The former girlfriend of a local man charged with killing his landlady and stealing her car said the defendant confessed to her as he ran from police.
But she also admitted being high on crack at the time.
Bryan "Big Country" Brackbill, 34, of Carroll Township, is charged with second- and third-degree murder for causing Sandra Mulder's death by asphyxiation at her Dillsburg home on June 1, 2013. He is also charged with theft for allegedly stealing her car, which he was driving when Missouri police arrested him days later.
On Tuesday, the second day of his trial, Crystal Hughes, Brackbill's former girlfriend, said he called her early on June 1, threatening to hurt her family if she wouldn't would run from the police with him.
Phone call: Hughes said Brackbill was driving them south, apparently calm, until he got a call from Mulder's daughter, Linda Power.
Power, who also testified Tuesday, said she was worried after her mother stopped returning her calls, and wanted to know if Brackbill had heard from her.
Power said Brackbill did not mention having dinner with her mother the night before or that he had fled the state in Mulder's car. According to testimony, Brackbill had been looking for a new home after breaking the terms of his pending DUI case.
"He said he had his own s--- to deal with, that he had cut his (alcohol) bracelet off and he was on the run," Power said.
After hanging up, Hughes said Brackbill got nervous and revealed he had killed Mulder, though he didn't say how or why.
"He said that she had pushed him too far and to leave it at that," Hughes said.
At that point, Hughes said her former boyfriend dropped her off at an Indianapolis McDonald's before driving away. He never contacted her again, she added.
Sowing doubt: Defense attorney Rick Robinson suggested her testimony was unreliable given her admission to being high while in the car with Brackbill. Hughes said it was her first time smoking crack and the pair had gone through "hundreds of dollars" of the drug.
But while Robinson argued crack can cause hallucinations, Hughes said it only made her sick to her stomach, and she insisted the confession actually happened.
"How can you forget something like that?" Hughes said.
It was not Robinson's only issue with her testimony. Hughes also said she was on the phone with Brackbill on the night of the alleged murder, when she heard Mulder say she would not let the Brackbill use her car. Hughes said the call happened around 1 a.m. on June 1, within hours of when police say Mulder died.
Robinson countered that Hughes had not mentioned any argument about a car two days later, when she provided her written statement and did her initial interview with police. He said her story changed during the police interview, and she only mentioned Brackbill's confession after being asked for it repeatedly. In his opening statement, Robinson suggested she was coerced.
To be continued: Attorneys expect the trial to continue through Wednesday and maybe Thursday. The prosecution still plans to call a DNA expert and forensic pathologist to the stand.
- Reach Michael Tabb at firstname.lastname@example.org.