10-year-old homicide suspect cannot be charged with killing Brandon Rasberry

Child confesses involvement after being arrested for making threat on Nixon-Smiley school bus


The person who killed Brandon O’Quinn Rasberry in January 2022 will not face murder charges in connection with the slaying as he was just shy of turning eight years old at the time the crime was committed, Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office deputies said Thursday, April 18.

However, the now 10-year-old juvenile suspect is awaiting a court date on a charge of terroristic threat for an incident on a Nixon-Smiley CISD school bus which led to authorities uncovering his involvement in Rasberry’s shooting death. He remains in the custody of the Gonzales County Juvenile Probation Department at this time.

“Because of the child’s age, Texas Penal Code 8.07 states that a child does not have criminal culpability until they reach the age of ten years old,” GCSO said in a statement released to the Gonzales Inquirer. “At the time of the murder, the juvenile suspect was seven years old, one week shy of his eighth birthday. Therefore, charges for murder will not be filed and cannot be accepted by the Gonzales County Attorney’s Office for consideration of prosecution in accordance with state law.”

Rasberry, 32, was found deceased on Jan. 18, 2022, in an RV at the Lazy J RV Park, located at 85 Wild Meadow, in Nixon. He had suffered a single gunshot wound to the head. For two years, Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office continued to investigate the case, but had no leads as to who killed Rasberry or why.

Then, on Friday, April 12, GCSO dispatchers received a call from a Nixon-Smiley CISD principal, who reported the 10-year-old male “had threatened to assault and kill another student on a bus” the previous day. After conducting a threat assessment on the student, they contacted GCSO to conduct further investigation and a deputy was dispatched to the school.

“When the deputy arrived he spoke with school officials, who informed the deputy the child made a statement that he shot and killed a man two years ago,” GCSO told the Inquirer.

The deputy contacted the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), which determined that based upon information the child told the school, he appeared to have first-hand knowledge about Rasberry’s death. The child was transported to a child advocacy center, where a forensic interview was conducted and during the interview “the 10-year-old child described in detail that two years ago he shot and killed a man in a trailer in Nixon, Texas,” GCSO stated.

“The 10-year-old child provided information that was consistent with first-hand knowledge of the homicide of Brandon Rasberry,” GCSO told the Inquirer.

Rasberry homicide investigation — 2022

Longtime Brenham resident Brandon Rasberry had been working for about three months at Holmes Foods, a poultry processing plant in Nixon, when he decided to rent an RV from the Lazy J RV Park, ocated on Wild Meadow off County Road 127, not far from the Schertz Seguin Local Government Corporation Water Supply groundwater transmission and treatment plant.

Rasberry had been living in the RV for about four days at the time of his death. On Jan. 18, 2022, when he did not show up for work for two days, his supervisor had HR call the owner of the RV park to do a welfare check on their employee. The owner of the RV entered it after repeatedly knocking on the door without receiving an answer. Inside, he discovered Rasberry deceased from what appeared to be a single gunshot to his head.

GCSO began a murder investigation in conjunction with the Texas Department of Public Safety Ranger Division and collected evidence which was sent to the DPS Crime Lab in Austin for forensic analysis, including a pair of spent shell casings for a 9mm handgun. Investigators also wrote search warrants for geolocation data from Rasberry’s cellphone as well as any other cell phones that were in the area at the time of his killing, but that failed to produce any new leads.

An autopsy performed on Rasberry at the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office in Austin showed he had been shot once in the head and had two minor graze wounds — one to his right middle finger and one to his left index finger. No other trauma was observed on the body and the medical examiner concluded the cause of death was consistent with a homicide. Information gathered from the scene as well as witness statements and the autopsy report indicated Rasberry had been dead for about two days prior to the discovery of his body.

While investigators interviewed possible witnesses and tracked down all leads, they could not determine who had killed Brandon Rasberry — or why.

Greater Gonzales County Crime Stoppers even offered a cash award to whoever submitted a tip that led the apprehension of Rasberry’s killer, but that also generated no further leads.

Rasberry homicide investigation — 2024

Under questioning by investigators on Friday, April 12, 2024, the 10-year-old child stated he was visiting his grandfather at the RV park on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. The child’s grandfather lived in an RV a few lots down from Rasberry’s RV.

“When asked, the child stated he had never met Brandon, and did not know who he was, although he had observed him walking around the RV earlier in the day,” GCSO told the Inquirer. “The child was also asked if he was mad at Brandon for some reason or if Brandon had ever done anything to him to make him mad and the child stated no.”

The child stated he retrieved a 9mm pistol he described as “dirty and army green” in color from the glove box of his grandfather’s truck and entered Rasberry’s RV, where he found the victim sleeping in bed. He “approached Brandon and discharged the firearm into Brandon, striking him one time in the head.”

“The child stated as he was leaving the RV, he discharged the firearm another time into the couch inside the RV. The child then exited the RV and returned the firearm to the glovebox of the truck,” GCSO told the Inquirer.

Investigators were able to locate and secure for evidence the firearm used to kill Rasberry at a pawn shop in Seguin, where it had been pawned by the boy’s grandfather, according to the child. However, Sheriff Keith Schmidt told the Inquirer they do not believe at this time the grandfather had any reason to believe it had been used to commit a crime when he pawned it.

The Gonzales County Attorney’s Office, Texas Department of Child Protective Services and Gonzales County Juvenile Probation were brought in to aid the investigation.

On Wednesday, April 17, investigators took the two spent shell casings to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms field office in San Antonio for forensic analysis and comparison using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, or NIBIN. Testing showed the firearm seized from the Seguin pawn shop was indeed the weapon used to kill Brandon Rasberry, confirming the child’s improbable yet true confession.

Due to the severity of the crime and out of “the continued concern for the child’s mental well-being,” he was placed on a 72-hour emergency detention and transported to a San Antonio psychiatric hospital for evaluation and treatment. Upon his release from the hospital, the child was transported to GCSO, where he was booked on terroristic threat charges relating to the school bus incident and placed in custody of the Juvenile Probation Department.

Nixon-Smiley CISD Superintendent Jeff VanAuken said the district was cooperating with GCSO throughout the investigation.

“Following a threat made by the student, the elementary Behavioral Threat Assessment Team initiated a Behavioral Threat Assessment,” VanAuken said. “As a result of the assessment, the elementary administration contacted the Gonzales County Sheriff's Office. The student was promptly removed by the Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office and is currently being detained.”

VanAuken said due to the severity of information gathered during the investigation, “the student will not return to the elementary campus.”

“Nixon-Smiley CISD would like to reassure parents, students, and the community that the safety of our students and staff is of utmost importance,” VanAuken said. “We extend our gratitude to the Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office for their unwavering commitment to maintaining the safety of our schools and community.”

What’s next?

Terroristic threat is a Class B misdemeanor under Texas Penal Code Section 22.07. Class B misdemeanors for adults are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. However, Texas state law does not allow for a juvenile to be sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for committing a misdemeanor offense regardless of the child’s adjudication history, according to the Juvenile Justice Handbook.

Within 48 hours from when the accused was taken into custody (including weekends and holidays), a court or a magistrate must conduct a detention hearing to determine whether to release or detain the juvenile in a facility until his court appearance. The juvenile must be released from detention unless the court finds that:

• he is likely to abscond or be removed from the jurisdiction of the court;

• suitable supervision, care, or protection for him is not being provided by a parent, guardian, custodian, or other person;

• he has no parent, guardian, custodian, or other person able to return him to the court when required;

• he may be dangerous to himself or may threaten the safety of the public if released; or

• he has previously been found to be a delinquent child or has previously been convicted of a penal offense punishable by a term in jail or prison and is likely to commit an offense if released.

If the juvenile is kept in detention, a detention hearing must be held every 10 days to determine whether continued detention is warranted. The state must file a petition by the 15th working day after the initial detention hearing.

Section 55 of the Texas Family Code deals with concerns regarding mental illness or intellectual disability which could cause a child to either be unfit to proceed with juvenile proceedings or to be found to lack responsibility for such conduct as as result of mental illness or intellectual disability. There are hearings that can be held to remand the child into court-ordered temporary or extended mental-health care in an inpatient, residential or outpatient setting.

Gonzales County Attorney Paul Watkins told the Inquirer on Wednesday, April 24, that his office will not discuss pending cases, especially ones involving juvenile offenders.