The Norman Transcript

June 18, 2013

Medical witness says Bransby could not have survived gunshot wound

By Arianna Pickard
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Evidence presented Monday during Day 4 of a manslaughter trial in Cleveland County District Court indicates that victim Kelsey Bransby was shot at close range.

Bransby, 19, was found unconscious a few hours after being shot in the head on Oct. 27, 2011, in an apartment in south Oklahoma City. She died in the hospital the next day.

Today is expected to be the final day of the trial against Cole Hopper, 21, who is being tried for manslaughter in her death.

When Bransby was shot, the bullet entered just beneath her left eyebrow and never left her head, testified Chai Choi, the forensic pathologist who examined Bransby’s body. The bullet moved at about a 45-degree angle to the right and 10-degree angle upward inside her head until it hit her skull near her right earlobe and landed in the center of the back of her head.

The pressure from the bullet caused swelling and internal bleeding in her brain and her eyes, Choi said. Though the bullet knocked her unconscious, she kept breathing because the bullet didn’t touch the center of her brain, where breathing is instigated.

Choi also said the gunpowder stippling around Bransby’s bullet wound insinuates that the gun was neither in direct contact with her skin nor a long distance away when she was shot. Stippling is caused by gunpowder striking the surface of the skin when a person has been shot at close range, and Choi said she found about three inches of it on Bransby’s skin.

The gunshot wound caused so much swelling in her brain that she would not have survived the injury whether she received medical attention immediately after she was shot or several hours later, an emergency medicine doctor who had treated her testified in court Monday.

Hopper, whom witnesses have testified was one of Bransby’s close friends and was living with her in the apartment where she was found, is accused of shooting her and then abandoning her without seeking medical or legal assistance.

When Hopper was called in for questioning soon after Bransby was shot, he denied being in the apartment when she was shot and told Oklahoma City Detective Tyler Larson that the shooter was probably one of the many people Bransby had stolen drugs from, according to a video recording of the interview played in court Monday. Larson named each contact in Bransby’s phone, and Hopper told him which ones Bransby had stolen from, which totaled to about 20 people.

Larson testified Monday that he followed up with almost all the people Hopper told him Bransby had stolen from, and about a year later, his evidence only pointed back toward Hopper.

When Hopper was brought in for a second interview in May, 2012, Larson and another detective told him they didn’t think he was a “cold-blooded murderer” and he would be better off if he explained to them what happened, according to the video.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that you were there when Kelsey was shot, so this is your opportunity to tell the truth,” Larson told Hopper in the video.

Hopper continued to deny that he was in the apartment when Bransby was shot and finally he told them he wanted a lawyer before they questioned him any further, according to the video.

Hopper’s attorney, David Smith, will begin questioning the defense witnesses at 9:30 a.m. today and the jury will go into deliberation around 1 p.m.