Brandyn Preston

Brandyn Preston (Courtesy Brewer & Sons Funeral Homes)

Brandyn Preston

Homicide — SOLVED

Brandyn Preston
19 YOA
1101 10th Ave.
Fort Dodge, IA
Webster County
Date of Crime: May 8, 2011
Date of Death: January 22, 2012 

 

Case Summary by Jody Ewing

UPDATE

Derrick McElroy (Courtesy KCCI)

Derrick McElroy (Courtesy KCCI)

On Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, a Webster County jury found Derrick McElroy guilty of first-degree murder in Brandyn Preston’s death. McElroy, of Fort Dodge, was arrested July 12, 2012, and charged in connection with Preston’s death.

He made his initial court appearance on Friday, July 13, 2012, and had been held in the Webster County Jail on a $1 million bond.

McElroy’s trial began Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at the Webster County Courthouse.

On Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, McElroy was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At his sentencing hearing, McElroy said he was sorry for what happened but did not take responsibility. He indicated he’ll appeal his conviction and seek a new trial.


On Sunday, May 8, 2011 — Mother’s Day — Brandyn Preston of Fort Dodge was shot in the neck while attending a bonfire party in the back yard at 1101 10th Ave. SW in Fort Dodge.

Webster County in Iowa
Webster County in Iowa
Fort Dodge in Webster CountyFort Dodge in Webster County

Preston, 19, was taken to Trinity Regional Medical Center just after 4 a.m. and then transferred to Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines.

The bullet lodged in Preston’s spinal cord, leaving the basketball enthusiast paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.

Despite a number of individuals present when Brandyn Preston was shot, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Larry Hedlund said it didn’t mean they necessarily saw what happened. Nor did officials have any evidence indicating the bullet was meant for Preston. According to Hedlund, investigators felt Preston’s shooting resulted from an ongoing feud between other individuals.

Preston had been in Fort Dodge about six months, his father, Pat Preston, told the Fort Dodge Messenger in an article published September 4, 2011. After getting his GED, the 6 foot 7 Preston planned to try out for the Iowa Central Community College basketball team.

Instead, the teen ended up in a Nebraska rehabilitation center until August, 2011, when his mother, Kimberly Wood, moved him back to Tampa Bay where she could care for him.

Brandyn Preston and his mother, Kim WoodCourtesy photo Edmund D. Fountain, Tampa Bay Times
Brandyn Preston with his mother, Kim Wood, spent time in Kindred Hospital in Tampa.

Wood and her husband, Donovan Wood, who’d raised Preston, hoped military benefits would help pay for a home nurse; Donovan Wood was an Iraq War Bronze Star recipient. But, with him now working in the private section, benefits were limited. The family finally got Medicaid to approve a home health care nurse, but was unable to find one willing to work with Preston due to the ventilator.

Kimberly Wood quit her job as a patient service representative at CVS-Caremark to care for her son full-time.

Anonymous Donor Provides Rewards

Like Lisa McCuddin, also of Fort Dodge, Preston was shot while engaged in everyday activities. McCuddin was shot on October 2, 2004, while riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle.

In efforts to encourage those with information to come forward, an anonymous donor provided Crime Stoppers with $10,000 for two $5,000 rewards for information leading to the arrests and convictions of those responsible in the McCuddin and Preston cases.

Said Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody of the rewards:

“If you know something about an incident that would get a violent person off the street and you don’t take action on that and don’t share that information, how are you going to feel when your loved one is injured as a result of their actions later?”

“You have the opportunity to prevent something like that from happening again. This is our community. We decide how it’s governed. But we have to have the participation cooperation and partnership of the citizens to make it happen.”

Officials believed witnesses were afraid to come forward out of fear of being a snitch.

The home where Brandyn Preston shotCourtesy photo KCCI Channel 8 News
Brandyn Preston was shot May 8, 2011, in the back yard of this Fort Dodge home located at 1101 10th Avenue. His spinal cord severed, he died in Florida on January 22, 2012.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s Special Agent Larry Hedlund said people know what happened to McCuddin the night of her shooting, but won’t come forward due to fear.

“They know who the shooter is,” Hedlund told the Messenger. “They know he’s a violent person. Justifiably, understandably, I’m sure that’s part of it,” he said. “Part of it may just be a mindset ‘we don’t cooperate with the police; we don’t snitch.'”

Knowing something and being able to prove it in a court of law is a whole different standard, Carmody said, which is why they need help from those who know what happened. That information makes up the extra puzzle pieces they need to put the whole picture together. They hope the rewards might persuade those who know something to come forward it both McCuddin’s and Preston’s cases.

Officials stressed that informants need not identify him- or herself. Tips can be texted or submitted through Crime Stoppers.

A “tragic waste of life”

On Sunday, January 22, 2012 Brandyn Preston passed away in Tampa, Florida, where his family had taken him for longterm care.

Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody said in a press release about Preston’s death:

“Our condolences go out to Brandy’s family and friends. We are confident that there are those in our community that have specific information that would help us to provide closure for Brandy’s family and friends and to get the suspect(s) off the streets.”

“As you may or may not know, the Webster County Crime Stoppers has posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible in this case. It is the hope of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Webster County Attorney’s Office, the Fort Dodge Police Department and our community that if the $5,000 Crime Stoppers reward doesn’t motivate those who know the truth to do the right thing, perhaps the memory of Brandyn Preston will.”

Said Hedlund about Preston’s death: “It’s a tragic waste of life that shouldn’t have happened. It’s a tragedy for him, and a tragedy for his family.”

Arrest Made

On Thursday, July 12, 2012, Derrick J. McElroy, 26, of Fort Dodge, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with Preston’s death.

McElroy was held in the Webster County Jail on a $1 million bond and made his initial court appearance on Friday, July 13, 2012.

Police Chief Tim Carmody said the team of investigators from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Webster County Sheriff’s Office and Fort Dodge police made the arrest based on tips from Crime Stoppers and other leads they developed over 14 months.

On Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, McElroy entered a written plea of not guilty in Webster County District Court.

McElroy’s trial was scheduled to begin May 14, 2013, but was continued until Jan. 28, 2014.

On Dec. 30, 2013, McElroy’s attorney, Charles Kenville, filed a motion for another continuance.

The murder trial began with jury selection on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at the Webster County Courthouse. Testimony began Thursday, August 14, 2014.

Larry HedlundCourtesy photo Iowa Department of Public Safety
Iowa DCI Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund oversaw the investigation that led to McElroy’s arrest.

On Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, a judge said an internal report detailing the firing of DCI Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund will not be disclosed during the murder case in which Hedlund is a key witness.

Judge Kurt Wilke ruled the report had no information that defense lawyers could use to try to discredit Hedlund during McElroy’s first-degree murder trial.

Hedlund was removed from duty in May 2013 just days after pursuing a black SUV going 84 mph in a 65 mph zone; the Iowa State Patrol became involved in the April 26, 2013 pursuit through two counties, which was called off after the state trooper determined the black SUV’s passengers included Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Hedlund filed a wrongful termination lawsuit claiming retaliation.

On Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, a Webster County jury found Derrick McElroy guilty of first-degree murder in Brandyn Preston’s death.

About Brandyn Preston

Brandyn Preston was born in Rolla, Missouri, on October 25, 1991, and grew up with his mother and stepfather. He was a basketball standout while attending Waynesville High School in Missouri, before moving to Tampa where he attended East Bay and Robinson High School.

On Mother’s Day, May 8, 2011, he was shot in the neck while attending a bonfire party in the back yard at 1101 10th Ave. SW in Fort Dodge.

He passed away on Sunday, January 22, 2012, in Tampa, Florida, where his family had taken him for longterm care.

He was Baptist by faith, and known for his big smile. Music was also a huge part of his life.

In 2011, he made what his mother, Kimberly Wood, called a “personal journey” back to Iowa to learn more about his biological father and his father’s side of the family. There, he not only found his father, but his paternal grandmother and half-siblings.

He was survived by his mother, Kimberly (Donovan) Wood of Tampa, FL; father, Patrick Preston and Valerie Newsome Preston of Ft. Dodge, Iowa; sisters Brittany, Samantha, Tayloren and A’jianna; brothers Christopher, Patrick, Deshawn, Anthony, Lekendrick, Kaden, Kameron, Kayden, Jacori, and Nicholas; maternal grandparents Cheryl and Martin Wendel, Lawrence Wood and Diane Wood-Medley; paternal grandmother Mattie Preston of Fort Dodge; nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and many friends.

He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Lemon B. Preston, and Eugene Preston.

Visitation was February 3, 2012 at Brewer & Sons Funeral Home, 3328 S. Dale Mabry Hwy in Tampa, from 4 – 6 p.m., with services at 6 p.m.

Sources:
  • Fort Dodge Police Department
  • “Man convicted of 2011 shooting gets life in prison,” WGEM.com, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014
  • “Jury in murder trial finds Iowa man guilty,” The Associated Press / Quad-City Times, Aug. 19, 2014
  • Jury finds man guilty in teen’s shooting death,” KCCI.com, Aug. 19, 2014
  • “McElroy Found Guilty of First Degree Murder of Brandyn Preston,” The Fort Dodge Press, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014
  • Bullet found in teen’s spine fired from recovered rifle,” KCCI.com, Aug. 17, 2014
  • “More witnesses testify in Iowa man’s murder trial,” The Associated Press / Quad-City Times, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014
  • “More witnesses testify in Iowa man’s murder trial,” KWWL.com, Aug. 15, 2014
  • Woman testifies gang activity behind bonfire party shooting,” KCCI.com, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014
  • “Testimony begins in Iowa man’s murder trial,” Quad-City Times, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014
  • “Murder Trial Set for Man Charged in Iowa Shooting,” KCRG.com, Aug. 10, 2014
  • YourFortDodge.com
  • Larry Hedlund report won’t be used at murder trial,” KCCI.com, Jan. 8, 2014
  • Attorney files continuance motion for McElroy case,” by Peter Kaspari, The Messenger, Dec. 31, 2013
  • “McElroy trial set for May 2013: Faces murder charge in Preston death,” The Messenger, Oct. 3, 2012
  • “McElroy trial moved back,” The Messenger, Sept. 24, 2012
  • “McElroy pleads not guilty to murder: Fort Dodge man accused in death of Brandyn Preston,” The Messenger, Aug. 3, 2012
  • “Suspect arrested in Iowa shooting of Port Tampa man who died this year,” by Justin George, The Tampa Bay Times, Thursday, July 19, 2012
  • Brewer & Sons Funeral Home
  • “McElroy held on $1million bond: Accused faces first-degree murder in Preston shooting,” The Messenger, July 14, 2012
  • Fort Dodge man charged with murder,” RadioIowa, July 13, 2012
  • “McElroy held on $1 million cash bond: Preliminary hearing set for July 20,” The Messenger, July 13, 2012
  • Arrest made in Fort Dodge shooting,” WCF Courier, July 12, 2012
  • “McElroy arrested in Preston murder,” The Messenger, July 12, 2012
  • “McElroy charged in Preston death: FD man, 26, faces first-degree murder charge,” The Messenger, July 12, 2012
  • “Crime Stoppers snags local most wanted,” The Messenger, March 8, 2012
  • Brandyn Preston (1991 – 2012) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • “BRANDYN PRESTON Obituary,” The Messenger, January 27, 2012
  • “Victim of Fort Dodge shooting dies in Florida,” Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Jan. 26, 2012
  • “POLICE PLEA: Fort Dodge Police are asking the public for information on a May 2011 shooting, after the victim died over the weekend,” WHO-TV Channel 13 Des Moines, Jan. 25, 2012
  • “FD Teen Dies of Gun Shot Wound,” Fort Dodge Press, Jan. 25, 2012
  • “DCI, FDPD still seeking Preston shooter,” The (Fort Dodge) Messenger, Jan. 25, 2012
  • “Brandyn Preston dies Sunday: Was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting on May 8, 2011,” The Fort Dodge Messenger, January 24, 2012
  • “Mother works to help her son after paralyzing accident,” The Tampa Bay Times, Dec. 21, 2011
  • “Crime Stoppers helps solve cases: Group offers $5,000 rewards in shootings,” The Fort Dodge Messenger, September 4, 2011
  • “Father: Preston has ‘come a long ways’ since shooting,” The Fort Dodge Messenger, May 13, 2011
  • “FDPD aims to stop gunshots,” The Fort Dodge Messenger,” May 13, 2011
  • “Update on Teen Shot in Neck During Party,” KCCI Channel 8 Des Moines, May 9, 2011
  • “Fort Dodge Shooting,” MyFortDodge.com, May 9, 2011
  • “Teenager shot in Fort Dodge, police say,” Des Moines Register, May 8, 2011
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One Response to Brandyn Preston

  1. Kimberly Wood says:

    I feel for your family and your son, I my self named Kimberly Wood, and I also have a son named Branden , we live in Naples Florida.I just went through a situation with my son going on a work trip in MN, it went bad, quickly, i knew he was in danger and jumped on thr first flight out to find him, fortunately, my son was ok, he learned of a work scam , were the man i knew for 30+ years had convinced him to go and he would make more money doin instalations of internet boxes, when his bank account started missing the sum of $1440.00, i always check his account, he called i told him to pack his stuff and get out of the motel and go somewhere else, i never heard back. So my son tried to leave and called the police to help him get his luggage and rental car keys, he made it out side to the car, and then after about 20 minutes the police decided to take him to jail, based on false charges from the man scamming him and other kids there. They took his belongs and rental car, they destroyed the inside of the car and wrecked it.. I my self worried sick didnt know any more than what he told me and he didnt call back, i jumped on the first flight out, set on my phone looking up where they were staying, no one would help me find him or what happened. The police would not help. Then finally my mother called me and told me were he was, I went back to the police station and told them and the detective asigned to the case that i was calling internal affairs due to how everything had transpired, finally after another 24 hours, the told me they didnt have a case and were dropping charges based on information i had collected while i was there. When my son got out of jail he was never more greatful to see me there all the way from florida, he did not know i even new what happened, he cryied in my lap, he was always a straight A student and had never been in trouble for anything. He said i am so ashamed mom that i fell in to this mess, i just want to go home. I set him down when we finally got home and told him some how by the grace of god you were safe, that things could have been much worse, and i was glad i listened to my intuition and jumped a plain to go get him. The thoughts that were going through my head, horrible thoughts, what if he wasnt ok, what if he was just in the wrong place at ghe wrong time. Tonight i write you to tell you my motherly tears are with you and your Brandyn, i pray that he is watching over you and some how god will give you enough peace till you meet again. I never take a day for granted with my son. I can never imagine your loss and hope i never half too, but i will show your sons story to him, and together we will pray for you and your family. Chrish every memory, energy, etc, they never go away, no one knows why these awfull things happen, but some how we have to hope that threre is some reason for every season as it says in the bible, even the bad ones. Again my prayers are with you, is you ever want to talk feel free to email me at Kimberleywoodrpm@yahoo.com, I do come to Tampa often, we could meet for coffee and prayer
    God Bless you always and for ever.

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