“Brandon’s not alive, wherever he is. Brandon’s not alive. He’s dead somewhere, I know it,” came the haunted words of a woman who presumes herself a widow through the telephone receiver. “Brandon would never do this to his family,” she said of the father of her three children, ‘others would, but not him’.
Ladessa Lofton and Brandon Lawson have been together for over 10 years. About a year ago they moved to San Angelo together from Fort Worth, and left their friends and family behind. Lofton describes their relationship as normal and happy, however one argument on the night of Aug. 9 has had repercussions she never could have imagined.
“Nobody’s seen or heard anything from him since then,” Lofton says. “Nobody.”
It’s now been six weeks since the mysterious disappearance of 26-year-old Brandon Lawson out on highway 277, and neither authorities nor friends and family have come any closer to finding the San Angelo resident. Nor have they been able to determine if he is actually missing.
Lawson was last seen leaving his residence following a fight with Lofton between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. on Aug. 9. Family members assume he was heading to Fort Worth, citing a lack of family and friends in the San Angelo area.
Nearing Bronte on highway 277, Lawson reportedly dialed 911 at 12:50 a.m. because he had had an apparent accident and had run out of gas, however the phone call was hardly intelligible.
“Brandon said he had run out of gas, he needed the police, and something else about hitting somebody,” Coke County Sheriff Wayne McCutchen said. “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.”
At 12:58 a.m. the Coke County Sheriff’s office received a call that a vehicle was parked haphazard on the side of the road out on highway 277, thus posing a risk to oncoming traffic.
Deputies responded to the call and arrived on the scene, where Lawson’s truck stood abandoned. At the same time, Kyle Lawson, Brandon’s brother, appeared with a gas can and filled his brother’s truck.
According to Lori Norris, Lawson and Lofton’s neighbor, the Sheriff’s deputies asked Kyle Lawson if he was the one who had made the call, and Kyle stated that the vehicle was his brother’s and that he must have stepped away. Kyle Lawson would gas it up and his brother would return to retrieve it.
After this, the deputies left the scene.
This part of the story has been confirmed by Coke County Sherriff Wayne McCutchen, Lawson’s girlfriend Ladessa Lofton, and Lori Norris. What happened thereafter, however is where the story gets murky.
When deputies were on the scene, no mention was made concerning the potential whereabouts of Brandon Lawson. It wasn’t until two to three days later that Kyle Lawson came forward and admitted to the Sheriff that his girlfriend had been on the phone with Brandon while Kyle was talking to the deputies, Sheriff McCutchen said.
According to Norris, who has been assisting in the search for Lawson since his disappearance six weeks ago, “Kyle went down the road and waited for the Sheriff’s deputies to leave, and went back and was calling out to Brandon.”
Lofton added that Kyle had driven up and down the highway looking for his brother until 4:30 a.m., and claimed that a few of his co-workers had assisted in the search, however was unable to say whether or not anyone stepped out of the vehicle to search in the brush where Brandon had reported he was hiding.
Lawson is said to have been ‘hiding in the bushes because he was scared,’ and, according to his brother’s girlfriend, his last words were ‘I’m bleeding, I’m bleeding.’ Shortly thereafter, the cell phone cut out and contact was lost.
“That’s the last anyone’s seen or heard from Brandon,” Norris said.
No one seems to know why Brandon Lawson was hiding out in the bushes, however an outstanding warrant from 2005 out of Johnson County has aroused suspicion in the authorities and in Bronte residents.
“It (the warrant) was possession of a controlled substance. That’s where all the confusion is coming from,” Norris says. “People are assuming Brandon ran, but if he ran, why hasn’t he spent any money, why hasn’t he contacted anybody? Nobody has heard from him. And his vehicle was found out there; And he called 911 on his own.”
Lawson's truck revealed no damage whatsoever upon inspection, and who or what Lawson claimed to have hit in his 911 call has remained a mystery. While there are many theories surrounding Lawson's disappearance, the most sobering comes from his girlfriend, Ladessa Lofton.
“I think he’s out in that field,” said Lofton. “There are wild hogs, there are wild snakes, you know, there 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, I don’t think a landowner would have got him…I think an animal got Brandon or, I don’t know; did somebody pick him up, did he hitchhike a ride, did they kill him? I don’t know,” said Lofton. “I don’t know what to think anymore. My head’s thinking of 50 million things, but I think Brandon is in that land somewhere.”
Since Lawson’s disappearance, there have been four aerial searches, one put on by the Coke County Sheriff’s Office and three privately-funded aerial charters paid for by Lofton. The authorities have also conducted a grid search on foot, however none of the searches have turned up anything.
“There were two or three Texas Rangers, deputies from Tom Green County, Coke County, San Angelo Fire Department, DPS Highway Patrol, DPS Criminal Investigation, and a Search and Rescue Tracker…there was somewhere between 20 and 25 people [looking for Brandon],” 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, we just don’t know,” Sheriff McCutchen said.
Since his disappearance, Sheriff McCutchen has received three or four anonymous calls proclaiming to know the whereabouts of Lawson, and these vary from San Angelo to Fort Worth and in between.
The Sheriff’s deputies have been keeping a look out when they make routine patrols, however up until now, no further information or evidence has surfaced.
The Sheriff's Department does not suspect foul play in the case of Brandon Lawson, and he is currently listed as a missing person.
If you have any information pertaining to the whereabouts of Brandon Lawson or to his disappearance, contact the Coke County Sheriff's Department at 325-453-2717.
If you would like to help search for Brandon Lawson, Ladessa Lofton and Lori Norris will be hosting an informal search on Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m., and are seeking volunteers. Volunteers may contact Lofton at 325-277-3063 or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/helpfindbrandonlawson