Sunday, September 22 was supposed to be a normal day for sixteen-year-old Bryson Bray. After the teenager clocked out from his shift at Peculiar’s Country Mart, he met some friends at Aaron’s Family Fun Center in Belton.
While bowling, Bryson noticed that another teenage boy, whom he did not recognize, began looking at him strangely. After some time, the teenager from Peculiar told his friends that he felt uncomfortable and that they should all leave.
The teens went to Memorial Park in Belton and, according to Robin Bray (Bryson’s mother), the boy who had made Bryson uncomfortable at the Fun Center showed up at the park less than fifteen minutes later. Bryson does not remember ever seeing this person before; nevertheless the boy began to curse at him and make a scene. Then, while at the park, the boy reportedly made a move to leave before turning around and punching Bryson one time in the face.
“He came home, told me what had happened, and I was mad,” said Robin Bray.
The teen’s mother felt her anger turn to concern as she observed that Bryson could barely open his mouth when he tried to eat.
One of Bryson’s friends at the park was able to identify the aggressor, so the authorities were contacted. After filing a report with the Belton Police Department, the Brays visited the emergency room at Belton Regional Medical Center. Doctors there said that they could see a break in Bryson’s jaw on one side. From there, the Brays went to Truman Medical Center where they discovered that Bryson had, in fact, two breaks in his jaw.
“They wired [his mouth] shut right there,” said Mrs. Bray.
“It was horrible to watch him go through that pain.”
On Friday, September 27, Bryson underwent surgery only to find out his condition was even worse. The boy’s jaw was broken in three places, along with a broken jaw joint.
The juvenile defendant was detained in the Cass County Juvenile Detention Center and a petition was filed by the Juvenile Officer alleging one count of 2nd Degree Assault and one count of Behaviors and Associations Injurious to Self and the Welfare of Others.
The case was set for Adjudication and Dispositional Hearings on October 9, and Robin Bray made an emotional plea on her son’s behalf before the Court. Part of the personal transcript of her speech reads, “I pray that the court understands what the severity of the damage is and that it has occurred by [the defendant’s] actions…I pray that when the court sentences him if he chooses this crime again that he is charged with the maximum penalty to the fullest and that this does go onto his permanent record for life as an adult. Bryson’s sentencing is for life already.”
The juvenile defendant admitted to the allegations in the petition filed by the Juvenile Officer and the Court ordered the juvenile to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court and imposed restrictions and sanctions including restitution to the victim and in-home confinement.
According to juvenile records, this is not the first time the defendant has been involved in illegal activity. The juvenile was referred to the Juvenile Office in March of 2008 for Misdemeanor Property Damage and an Ordinance Violation of Disorderly Conduct in February of 2009. The juvenile and parents participated in services with the Juvenile Office as to each of those referrals and there have been no other referrals or allegations of misconduct reported to the Cass County Juvenile Office in the last four years and six months.
According to Robin Bray, the system has failed her son because the defendant’s criminal behavior was not corrected through his run-ins with the law over the years — which ultimately led to Bryson’s incident. Mrs. Bray believes that the defendant should be tried as an adult.
Bryson has lost over 25 pounds since the incident, being forced to eat his foods through a syringe and communicate via marker board. His mouth will be wired shut for several more weeks and the doctors say he will suffer from permanent numbness as well as symptoms such as lock jaw.
“I feel bad for him because I don’t know Bryson to cause trouble,” said Aaron Turnage, Bryson’s boss who is holding his job until he can return to work.
A petition made by Mrs. Bray on gopetition.com for Bryson, says, “We (the Brays) hired an attorney but the District Attorney would not charge [the defendant] as an adult (he was a two weeks from 17 as of 10-9-13). We had a hearing and this juvenile got off with a one-year probation, [an order to] write a apology letter, anger management classes, and 20 hours community service. I feel as a parent, as he was walking out of court laughing and smiling, how did I get justice for my son? I feel I let my son down and so did the courts. My son has permanent damage for the rest of his life and is paying for this juveniles mistake and this won’t even show up in his permanent adult record.”
Beverly Newman, the Chief Juvenile Officer for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, said, “The case appears to be appropriate to be dealt with in the Juvenile Court system. There are reasonable prospects for rehabilitation and appropriate treatment programs and services are available in the Juvenile Court system to ensure the juvenile defendant is held accountable for his actions and receives appropriate treatment while ensuring the safety of the community.
“It is regrettable when the outcome of a case is not viewed as appropriate by any party to the proceeding but the Cass County Juvenile Office will make every effort to ensure the juvenile defendant is held accountable for all aspects of the restrictions, sanctions and services ordered by the Court in the interests of all involved in this matter.”
On Monday, the Court ruled an ex parte (child protective order) against the defendant, keeping him separated from Bryson for the next year by either personal contact or a third party.
Robin Bray and Casey Simmons, the family’s attorney, are still pushing for a stricter punishment. According to Simmons, the defendant’s parents could be held liable for the juvenile’s assault. Through a discovery of the details surrounding the case, Simmons and the Brays will continue pushing for what they believe is a rightful judgment in the case.
A Facebook page called “Justice for Bryson Bray” has been started by Mrs. Bray and has nearly 750 members. The online petition that was filed has nearly 80 signatures.