Solving Murder Mysteries on the Road to Boston

Hello? Hello? Anybody there? Oh, hey! Glad to see somebody’s still paying attention, even if it is only my lovely wife Laura. Hey Laura, hope you enjoy reading this!

Let’s get Laura, and maybe one or two other people who’ve stumbled upon this blog, caught up. Some really crazy stuff has gone down, including an (alleged) homicide. Yes, a homicide.

First, the regular stuff. I continue to struggle to regain fitness, and while I’m nowhere nearly as fit as years past, I’m light years ahead of where I was the last time I posted to the blog. I’m consistently running 40-mile weeks, and this past week I even managed an entire workout (12 x 1:00), something I haven’t done in what seems like forever! Positive things afoot! I might even be able to run the entire Boston marathon!

And since the last blog post, I’ve participated (notice I didn’t say “raced” – important distinction) in three races. Three! I think that’s as many races as all of 2016! I’ve been trying to use races to help me through long runs.

Here are some quick recaps before I get to the murder business (I know you’re anxious to get there – bear with me):

The Super Bowl 4-Miler

Gucci came over to the house to help me with this one. We ran about 4.5 miles to the race, I ran four 7:50ish-pace miles in the race, then we ran back.

The most interesting anecdotes from this race:

  • I registered for this race as Carter Pewterschmidt. At packet pick-up, the kid handing me my packet said, “Carter Pewterschmidt? Lois’ dad?” I was really stunned somebody recognized the name.
  • At the start of the race, Gucci ran on the sidewalk next to the leaders (which included one-time Olympic hopeful Matt Elliot) at their pace for a quarter of a mile or so with the intent of posting a crazy-fast Strava segment, which he did. Even at sub-5:00 pace, Gucci was still seventh or eighth on the segment, thanks to this and last year’s race. That’s just crazy.

The Charlotte 10-Miler

I jumped into this one to see if I could maintain my goal marathon pace (7:55 equates to about a 3:27 marathon, which should be enough under BQ to qualify me for next year) for 10 miles. Short race recap: I couldn’t.

Exceedingly rare 2017 race photo of this blog's author.

Exceedingly rare 2017 race photo of this blog’s author.

Corporate Cup Half Marathon

Laura and I ran this one to get a supported long run (a very expensive supported long run, I might add. I tried to drink $90 worth of PowerAde but failed.) Highlights:

  • We ran some 3.5 miles to the start, but, as usual, were late so that when we got there everyone was gone. We had to ask some guy which direction the race went and then had to run on the now-open roads for a bit, trying to catch up to the sag wagon. Our gun-time first mile split: 15:00.
  • A little over a mile in, I had to make an emergency stop at Bojangle’s, and not for chicken. This took at least five minutes before we were back on the road. Three-mile gun split: 41-something. And we weren’t in last place.
  • As we approached the finish, the gun-time clock read 2 hours 09 minutes and change so Laura yelled, “Hurry up or you won’t beat Gucci’s PR!” So I hoofed it a little to come in under 2:10. I think I beat Gucci’s PR but I will have to confirm with him later.

And that’s it for road races. Now on to the interesting stuff.

The Murder Mystery

On the evening of Valentine’s Day, Laura and I set out for a pleasant little lovers’ jaunt through NoDa. By the time we reached Cordelia Park, the sun had set. Somewhere in the distance, an eerie sound emanated as Laura turned to me and asked, “Is that dogs?” I turned to look for the source of the sound and noticed some guy, making the bizarre sound, walking hurriedly down North Davidson so I answered, “No, it’s just some guy imitating dogs.”

But then as he grew closer, I noticed the guy was crying, sobbing actually. I called out to him, “Hey! You okay?” He heard me and tried to run over to us but a creek blocked his path so that he had to run to a bridge up ahead. As he made his way towards us, I told Laura to call 911 while I intercepted him. Something wasn’t quite right so I wanted to make sure I was physically between him and Laura, and that she was a safe distance away, while she called for help.

He was a pretty big guy, maybe 6′ 1″ or 6′ 2″, probably in the neighborhood of 200-210 pounds, so I approached pretty cautiously. He was obviously in distress as I called out, “You okay? You need help?” as he jogged towards me. He held up a cell phone with “911” clearly visible – he was on the phone with 911. I told him, “We’re calling them, too. What’s the matter?”

He was just a kid, I guessed about 18, and he was still sobbing hysterically as he tried to explain. He had a significant speech impediment and therefore was extremely difficult to understand, even when not crying. I struggled to grasp what he was saying – he reminded me a lot of Leonardo Dicaprio’s Arnie character in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

This kid was dressed oddly. He was wearing a pink baseball cap with sequins and carried a yellow purse. He had a sweatshirt on with the hood pulled up over his cap. He was a strange juxtaposition of imposing adult and helpless child – a person of rather considerable size but who spoke like a helpless, frightened, and mentally-challenged child. The situation was simultaneously surreal and distressing.

He held out a little heart-shaped box of candy to me. I took it but wasn’t really sure what to do with it as I kept asking him what was wrong and he kept trying to answer. In the meantime, the 911 operator was asking Laura a bunch of questions that she was interjecting into the conversation. It was a bit of chaos that went something like this: I asked “What happened?” and he responded with something that was very difficult to understand while Laura asked, “Were you attacked? Are you injured?”

After a few minutes, I started to get a feel for his speech patterns and began to be able to make out words. He communicated to me that he had been assaulted by two guys, one of whom had a knife and threatened to stab him. He kept asking Laura and me to walk with him away from under the streetlight where we stood – he was afraid the guys were coming back for him and he didn’t want to be seen. I translated to Laura who conveyed his story to the 911 dispatcher who kept asking questions, “What did the guys look like? Were they in a car? What kind of car?” We went back and forth like this as the kid kept walking away, trying to move out of the light while Laura and I tried not to venture too far away as she was trying to tell the police where to meet us.

I was eventually able to get his name – Austin. Austin was really freaked out about standing in the light and eventually started jogging away, asking me to follow. I told Laura to send the police and I’d stay with Austin. He strayed off the paved greenway and made his way up the significantly steep, grassy hill of Cordelia Park (to give you an idea of just how steep, this hill was voted ‘best place to sled in Charlotte’ earlier this year).

My spider senses started tingling as Austin led me towards a wooded area. After all, he was a big guy that could probably pretty easily overpower me if he got the urge. For a few fleeting seconds, I worried that maybe I was being led into a trap – maybe this was all some ploy to knock me out and take my…running watch? I decided I was just being paranoid – surely even a mentally challenged kid knew it was a bad idea to attack someone even as the police were on their way? Right? But I was still a little nervous and kept a reasonably safe distance between us. Sure, he could physically take me, but I was pretty confident that given a bit of a head start I could outrun him, especially when you took into account the fact that I was already clad in running attire. I could make a very hasty exit if needed.

But there was no need to flee. When we got to the top of the hill, Austin calmed down a bit, apparently feeling we were far enough away from his earlier assaulters. He pointed to the breathtaking view of the Charlotte skyline and explained that, homeless, this was where he spent every night so he could gaze on the beautiful city. I felt a profound sadness, and yet some admiration, for him and his situation.

On a run a day or two later, I paused at Cordelia Park to snap this photo which I sent to Laura, dubbing it "Austin's View"

On a run a day or two later, I paused at Cordelia Park to snap this photo which I sent to Laura, dubbing it “Austin’s View”

It was about this time that the police showed up and met Laura who called out to me. I convinced Austin to walk with me as we headed down to the Cordelia pool parking lot where Laura waited with two police officers.

Austin appeared relieved and I know I was. We approached the two cops, one of whom chatted with Austin while the other took a statement from Laura and me. When we were finished, I told Austin goodbye, wished him good luck, and gave him his chocolates back. He reached out to shake my hand and said, “Thank you” to Laura and me. Laura and I resumed our run.

Here’s where the story gets really interesting. The next day or two, I told this story to any friend that would listen. A few days later, one of them texted me “Holy shit!” with this link. Holy shit is right – Austin had been arrested for murder.

Poor Austin. This is the mugshot posted in the Observer article.

Poor Austin. This is the mugshot posted in the Observer article.

Initially, I got chills when I read that Austin was accused of killing David Earl Brannon, 46. With 46 so near my age, my gut reaction was “Holy shit! That could’ve been me!” until I stopped and thought about it for a second. Austin has the mental capacity of a young child – I’m convinced he is incapable of premeditated murder. What I think is highly more likely is that being a mentally-challenged kid on the street makes him a target. I’m willing to bet (granted, this is all speculation on my part) Austin was accosted in some fashion. But like I said, he’s a big kid and it only takes one quick shove for things to go horribly wrong on a busy interstate. I mentioned this story to an attorney friend of mine who said he’d try to look into it for me and inform me of what’s happened since. I hope ultimately Austin will find help and a home.

You’re all caught up. Here’s hoping for fewer deaths and more fast miles in the days between now and Boston. It’s been one crazy trip.


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