“I wish it was me instead of him.” Gould sentenced to 15 years in negligent homicide case

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 6:09 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2021 at 7:09 AM CST
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HARRISBURG, Ark. (KAIT) - A Mammoth Spring man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on a negligent homicide charge.

Kristopher Gould was on trial for negligent homicide, after driving into a construction zone near the Tyronza Bridge and hitting and killing Brayfield on May 30, 2020.

It took about 15 minutes of deliberation by the jury to convict Gould Wednesday in the case.

Gould was somber while the verdict was read, and quietly wiped his face and bowed his head.

Brayfield’s family came from Kansas City to Poinsett County for the trial. His mom, Stacie Brayfield, said they hoped for the maximum sentence of 20 years, but they’re satisfied with 15.

“No amount of time is ever going to bring Preston back. There’s no winners in this case, our son is still dead,” said Stacie. “Kristopher’s little boy, you know his father’s going to be gone for a little bit of time. Fortunately, he can still see his son, we won’t see ours. But at the end of the day, there was no winners.”

After the guilty verdict was given, Preston’s parents, four of his siblings, and his aunt and uncle shared victim impact statements.

Each family member shared the hole left by Preston’s death that will never be filled.

“People say well we got closure, there’s no closure on this. This just ended this chapter. And now I think with this being done, the weight lifted off of our shoulders a little bit we can focus on healing. Healing and remembering Preston’s life instead of his death,” said Stacie.

Gould took the stand after the impact statements and character witnesses, apologizing to the Brayfields.

Gould said he wished it was him instead of Preston, and he knows what he did was wrong.

Stacie said this is the first and only time Gould has apologized for his actions.

“It was hard to sit through that and listen to it. He didn’t seem to take much accountability, it was more of I don’t have a problem with drinking, or I was in a hurry, or I get anxious. And I didn’t feel like it was an apology I feel like it was excuses,” said Stacie.

Gould’s defense attorney Ben Bristow said this was all a horrible situation that happened.

“Kristopher made a statement, he sounded very sincere about it. I don’t think there’s anybody that could be in that courtroom and not feel for that family,” said Bristow.

Stacie said, for the family, the apology is a little too late.

All we wanted from the beginning was for him to just accept accountability. Take accountability, show remorse. Genuine, not because you were on the stand begging for leniency, but because you meant it,” said Stacie. “Own up. You made a horrible choice that ended in the death of an innocent person. Take responsibility. And he never would.”

Stacie said now that the trial is over, the family can move on to the next chapter.

It’s still going to be hard without Preston, none of that has changed. But now we get to focus on his life, and what he meant to us instead of fighting for him,” said Stacie.

The jury agreed on 15 years in prison and no fine after about 30 minutes of deliberation.

Gould’s attorney said he spoke with Gould and his family and they aren’t sure what the next move is, but they will definitely be exploring the possibility of appealing the jury’s decision.

The Brayfields told Region 8 News they are sure there will be an appeal, and they will be ready for that just like they were ready for this.

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom for the trial, but Region 8 News had a reporter there while the trial was going on.

Day one of testimony

The prosecution in the state’s case against Gould said Tuesday there is not a lot of disagreement on what happened the night he hit and killed Preston Brayfield.

The prosecution said a blood draw from that night shows Gould’s Blood Alcohol Content was 0.326%. That’s four times the legal limit of 0.08%.

Brayfield, a construction worker working in the blocked-off inside lane on I-555, was hit at between 63-69 miles per hour, according to information from the black box in Gould’s car.

The black box shows Gould was driving at 95 miles per hour two and a half seconds before impact.

He hit his brakes two seconds before hitting Brayfield and after impact, his car rolled over and came to a stop off the road. Gould kept his eyes down and a straight face throughout the testimony on Tuesday.

The responding officer, ASP Trooper Tommy Fitzgerald, was the first to testify in the case. Fitzgerald said he was called to the scene around 7:44 p.m. May 30, 2020, and it was still daylight when he arrived.

On his way to the scene, Fitzgerald was told it was a fatal accident. Fitzgerald said he saw car debris, blood, and pieces of Brayfield’s clothing and body around the crash site.

Brayfield’s leg had been removed from his body during the incident. The prosecution said autopsy reports show Brayfield’s cause of death was blunt force trauma from the crash.

Brayfield’s family became emotional while the jury was shown pictures of the crash site, including pictures of Brayfield’s body and leg. Fitzgerald spoke with Gould near an ambulance after arriving on the scene and noticed the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, and slurred speech from Gould. He also found a cooler with beer inside in Gould’s front floorboard, as well as open beer cans and a bottle of liquor. Gould told Fitzgerald he had been drinking earlier that day.

Fitzgerald took Gould to St. Bernards for a blood draw, and then to the Poinsett County Jail where he was booked in on negligent homicide.

The defense in the case asked the jury to weigh the facts and evidence without emotion before testimony began.

Other witnesses on Tuesday included the ASP officer that gathered information from the black box after the crash, the paramedic that first arrived on the scene, and the LPN that drew Gould’s blood.

Day two of testimony

Court is back in session around 9:20 a.m. Wednesday.

The Brayfield family wears red to honor Preston, whose nickname was Red.

The prosecution resumed testimony with Dr. Jennifer Forsyth, the medical examiner that performed Brayfield’s autopsy. Forsyth confirmed Brayfield’s cause of death was due to multiple blunt force injuries.

Some significant injuries recorded included a torn brain stem and spinal cord, lacerations to the lungs, liver, and spleen, and right leg amputation below the knee.

The prosecution calls an expert toxicologist from the crime lab and confirms Gould’s BAC was 0.326% at the time of the crash.

The defense calls Linda Hinton, a Tyronza resident who drove on I-555 near the Tyronza Bridge around 7 p.m. the night the crash happened.

Hinton said when she approached the road construction, a young worker walked out in front of her with a blower on his back and noise-canceling headphones, blowing across the road. She said she slowed down and waited for him to walk back across the road, but he stopped after two or three steps and stayed in the road, causing her to drive around.

Hinton said when she saw the worker’s face, he looked dazed. She said the worker never moved from the road, and she was worried. The worker looked young with sandy hair.

Hinton said she reached out to police after finding out about the fatal crash and felt obligated to testify. Hinton does not know Brayfield or Gould and admits to following the case on social media but never making posts or comments online.

Cross-examination begins and Hinton agrees with the prosecution that she never identified a body in the case, never saw a body, and the worker she saw and the person killed could have been two different people.

The defense calls no other witnesses.

The jury deliberates for around 15 minutes before delivering a guilty verdict.

Victim impact statements

Jason Brayfield, Preston’s dad, starts the victim impact statements.

Jason said Preston left Kansas City to work in Arkansas on May 28, two days before his death.

Preston only took a job as a construction worker after being laid off from the oil industry due to the pandemic.

Jason said he felt like he’d failed Preston, and his family has struggled since his death. Jason also has to work more to cover the cost of therapy, medication, travel to Arkansas, and payments for Preston’s truck the family wanted to keep.

Jason was very emotional during his statement and wasn’t able to finish reading on his own. During his statement, Gould wiped his face as if he’d started crying.

Preston’s three younger brothers and younger sister all called Preston their best friend and said they were forced to grow up, and not be kids anymore. All of Preston’s younger siblings have had to go to therapy and have been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of his death.

Preston’s aunt and uncle shared that their son tried to commit suicide after Preston’s death and that their family has been torn apart by the incident.

Stacie, Preston’s mom, was the last to share her statement.

Stacie shared pictures of Preston as a baby and said she died when her son did, and she and her husband are now different parents to his siblings.

All of Preston’s family members asked the jury to consider the maximum sentence of 20 years.

Character witnesses

Three people spoke on Gould’s behalf before the jury deliberated on a sentence.

A family friend, Rick Story, said Gould was the kindest kid and he was going through a bad divorce at the time the crash happened.

Story promised Gould felt remorse for what had happened, and he never would have been where he was if it wasn’t for his divorce.

Gould’s boss also spoke and said he asked if he could do so on Gould’s behalf. He said what happened on May 30 was not who he is.

Gould’s ex-wife was the last to speak on his behalf.

She said they had been together for 10 years, and the divorce was final in March of 2020.

She said it was an amicable divorce, and the night of the crash she had been angry with him and tracked his location to see he wasn’t where he said he’d be.

Gould’s ex-wife also said the Brayfields had come to her house and made threats to her, causing her to take full custody of their son so she could move and keep their son safe. Gould’s attorney said there was a file full of social media comments and messages from Brayfield’s family members harassing Gould’s ex-wife.

Gould was the last to make statements and apologized to the Brayfields.

Gould said he had never been in trouble before.

Since the accident, he’s thought of taking his own life and only hasn’t because of his son. He said he doesn’t sleep anymore and knows there are never enough I’m sorries for the Brayfields.

During his statements, Stacie interjects and asks if Preston saw Gould coming. Her question is ignored.

Gould said his divorce was hard on him, and he didn’t like the person he was.

Gould told the prosecution he had been at a friend’s house in Marked Tree the night of the crash. He said he maybe had 10 to 12 beers during the couple of hours he was at the friend’s house and got turned around on the interstate.

Gould doesn’t remember anything from the crash, only crawling out of his vehicle after.

During his statements, Gould was soft-spoken, and his eyes were red. He wiped his face on his sleeve a few times throughout.

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