Testimony from two witnesses in a preliminary hearing for the Cole McDaniel murder case had conflicting stories about the events on May 20 which led to the death of Stephanie Brown.
Sure there was some overlap, but Stephanie’s mother, Crystal Brown, and Cole’s fiancée, Kaitlyn McCammon, disagreed about who the primary aggressor in the incident was.
Was it Stephanie Brown or was it Cole McDaniel?
Taking the stand first in general sessions court Tuesday afternoon, Brown told the court she and her daughter went to Cole and Kaitlyn’s home on Gladman Road in Brighton to drop clothes off for Kaitlyn’s son and, perhaps, see the toddler again.
The toddler is the grandson of Stephanie’s longtime partner and, because she’s cared for him since he was born, she was considered his grandmother.
The relationship between Kaitlyn and Cole and Stephanie’s family was strained, and it wasn’t made clear why in court, but the falling out involved frustrations related to Cole’s budding relationship with the child. Kaitlyn said the other family wasn’t happy the child had started called Cole “Daddy.”
“She degraded him as a father and made him feel bad about himself,” Kaitlyn testified.
It’d been about a month since Stephanie had seen the little boy and Crystal said she missed him.
“We’d gone to take the clothes and beg to see the grandbaby,” she said.
They arrived at the home unannounced and uninvited, just as Kaitlyn, Cole and the baby were leaving for dinner.
Kaitlyn testified she took the clothing from Stephanie and was in the house while Cole, the baby, and Stephanie were in the yard. She told the court she wanted to make sure the child’s family hadn’t included photos of the child’s biological father, as she suggested they had previously done, with the clothing.
Outside the home, Crystal said Stephanie was able to hold the toddler for a few minutes before setting him back down.
“She got to hold him,” she cried, wiping her tears. “That’s what she wanted.”
Crystal said she watched everything from the front seat of Stephanie’s SUV. She had promised her daughter she would stay inside the vehicle, but did not tell the court why this promise had been made. Crystal said she called Cole to the car to talk to him, telling him all Stephanie wanted to do was beg to see the baby.
“I told him she just wants to see the baby and he said, ‘You’re finished! Anyone remotely kin to [the child’s father] is finished! You’re done!’ There was fire burning in his eyes, it was horrible. The devil himself was in him.”
Their versions of what happened begin to diverge at this point as tensions began to escalate.
Crystal said Stephanie and Cole were yelling at each other, Cole telling her she was no more a grandmother to the child than he was his father. Crystal said she encouraged Stephanie to get back inside the vehicle and leave.
“I told her ‘C’mon, let’s go,’ because we weren’t getting anywhere like that.”
Both testified Cole repeatedly asked Stephanie to leave the property.
Kaitlyn said Stephanie was cussing Cole out saying, she didn’t owe him anything, and the two were yelling over each other. She said Stephanie believed Cole was controlling her and, thus, the baby’s relationship with his biological father’s family.
Kaitlyn and the child were in Cole’s Chevy Silverado, parked in the driveway next to a sedan, at this point. Stephanie’s Toyota SUV was parked at an angle behind them.
Crystal broke down in tears when assistant district attorney Jason Poyner passed a tablet to her to identify the vehicles’ locations. A tissue clamped between her thumb and fingers, she covered her mouth with her hand and wept.
Cole, sitting between lawyers Jere Mason and Dave Stowers, sat at the counsel table emotionless.
Crystal said Stephanie, who was estimated to be approximately 5’8” and 180 pounds, had her driver’s side door open and was getting into the vehicle when Cole – a 22-year-old firefighter trained in Tae Kwon Do, who is over 6’ tall and more than 200 pounds – pushed her to get her attention, then shot her three times when she turned around.
Kaitlyn testified Cole was getting into the Silverado when Stephanie pushed him – “I was afraid she was going to attack him,” she said – then he shot her at a very close range.
She stumbled back, then fell to the ground.
Kaitlyn said she fell next to her open driver’s door.
Crystal said she was already there.
Crystal said Stephanie yelled “He shot me!” and he got out of the SUV to help her daughter.
“I tried to help her. I kept hollering ‘Help! Help!”
Later she said “He just shot her! He had no reason to shoot her!”
Kaitlyn said Stephanie told her she was having a hard time breathing.
The 911 calls
During the hearing the question of who called 911 was asked and there were conflicting answers. Crystal said Cole did not call 911 – “he was walking around in the yard with the gun still in his hand, walking around all crazy … he went somewhere and was on his phone,” she said – but did help render aid to Stephanie. Kaitlyn said she and Cole both called.
Additionally, both Crystal and Kaitlyn testified it seemed as if it took the ambulance awhile to arrive, so The Leader requested the dispatch logs and 911 tapes from Tipton County E-911.
It is not known exactly when Stephanie was shot, but the first call to 911 came in from Cole at 6:37 p.m.
He asks for an ambulance at 15 seconds into the call and when the dispatcher asks “What’s going on?” he begins telling the dispatcher the story from the very beginning.
“My girlfriend has a baby and she didn’t want …uh, we’ve been threatened and harassed by her baby’s father’s family,” he said. “Well they showed up at our house and we’ve been asking them to leave the property time and time again and they won’t leave.”
After 45 seconds the dispatcher learns Cole has a gun in his vehicle, then he tells the dispatcher “she put her hands on me and I felt threatened, so I shot her.”
He continued explaining his defense to the dispatcher, but the dispatcher cut him off and asked about Stephanie.
Calm, though seemingly nervous, Cole tells the dispatcher he believes Stephanie is still alive and that he shot her in the leg.
In the background of the call crying and screaming can be heard. Cole gives instructions to retrieve a belt from the house so he can tie a tourniquet and stop the bleeding.
A minute and 31 seconds into the call he tells dispatch, “I need an ambulance over here fast.”
Two minutes after the initial call Brighton police and fire and an ambulance had been dispatched. Atoka police and Tipton County deputies were dispatched another minute later and the hospital wing was put on standby with Brighton Middle School designated a landing zone.
Next to Brighton Middle, Brighton High School’s graduation was set to begin in 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, still on the phone with dispatch, Cole continued telling the dispatcher about the incident. He repeated that Stephanie attacked him from behind and that he’d already told her he was feeling threatened, he had a weapon and didn’t want to use it but she was scaring them.
“She’s got the baby crying, I was afraid, my fiancée was very afraid, so when I was walking away she shoved me from behind and then I fell forward into the truck and she tried to grab me again and just to defend myself, y’know …”
There was a pause on the line, then he continued telling the dispatcher his reason for shooting Stephanie.
“ … The law says your vehicle is an extension of your home, so I had it in the vehicle with me.”
Stephanie was still alert and breathing and Cole was becoming increasingly distracted while on the call, but said, “I even have witnesses, y’know. It was 100 percent self-defense.”
At 4:38 into the call, he told dispatchers he needed an ambulance fast.
A few seconds later he is heard asking Stephanie questions to keep her alert.
“Can you hear me?” he asked. “Do you know what day it is today? Can you at least give me the day of the week? Thursday? Okay, that’s right. If you have four quarters, how much money do you have? A dollar …”
The dispatcher asked how many times he’d shot her. He replied, “I think just once.”
Police show up fives minutes and 11 seconds into the 911 call. There are no audible sirens, but in the background someone yells, “She’s still breathing.”
Kaitlyn, who testified she didn’t think help was arriving fast enough, also called 911 at 6:39.
“A woman was just shot! SEND help NOW!” she said as soon as the dispatcher answered.
During the hearing Kaitlyn testified she used the strap from Stephanie’s purse as the tourniquet. She and Crystal briefly argued about it, and Kaitlyn can be heard cussing at Crystal to make her actions clear, due to a misunderstanding about her intentions.
Kaitlyn told dispatch she had no idea where the gun was and she pleaded with the dispatcher to send help quickly.
“We need help! She’s bleeding out!”
On the call she said Stephanie had been shot in the leg and in the lung. During the hearing Crystal testified Stephanie had been shot on each side of her abdomen. How many times Stephanie had been shot, and where, were never made clear in the courtroom.
The dispatcher assured Kaitlyn officers and the ambulance were en route.
“She’s fixin’ to start losing consciousness,” Kaitlyn said approximately one minute into the call.
When the dispatcher asked Kaitlyn who’d shot Stephanie, Kaitlyn wouldn’t say.
“I don’t know, I just need an ambulance! She’s fixin’ to lose consciousness! PLEASE!”
When she was again reassured they were en route, Kaitlyn seemed to tell Crystal, “Yes! Yes! Yes! They’re on the way! They’re coming! They’re coming! They’re coming! They’re coming! They’re coming!”
Crystal can be heard in the background telling Kaitlyn, “Gimme that phone!”
Kaitlyn responds, “THEY’RE ON THE WAY! YES! They’re on the way RIGHT NOW!”
The first Brighton officer arrives on scene at 6:41. Two minutes later a deputy and an Atoka officer arrive, then a Brighton firefighter a minute later. Eight minutes after the initial call, the Brighton fire chief arrived followed by the ambulance a minute later at 6:48.
It had been nine minutes since they’d been dispatched and 11 minutes since the first call was made.
The wing was disregarded 15 minutes later at 7:03 p.m. Dispatch was notified Cole was arrested at 7:07.
Crystal testified she never saw her daughter alive again.
Cole, 22, was in jail for a week before being released on a $100,000 bond.
After he bound the case to the grand jury – meaning the state showed probable cause and the case will be reviewed for indictment when the Tipton County Grand Jury reconvenes in November – Judge Bill Peeler addressed the bond.
“This is a very serious case. The bond isn’t meant as a punishment, it’s to ensure he comes to court. He’s a firefighter, he has no criminal record, and he has ties to this community, so we don’t believe him to be a flight risk. A jury decides his guilt or innocence another day.”
As a condition of his bond he is not allowed to have firearms or even be around them.
Kaitlyn and Cole have continued to live together. She said they have not discussed why he shot Stephanie or what happened when he was in jail.
“It makes everyone upset. It’s a day we’d like to all and all forget …”
Sitting in the second row in the courtroom, Crystal starting crying.
On the stand she said Stephanie went to the home on Gladman Road in peace, because she was hurt, and just wanted to beg to see the baby.
“She was begging, she wasn’t mad, she had no intent to hurt or disrupt anything,” Crystal said. “She was just begging to see the baby and she lost her life over it.”
Cole is due back in Tipton County Circuit Court court on Nov. 8.
His defense team will argue he shot Stephanie Brown in self-defense.
Stephanie, 31, also left her fiancé, Stanley Butler, four children, and a host of other siblings, family and friends.