Cheerleader Scandal: The Accident

Cheerleader Scandal: The Accident

Brandi and Daniel were high school sweethearts.  They had good looks, bright futures and the love of their families.

"Brandi was an all-American girl," says her mother, Sherri.

Her father, Danny, adds, "She was a cheerleader, a perfect student. Everybody loved her."

And Daniel was equally treasured.

"My son, Daniel, was very outgoing," says his mother, Sheila. "He loved people. There wasn't one thing that he wouldn't do for anybody."

"My brother, Daniel, he was caring, loving. He was a great guy," adds his sister, Crystal.


But for these two teens, the future would not play out so brightly, all because of what happened in a single instant.

"Brandi started dating her boyfriend, Daniel, in May of 2000," Sherri explains. "Daniel was in such control of her life. He instructed her on what she could and could not eat, how to dress. He physically got abusive." 

"I didn't like Daniel so much because he was just mean to my sister," says Brandi's brother, Josh.

Sherri says, "If Brandi tried to break up with Daniel, he threatened either physical abuse on her or physical abuse on himself."

Daniel's twin brother, David, denies that claim. "My brother was not unkind to a woman. Yeah, they had fights just like any relationship does. But their relationship was not abusive," he says.

The accident happened at 12:20 on a November night in 2000. Danny explains, "That night, my daughter snuck into our room while we were asleep, took the car keys out of my wife's purse, gathered up all of Daniel's stuff, and drove it over to his house to give it to him."

Sherri says, "He came out to the car and they both were crying and he took his belongings and Brandi drove off." She departed with one of Daniel's skates still in her car.

Danny continues, "She took off up the street, crying so hard she couldn't even drive. She stopped. She looked down and saw the skate. She drove down the street to drop the skate off. And as she started down the hill, Daniel stepped out in front of her waving his arms, and she hit him."

But Crystal has a different take on what happened. "I do not believe that it was an accident," she says. "To me, it was on purpose. The night my brother died there was a knock at the door, I jumped up to answer it, and it was Brandi. Brandi said 'Let me talk to Daniel.' She pushed her
way into the doorway and I finally got my brother out, and they went out and talked. And it went from talking to her screaming at him. Daniel was standing right next to the car and she just drove off. And I went and called the police and told them we had a disturbance, and I hit 9-1, and I hear this loud boom that sounded like she hit a car. I freaked out. I dropped the phone, and I ran downstairs."

David points to an area in front of his father's house where the accident occurred. "When she hit, it was about three to four feet into my dad's yard, and he ended up hitting the back of his head on the taillight of the truck."

Crystal says tearfully, "I was holding Daniel's hand asking him not to leave, that I couldn't do it without him."

"I came out here and I lost it. They took me to the hospital. I was shaking, crying. I couldn't stop," says Daniel's father, Doug.

Daniel's mother, Sheila, says, "I remember getting out of the car and seeing big yellow tape that said, 'Police line — Do not cross.'"

According to Danny, "She had no idea she hit him. None. When my daughter got home, she pulled into the driveway, she fell on the ground, crying. She knew that I would be upset because she had taken the car and wrecked it. So she picked up the timber and stuck it in the window, so she could make me think somebody had messed up the car. At 2:00 in the morning when the police
officers finally came in from looking the car over, they said she had actually hit Daniel."

"At 5:00 in the morning they had told [Brandi] that he had actually died earlier," says Sherri. "She immediately started screaming and crying, throwing up. They took her into custody and charged her with first-degree murder."

"When they told us they were taking her into custody, she said, 'Can I have my teddy bear?'" says Danny, fighting back tears.

Sherri continues, "So, we opened the yellow pages and started calling attorneys. The first attorney that we hired said that there was no way that we would take a plea bargain. We changed attorneys, and the second attorney made the deal. We went into court and we thought she was going to get 120 days and instead she was sent away for 12 years."

Daniel's family was equally shocked by the sentence, but for different reasons. "I couldn't believe they only gave her 12 years," says Sheila. "We were told that they were going to give her life in prison without parole."

Danny says, "My daughter, Brandi, did
take his life but it wasn't her fault. He stepped out in front of her. And there's plenty of proof to back that up."

"I call it murder, because Brandi did it deliberately," says David. "It was premeditated. She waited up on top of
the hill for 15 minutes before she struck him. There's tire marks leading into the yard and going out into the street."

"I blame myself in everything that happened. All my life I've been a real light sleeper. If I had woke up, I could have stopped it. But I never woke up," says Danny, as tears well in his eyes.

For both families, the pain of their loss is intense.

"I miss Brandi every day. Every second of every day," says Sherri.

"I miss Daniel. I miss everything about him," says Crystal.

Danny says, "It wasn't anybody's fault. It was a tragic accident that affected two families."

Dr. Phil begins with a question for Brandi's father. "You wrote in. Why did you write?"

"Because my daughter doesn't belong in jail," says Danny.

Crystal interjects. "You weren't there though." 

"The police report says the car tracks in the yard were three to five days earlier," Danny tells her.


The two families quarrel over what actually happened. The conversation grows heated until Dr. Phil finally steps in and asks Brandi's parents, "You understand the pain and hurt and loss that this family has suffered?" 

The couple says they do.

"And do you all have an appreciation for the fact that their daughter is locked away in prison for 12 years and that's painful for them?" he asks Daniel's family.

Daniel's mother, Sheila, answers, "I appreciate that it's painful for them." 


She goes on to refute their version of the story and before long, squabbling between the two families resumes.