The Norman Transcript

June 13, 2013

Witness in manslaughter trial explains reasons for concealing facts about victim’s death

By Arianna Pickard
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A witness testified Wednesday in Cleveland County District Court that the fear of no one believing her was the reason she’d lied to police and helped conceal knowledge about the death of the victim in a manslaughter trial.

Danielle Cooley testified in court that she was in the room with defendant Cole Hopper when Kelsey Bransby was shot in October 2011 in south Oklahoma City. She said Hopper, who is being tried for manslaughter in Bransby’s death, was not holding a gun when she heard the gunshot that allegedly caused Bransby’s death.

In questioning from David Smith, the defense attorney, Cooley said she was with Bransby the morning before she was shot. Soon after Cooley and Bransby woke up, Bransby injected about half a gram of methamphetamine into her neck while Cooley snorted half a pill of Opana, a prescription drug combining OxyContin and morphine that has about the same effects as heroin. These were drugs the two of them used regularly, she testified.

Cooley said Bransby had been fronted half an ounce of meth, but instead of selling it to pay the person she’d gotten it from, she was using it.

Hopper, who was dating Cooley and is the father of her child, came over to the apartment around 1:30 or 2 p.m. that day, and the three of them were going to watch a DVD, Cooley said.

Smith asked Cooley to describe how Bransby would act while she was under the influence of meth, and Cooley said Bransby would get “rambunctious.” Many of the people in Cooley and Bransby’s group of friends owned guns, and Cooley confirmed that Bransby would often pose and take pictures with guns while she was under the influence of drugs.

Cooley said she was turning on the DVD when she heard a gunshot, and she turned around and saw Bransby lying on the floor with a bullet hole in her head. She said she didn’t see Hopper shoot Bransby, and when she turned around, she didn’t see a gun in his hand.

Cooley said she and Hopper thought Bransby was dead, so they quickly left the apartment without calling an ambulance or contacting anyone about what they’d seen.

In questioning from the state’s prosecution about an hour before, Cooley had said the first time she saw a gun that day was in Hopper’s lap while they were driving away from the apartment after Bransby was shot.

She testified that she doesn’t remember seeing what happened to the gun after that, but Hopper told her later that he sold the gun that same day.

Cooley said she and Hopper came up with stories soon after Bransby’s death to help people come to conclusions that didn’t involve them. One of the stories, Cooley testified, was that Bransby might have been shot because she was fronted so much meth and didn’t plan to pay for it.

About an hour after Bransby was shot, Hopper started texting and calling Bransby’s phone because he wanted to act as normal as possible to avoid being a suspect, Cooley said.

Police began contacting Cooley and Hopper a few days after Bransby was shot, Cooley said. Cooley and Hopper ignored several of their calls but eventually agreed to be questioned.

Hopper was questioned by police two days before Cooley, but they both told police the same story about Bransby being fronted a lot of meth, claiming they weren’t at the apartment when Bransby was shot, testimony indicates.

Bransby died the day after she was shot, and Cooley said she and Hopper attended her funeral with their families. A few months later, the detective began contacting Cooley again. She ignored him until she was arrested in May 2012.

Cooley said that while she was being questioned by police soon after she was arrested, she began to tell police the same story she’d told before about Bransby being fronted the meth, but they didn’t believe her.

In questioning from the defense, Cooley said she and Hopper had decided to lie because they were afraid no one would believe Bransby was shot by accident.

“You didn’t have jobs, you were young, you were drug addicts,” Smith said, asking Cooley if those were the reasons why she didn’t think people would believe them. She agreed those were the reasons.

Cooley said she ended up telling police that day the same story she told in court Wednesday, but when she said Bransby’s death was an accident, they didn’t believe her, as she’d suspected, and she was put in jail for six months.

Cooley said she was released from jail soon after she pleaded guilty of accessory to second-degree murder after the fact in a preliminary hearing in November 2012.

Questioning of witnesses will resume at 9 a.m. today in District Judge Tracy Schumacher’s courtroom.