The Norman Transcript

June 19, 2013

Defendant found guilty in manslaughter trial

By Arianna Pickard
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — After only a few hours of deliberating, a Cleveland County jury found Cole Hopper guilty of manslaughter Tuesday afternoon. The jury has recommended a sentence of nine years.

Hopper, 21, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for shooting 19-year-old Kelsey Bransby and not seeking medical attention to prevent her death.

As the verdict was read aloud in the courtroom, defense attorney David Smith hung his head and shook it back and forth with a look of disappointment.

Hopper didn’t seem too upset about the verdict, however, when he smiled for the camera after he was put into custody and escorted down the courthouse hallway in handcuffs.

Dean Hopper, Cole’s father, said he thought the verdict was unfair and it should be declared a mistrial.

“I don’t think it was handled fairly by the DA or by the jury,” he said.

District Attorney Greg Mashburn said they were pleased with the outcome of the case. The Oklahoma City Police Department put a lot of work into the investigation that helped prosecute and hold Hopper accountable for actions that took Bransby’s life, Mashburn said.

“This was a hard-fought case,” Mashburn said.

Bransby’s father and grandmother, Mike Bransby and Flora Lyman, said they thought the trial was handled fairly. They said they were happy with the guilty verdict but hoped for a longer sentence such as the 19 years recommended by the district attorney.

The jury’s recommended sentence was reduced 10 years from the prosecutor’s recommendation. Those found guilty of manslaughter in Oklahoma are required to serve 80 percent of their sentence before being eligible for release.

Police found Bransby by herself, struggling to breathe, with a gunshot wound near her left eye on Oct. 27, 2011, in an apartment in south Oklahoma City. She was transported to a hospital and died the next day.

After about six months of investigating, Oklahoma City detective Tyler Larson found enough evidence to arrest Hopper and Danielle Cooley, whom he discovered were the only two people in the apartment when Bransby was shot.

In questioning, Hopper denied being in the apartment when Bransby was shot, even after Larson told him he had witnesses and phone records proving he was there.

In November 2011, Cooley pleaded guilty of accessory to murder after the fact for helping Hopper cover up evidence of their involvement in the shooting.

She was given a 25-year suspended sentence and placed on supervised probation for four years of the sentence, according to court documents.

In Hopper’s trial, which began June 10, Cooley testified that she didn’t know if Hopper was the shooter because her back was turned when she heard the gunshot.

While the prosecuting attorney, Christy Miller, could not prove anyone had seen Hopper shoot Bransby, three of Hopper’s friends testified that he was known to carry guns with him and playfully point them at people, saying “boom.”

Hopper’s roommate testified that a few months before Bransby was shot, Hopper accidentally shot a bullet through the floor of their apartment while he was cleaning his gun.

“He was reckless with his gun,” Miller said in her closing argument Tuesday. “This time his recklessness went too far. He must be held accountable.”

Though the shooting may have been an accident, Hopper must face discipline for carelessness with a firearm and not seeking medical help for Bransby after she was shot, Miller said.

After Bransby was shot, Cooley and Hopper quickly gathered their things and left the apartment, and Hopper sold his gun that evening, Cooley testified.

Bransby was found four hours after she was shot, but medical examiners testified her injury caused swelling and bleeding in her eyes and brain that she would not have survived even if she had been treated immediately.

Hopper’s formal sentencing will take place June 28 with District Judge Tracy Schumacher.