves offered to allow police to search everywhere they wanted, but the family has not been allowed. There could be a lot of reasons for this, but it is a little odd to me. Also, these land owners would have known the area well enough to have known where to dispose of a body so that it wouldn’t be found. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to go on here. There’s a lot of speculation, but no hard evidence. It’s a real vague theory, and it’s a possibility, but it does feel less likely.
That brings us to the two theories put forward by law enforcement: Either Brandon chose to run off with some woman, or he was running away from his warrant. These are essentially the same theory and suggest that Brandon chose to leave. There are a ton of problems with this particular set of theories. First of all, Brandon didn’t take any personal items with him so if he was choosing to run off he would had to have been willing to leave everything behind. In addition to this, he left his truck on the side of the road but took the keys with him. This tells me that he was planning to come back and start his truck that night, once his brother got him some gas. Also, if there is anything people are readily willing to volunteer about Brandon it’s how much he loved his kids. No one believes he would have left them. I know that this a theory which has to be considered, but based just on that information alone it makes it hard to believe. Assuming, on the very thin premise, that Brandon did choose to leave, why did he then call 911? He doesn’t sound like a man whose trying to get away, and if he warrant scared him that much, would he be asking for the cops?
Some people have suggested that Brandon was hiding in the field and brush to avoid the cops because his vehicle was abandoned and a cop may come to check it out. When Kyle was at the truck, he didn’t mention anything about Brandon because he was worried that the officer might run the plates and arrest Brandon if he saw him. Audrey texted Brandon to warn him that a cop was at his truck also. Sure, I can easily see Brandon not wanting to get arrested, but all of this was done when neither Audrey, Kyle, nor the Officer were aware of Brandon’s 911 call. He was clearly in distress and needed help, I don’t think that warrant was anywhere on his mind at that moment. I don’t believe that Brandon was hiding from the police, I also don’t believe that his disappearance was by his own choice. Now, there is another subset to this theory that Brandon chose to disappear, and that his family helped him do this.
I can’t really make sense out of that theory, and frankly, if his family helped him than they are incredible actors. Every interview I’ve seen with anyone involved in this situation seems genuine to me. I know there were some comments made about Kyle’s behavior after his brothers disappearance, but it’s hard to judge how someone deals with something like this. I suppose what you have to do is go to motive, and I can’t find one for why Brandon would want to disappear with the help of his family. If he loved his kids as much as everyone has said then I sincerely doubt he would want to put them through this kind of trauma. Also, when you look at the money spent to hire search planes to look for him this would be a very costly coverup by the family. I honestly don’t put any weight into this theory.
That leaves us with the final two theories which are also the most popular, and in my opinion, the most likely. These two theories follow the line that Brandon came upon illegal activities that night and was pursued and possibly murdered as a result of this. Where they vary is that one theory ascribed these activities to random people, while the other would lead us to believe that Brandon saw police involved in these activities.
Starting with the latter first, a lot of people believe somewhere in the 911 audio you can hear Brandon make a reference to a trooper or state trooper. They believe that in this call you hear him make this reference, that he goes on to say that the trooper shot someone, and that someone else, maybe even he himself, had been chased into the woods. I don’t know exactly what he could have come across involving a cop. Maybe a bribe, maybe some kind of drug deal. It can be speculated about endlessly, but if he saw a police officer pulling someone over, or shooting at someone, he would have every reason to be scared for his life and on the run. Some people have claimed that you can hear gunshots in the audio, I personally don’t. I also don’t think Brandon sounds as though he is witnessing a murder or a majorly violent crime. I think if he were he may be more likely to have talked about needing help more than he did and to have said they’re shooting someone or they’re going to kill me or something like that, but again, it’s hard to know for sure how people will react in those situations. A lot of people believe that this is the reason the Sheriff’s Department was so unhelpful with the investigation.
That it was a major coverup and it was cops looking out for cops. Although this is possible, and certainly not unheard of, I just can’t feel sure of it. I think the police in this case screwed up the investigation out of a lack of care moreso than out of a concerted effort to cover anything up. Also, and maybe it’s just me, but I feel like if I saw a cop doing something illegal and then he was chasing me, I don’t feel like I’d feel safe calling 911. How would I know that they would help me and not help the cop instead? I would have called my brother and told him what was going on, more likely. I have read a lot of things about the police in the area at that time being involved in a lot of things, I’ve heard rumors of corruption, but I haven’t seen anything really solid to provide me with proof of it.
One thing I do find fascinating is the other 911 call that night. It comes in 8 minutes after Brandon’s 911 call and it reportedly a passing driver who notices Brandon’s truck abandoned on the side of the road and notes it as a road hazard. I really wish we had the audio from that call because if this person is passing through 8 minutes later, that’s a very small amount of time after whatever happened to Brandon. Did this person see anything else, hear anything else? We may never know the answers to this. Kyle, Audrey and Deputy Neal arrived at Brandon’s car sometime around 1:10am. This is sixteen minutes after the call. None of them reported anything out of the ordinary, there is no damage to Brandon’s truck and it’s been left unlocked. It’s very hard to say. I can understand the tendency to believe the cops must have been involved in some way considering the way they handled things later, but for me, I just can’t make that connection. I consider this theory possible, but not the most likely.
So that leaves the last theory: That Brandon came upon other people doing something illegal and was chased and or murdered by them. I think this theory has two branches: either than Brandon walked in on something illegal, or he caught a ride with someone or a group of people, and they were doing something illegal. I feel like there’s a possibility that Brandon was driven at some point. He told Kyle at one point that he was “10 minutes up the road.” People use 10 minutes to describe a lot different distances and periods of time, but to me, this isn’t what you say if you’re only a short walk up the road. Also, we know that the last ping on Brandon’s cell was three miles away from his truck. I don’t know the exact details of the ping, but three miles is a pretty far distance from where he had started walking. According to Kyle and Audrey, in several of his phone calls he noted that he was bleeding. We don’t know if he was bleeding because someone did something to him or if he was bleeding because he was scratched up, fell or was cut somewhere in the surrounding environment. A lot of that area has been looked at since Brandon vanished and nothing has ever been found. Ladessa has said she believes he is out there somewhere, but I honestly don’t. I don’t think he’s laying in the field somewhere, and I don’t think he ever was. I believe that Brandon was likely murdered, and that whoever murdered him, moved his body. One thing is that Brandon’s 911 call doesn’t cut out. It’s poor quality, but the signal doesn’t drop. With each subsequent call, the signal gets worse and Kyle and Audrey have a greater difficulty in understanding him. To me, that suggests Brandon was now in an area where his reception had gotten poor. Yes, he could have walked far enough for this to happen, but he also could have been driven far enough.
Also, if these were people who regularly conducted some kind of illegal business in that area, they would likely know of places to get rid of him. We know there were wells and gravel pits in the area, and plenty of open space where he could have even been buried. Kyle has said he tried to call his brother for several more hours and that it wasn’t until 3am that the phone started going straight to voicemail. I believe Brandon’s phone was probably dropped at some point in time, or he was in a position where he was unable to answer. Whatever happened to Brandon happened before that phone battery died. I firmly believe that if he could have answered those calls, he would have. To me, the most likely theory is that Brandon came across the wrong group of people and he paid for it with his life.
It’s such a strange story, and it only gets stranger as more years pass and we continue to have no new answers, leads, suspects or possibilities. Brandon’s children who were young when he left are now old enough to ask where their father is and why he doesn’t come home. His family wants to know what happened to him, and they want to bring him home for a proper burial. It’s one of those impossible disappeared into thin air cases, and yet despite a possible lead in terms of the cell phone ping, the police seem uninterested in investigating further. Short of the discovery of a body, a confession or a miraculous break in the case, we may never know what happened to Brandon Lawson. It’s truly one of the most mysterious cases I’ve ever dug into, and certainly just as tragic as them all. It’s been four years since the last time Brandon Lawson was seen, and the last known sign of his existence is a poor quality 911 call that leaves us with so many more questions than answers.