DA drops charges against Donnie Brantley

By BRIAN GRAVES

Posted 2/6/18

The murder charges against Donnie Ray Brantley were dropped again just moments before a jury was to be seated for his trial Monday in a Bradley County courtroom.This was the second time Brantley has …

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DA drops charges against Donnie Brantley

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The murder charges against Donnie Ray Brantley were dropped again just moments before a jury was to be seated for his trial Monday in a Bradley County courtroom.

This was the second time Brantley has seen the charges dropped accusing him of the murder of his wife, Marsha, who disappeared in June 2009. Her body has never been found.

Criminal Court Judge Andrew Freiberg granted the motion to drop charges made by 10th District Attorney General Steve Crump, who said he took the action “with a heavy heart.”

The motion was filed "without prejudice," meaning the charges could be brought again in the future.

Crump said he did not believe there was enough evidence to continue into the trial, but felt it was his office’s duty to proceed on the finding of the grand jury’s October indictment of Brantley for first-degree murder.

The defense had filed a motion claiming there was a question concerning where a crime against Marsha Brantley actually occurred, causing Crump to consider a similar case in McMinn County on which the state had lost the argument.

The decision was made over the weekend as Crump said that was when he spoke to Marsha Brantley’s family about the decision.

“They were saddened, but they said, ‘We believe in you,’” he said.

Early this morning Crump issued a full, formal statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner regarding his decision to drop the case for now:

"After much study and consideration, our trial team felt that the best decision was to dismiss the case," Crump cited. "This decision was not made lightly or without due reflection.  We discussed the matter with the family of Marsha Brantley, and while they were disappointed, they ultimately trusted our decision, as did the investigators with the Bradley County Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation."

Crump added, "We were very concerned based upon the state of the law and the previous rulings of the court that there was a  very significant chance that our case would not survive a motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the state's case. There is no appeal for the state of Tennessee from that decision, unlike civil cases with a similar result.  We have moved the matter to our Cold Case Task Force and will redouble our investigative efforts to uncover additional evidence that will lead to a final and just resolution to the murder of Marsha Brantley."

Brantley, appearing with his attorney, Lee Davis and his daughter, Elise, thanked the judge for dismissing the charges.

“I would also like to thank my family for all their support for this extremely stressful period, and I look forward to putting this time behind me,” Brantley said.

Crump said the Cold Case Unit's investigation " involves going back to the basic building blocks of the case, tearing apart all of the assumptions you’ve made in the case and going forward — re-testing where you can and locating things you can that you probably thought were unlocatable,” Crump said.

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