Charles Brant was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for the sexual assault and murder of Sara Radfar. According to court documents Charles Brant would kidnap, sexually assault and murder Sara Radfar. Charles Brant would be arrested, court documents and sentenced to death.
Charles Brant 2021 Information
|BRANT, CHARLES G
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On July 2, 2004, law enforcement officers found Radfar dead in her home. A rear window of her duplex was open, and the front door was locked from the inside. Radfar was in her bathtub with water running over her. Jacqueline Lee, M.D., Associate Medical Examiner for the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Department, testified that while performing the autopsy, she found a plastic bag over the victim’s head, and she also found a dog leash, an electrical cord from a heating pad, and a woman’s stocking around the victim’s neck. Dr. Lee stated that bruises on the victim’s body could be interpreted as defensive wounds and that hemorrhages involving the eyes and eyelids were indicative of strangulation. She testified that the cause of death was strangulation and suffocation.
Deputy Rodney Riddle of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Kathy Frank Smith, previously a homicide detective for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, testified that on July 2, 2004, they each spoke with Brant, who lived near Radfar, as part of neighborhood surveys. Brant told the officers that on the night of the homicide, he saw a man with long hair in a white button-down shirt with the victim and that the next day he saw a man in a yellow raincoat and black pants running behind his residence. Deputy Riddle testified that during their conversation, Brant was calm, cordial, and coherent and did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Smith likewise testified that during their conversation, Brant was coherent and that she did not notice any signs of the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of Brant’s neighbors, who spoke briefly with Brant around 5 p.m. on July 2, 2004, similarly testified that Brant did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during their conversation.
Detective Smith also testified that as part of the homicide investigation, law enforcement officers collected garbage from Brant’s porch and from a garbage can by Brant’s mailbox. The officers retrieved, among other items, a debit card with the victim’s name and photograph on it, a man’s white cotton shirt, a yellow raincoat, a pair of black pants, a mass of long, brown hair, four latex gloves, and a box that had contained women’s stockings. Smith stated that Brant had short, dark hair when he spoke with her.
Detective Frank Losat of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office testified that he interviewed Brant during the early morning hours on July 4, 2004. Detective Losat stated that Brant was cooperative and spoke willingly. Detective Losat testified that at first, Brant repeated the story he had told Officers Riddle and Smith about a person running through his backyard wearing a raincoat. After being informed that law enforcement officers had discovered items in his trash belonging to the victim, Brant changed his story, admitting his involvement in the homicide.
Detective Losat testified that Brant explained that he went to Radfar’s home on July 1, 2004, to take pictures of her tile floor, which he had installed, for his portfolio. Radfar let him in, and while he was taking photographs of the tile, Radfar walked into the bathroom. Brant grabbed Radfar, dragged her into one of the bedrooms, and sexually assaulted her. Brant stated that he put a sock in Radfar’s mouth to quiet her and then started to choke and suffocate her. He explained that when he thought Radfar had either lost consciousness or died, he started walking around in the house. When she regained consciousness and ran to the front door, Brant dragged her back into the bedroom. At that point, Brant again began to choke and suffocate her. He stated that the choking and suffocation went on for some time. Brant next took Radfar to the bathroom. He said that she was hiccupping and breathing a little bit as he put her in the tub. Brant then grabbed a stocking, a dog leash, and an electrical cord from a heating pad, and wrapped those items around Radfar’s neck. Brant told the officers that Radfar died while in the tub. He also stated that after her death, he started to clean up the duplex, changed into clothing he found in the home, left through the front door, moved Radfar’s car, and walked home. Brant further explained that on the next day, he went back into Radfar’s residence and tried to wipe down any fingerprints that he may have left. Brant stated that he was going to leave through the front door when he observed a deputy approaching the door. He then turned the deadbolt on the door, fled through a rear window, and jumped the privacy fence to go back to his house.
Detective Losat testified that during the interview, he did not detect any evidence that Brant was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication. Brant was coherent. Christi Esquinaldo, a corporal for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, testified that she was present during Detective Losat’s July 4, 2004, interview with Brant. She stated that she did not observe any evidence that Brant was intoxicated at that time.
In addition to hearing testimony from Detective Losat and Corporal Esquinaldo, the trial court accepted into evidence a transcript of the July 4, 2004, interview. The trial court also accepted a stipulation from the parties regarding DNA evidence collected during the homicide investigation. The stipulation provided that “analysis of Sara Radfar’s vaginal swab taken from the rape kit at the Medical Examiner’s Office demonstrated the presence of semen. The DNA analysis of the semen revealed that it matched the defendant’s DNA. In other words, Charles Brant was the source of the semen.”
The State also called Melissa Ann McKinney, Brant’s former wife, who testified that she and Brant were married from June 1991 until December 2004 and that they have two sons together. McKinney explained that she and Brant met in 1990 when they were students at a Bible college in Virginia but left the school voluntarily before either graduated. McKinney testified that at the time of Brant’s arrest, Brant did not have a full-time job but did renovation and maintenance work for their landlord. McKinney confirmed that Brant installed tile in the duplex occupied by Radfar and that in July 2004, he began compiling a portfolio in an effort to get more tile work.
McKinney explained that she and Brant separated eight or nine times during their thirteen-year marriage due to Brant’s drug use. Brant used marijuana continuously and began using ecstasy around 1999. McKinney testified that Brant began using methamphetamine about six months before the murder. He obtained a package of it “like every week.” McKinney explained that while using methamphetamine, Brant would stay up for four or five nights in a row without sleep and then crash. During the first few days of a cycle, he would be very productive and “cheerful ․ in a better mood but he was always fidgety.” When Brant would start coming off the drug, he would not finish tasks because he was looking for more drugs. By day four or five, he was “[i]rritable, snappy.” McKinney explained that during the six months Brant was using methamphetamine, “he became a different person” and “it seemed like he didn’t care anymore. He didn’t-all he wanted was that drug, and he didn’t care if he finished jobs. He didn’t care about his family. I mean, he just he became obsessed with sex.” Beginning about two weeks before the murder, McKinney noticed Brant talking to himself while he worked.
McKinney also testified that in approximately 2000, Brant asked her to participate in sex games involving force. About two years before the murder, the games became rougher, and because she was afraid she would be hurt, McKinney began to object. Brant would surprise McKinney by hiding in the house, wearing a mask and latex gloves, and grabbing her from behind. McKinney stated that she believed Brant sometimes would even hide his car to give the impression that he was not at home in order to surprise her more effectively. She explained that during that two-year period, they had intercourse almost daily and that Brant “would get violent” and “do the scaring” every couple of weeks.
McKinney testified that Brant became sneakier and more violent when he began using methamphetamine. For example, on Wednesday, June 30, 2004, the night before the murder, Brant hid in a closet and attacked McKinney when she came into the room. He put her on her stomach on the bed, bound her hands, and attempted to put a sock in her mouth. McKinney explained that she was able to get away from Brant and stayed in the bathroom that night. McKinney stated that she believed Brant was on methamphetamine when he attacked her. He had started staying up on Sunday of that week and had “been up for quite a few days.” McKinney further explained that on the morning of Thursday, July 1, 2004, she threatened to go to the police if the games did not stop.
McKinney further testified that on Thursday, Brant was at home when she returned from work at around 6 or 6:30 p.m. McKinney took their sons to see a movie that evening. Brant was invited to attend, but he declined. McKinney stated that they returned home at around 11 p.m. Brant was in the kitchen washing dishes. He was acting nice, which surprised McKinney because they had been angry with each other for a few days. McKinney testified that Brant seemed to be under the influence of drugs when she returned-he was “speedy” and “fidgeting.” Brant asked McKinney to cut his hair, which she did. McKinney testified that Brant slept in the bed with her that night, but they did not have sex. McKinney testified that she next saw Brant between 6 and 7 p.m. on Friday. Brant was writing a statement for the police. McKinney testified that he appeared to be under the influence of drugs at that time. She said that “[h]e was acting nervous. He was just acting all over the place, like he was on the drug.”
The defense called several lay witnesses and two mental health experts to establish mitigating circumstances.
Crystal Florence Coleman, Brant’s mother, testified that their family had a history of depression and other mental health conditions. She also testified about Brant’s childhood. She stated that once Brant could walk, “he started beating his head against the floor” and “pounding holes in the walls.” She stated that Brant ate plaster and fertilizer as a child. When Brant was around five, Crystal married Marvin Coleman. Crystal testified that Marvin, who drank heavily, would spank or whip Brant over trivial matters until he bled, would threaten Brant, and “was very derogatory toward” Brant.
Sherry Lee Brant-Coleman, Brant’s older sister, similarly testified that Brant’s stepfather was an alcoholic and “a bully” to Brant. Sherry testified that Marvin singled Brant out from the other children for more criticism and physical abuse. Sherry also testified about Brant’s behavior shortly after the murder. She saw Brant at their mother’s Orlando home in early July 2004. She was informed that Brant had told their half-brother, Garrett Coleman, that he was involved in what happened to Radfar and “that he was hallucinating and he had-was going to turn himself in.” Sherry explained that she and several family members and friends went with Brant to a police substation, which was closed because it was a holiday weekend. They then drove to another station. Brant and Garrett went into the station but returned twenty minutes later. They claimed that the law enforcement officers told them there was no information at that station about the Radfar homicide and that Brant would have to go to a Tampa area station.
Two witnesses, Reverend John Hess, III, a minister affiliated with Blue Ridge Bible College in Rocky Mount, Virginia, and Pastor Leon Wendall Jackson, of the Faith Family Worship Center Assembly of God Church in Citrus Park, testified that Brant had spoken to them about having a drug use problem. Reverend Hess testified that Brant was a student at the Bible college, then known by a different name, for one semester in 1990. Reverend Hess explained that in approximately 1997, Brant contacted Hess about reapplying to the school, stating that he had gotten reinvolved in drugs and was looking to straighten out his life. Hess assured Brant that he could reapply, but Brant did not pursue the option. Pastor Jackson met with Brant and McKinney in 2003 when they were having marital troubles and Brant was having problems with drugs, particularly cocaine. Pastor Jackson counseled Brant about his drug problem and looked into placing Brant in an eighteen-month treatment program. Brant declined to enter treatment because he did not think that he could afford to not work.
Other witnesses testified that they had known Brant to be a nonviolent person, a good father to his children, and a good craftsman. Still other witnesses testified about the grief and remorse that Brant had expressed since being incarcerated.
Defense expert witness Michael Scott Maher, M.D., a physician and psychiatrist, diagnosed Brant as suffering from severe methamphetamine dependence associated with psychotic episodes, sexual obsessive disorder, and chronic depression. Dr. Maher described Brant as a lifestyle user of methamphetamine and explained that lifestyle users begin using methamphetamine to support working long hours but that the use “almost inevitably results in a dependency and a deterioration,” ultimately leading to psychosis. Dr. Maher opined that Brant’s dependency had reached the point of causing psychosis:
I’m not suggesting that he was legally insane; but I am certainly suggesting that he had-I’m offering the opinion that he had periods of psychosis associated with his methamphetamine use and that those periods were a significant part of his experience at and around the time of the offense.
Dr. Maher explained that during a period of methamphetamine-induced psychosis, Brant would be highly energized, would have a pattern of irritability and behavioral fidgetiness, and would hear, see, or feel things that he was not entirely sure were real. Dr. Maher identified poor impulse control as “a substantial hallmark of methamphetamine abuse.” Dr. Maher further explained that because Brant’s “purpose and motivation for using the drugs was to work and ultimately to promote and participate in his idea of being a good husband and a good father and a good worker,” Brant would have been “making a very substantial effort to use the mental functioning that he still had in a way to appear normal.” Dr. Maher testified that after his arrest, Brant was given “antipsychotic medications and some other medications to help him calm down.”
Dr. Maher concluded that Brant suffered from sexual obsessive disorder based on descriptions of the “psychological force of those sexual urges” provided by Brant and McKinney. Dr. Maher stated that Brant’s “pattern of sexual behavior with his wife which predated this incident and ․ his severe use of methamphetamines ․ are consistent with an obsessive pattern of sexual interest.” Dr. Maher explained that the sex games between Brant and his wife had “a general effect of creating lower inhibitions to this kind of link between surprise, violence and sex” and that these lowered inhibitions were “clinically significant in understanding” Brant’s behavior at the time of the sexual battery and murder.
Dr. Maher further testified that Brant had a history of depression and relationship problems going back into childhood. Dr. Maher opined that Brant’s relationships with his mother, grandmother, stepfather, and wife all showed significant patterns of pathology. Dr. Maher testified that Brant began to use marijuana and alcohol as an adolescent to self-medicate and “escape from his chronically depressed and anxious state of mind.”
Finally, Dr. Maher testified that Brant might suffer from abnormal brain functioning. Dr. Maher explained that the twenty-five point difference between Brant’s verbal and performance IQs was indicative of abnormal brain functioning. He also stated that a PET scan of Brant’s brain showed four areas of suppressed glucose uptake that could indicate underactivity in those parts of the brain. Dr. Maher identified those portions of the brain as being important to impulse control and good judgment. Dr. Maher stated that while Brant previously was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, he did not think a diagnosis of adult attention deficit disorder was warranted.
Based on the foregoing, Dr. Maher opined that Brant, while legally sane at the time of the sexual battery and murder, “had, as a result of mental disease, defect, a substantial impairment and limitation in his ability to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law.”
Another defense witness, Dr. Valerie R. McClain, a psychologist, testified as an expert in forensic neuropsychology. Dr. McClain diagnosed Brant with polysubstance dependence, major depression recurrent, and cognitive disorder not otherwise specified. Dr. McClain explained that Brant’s overall intellectual functioning was in the “low average” range. She testified that school records documented signs of a learning disorder and that Brant’s language skills were in the sixteenth percentile compared to other students and his non-language skills were in the sixth percentile. She explained that Brant had problems in the areas of learning, memory, and executive planning or organizational skills. Psychological testing showed signs of depression, pessimism, suicidal ideation, preoccupation with health problems, problems with poor judgment, passive, dependent style in relationships, and problems with insecurity, inadequacy, and a sense of inferiority. The testing also indicated that Brant was quick-tempered and may have had “some tendency to magnify or exaggerate his current difficulties.” Dr. McClain further testified that at the time of their interview in October 2005, Brant was being prescribed Benadryl, Haldol, Pambalor, and Wellbutrin.
Dr. McClain testified that Brant stated that before the sexual battery and murder, he had consumed alcohol and had been “doing significant amounts” of crystal methamphetamine for approximately eight days and ecstasy for two days. Brant also told Dr. McClain that he had not been sleeping well before the murder. Dr. McClain explained that in people such as Brant, who already have underlying anger problems, methamphetamine use is going to make them more likely to be “[i]mpulsive or to not be able to control their anger.” Dr. McClain opined that due to Brant’s deficits in brain functioning, Brant’s capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired on July 1, 2004.
After the defense rested, the State presented a witness to rebut witness McKinney’s claim that she and Brant left college voluntarily. The State’s witness established that Brant and McKinney may have been asked to leave the school for violating the school’s policy against sexual activity among students. The State also presented a mental health expert and victim impact statements.
Specifically, Donald R. Taylor, Jr., M.D., an expert in forensic psychiatry, testified that in July 2004, Brant suffered from substance dependence disorder (primarily involving alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy, and methamphetamine), a learning disorder, and sexual sadism. Aside from rough sex with McKinney, Dr. Taylor was not aware of Brant acting violently prior to July 1, 2004. Dr. Taylor testified that during the first several days or weeks after arrest, Brant experienced symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal and that during the first several weeks or months, Brant experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression. Dr. Taylor stated that Brant was treated with psychotropic medications beginning after his arrest in July 2004 until May 2007. Dr. Taylor defined sexual sadism as a “type of sexual disorder in which somebody derives sexual arousal or pleasure from causing physical humiliation or suffering to a person that is not consenting to the sexual act.” Dr. Taylor explained that in most cases, sexual sadism arises out of a genetic predisposition and unhealthy childhood environment. Dr. Taylor testified that Brant’s childhood contained factors that can contribute to a diagnosis of sexual sadism.
Concerning the sexual battery, Dr. Taylor opined that Brant did have “a substantial impairment in his ability to conform his conduct with the requirements of the law” due to his sexual sadism and the influence of methamphetamine. Dr. Taylor explained that due to a sexual disorder, Brant had sexual impulses that were difficult for him to control and that this difficulty would have been exacerbated by the use of methamphetamine. With regard to the murder, in contrast, Dr. Taylor opined that Brant was not “substantially” impaired. He explained that there was no “similar disorder that was causing [Brant] any type of uncontrollable or difficult to control urges to kill.” Moreover, Dr. Taylor stated that Brant’s actions of preventing the victim from leaving the duplex, putting on gloves, putting the body in the tub and turning on the water, and changing clothes before leaving were not consistent with substantial impairment. Still, Dr. Taylor testified that there was “some level of impairment related to being under the influence of methamphetamines” during the murder. Dr. Taylor summarized that Brant “did have a mental disorder, which in my opinion substantially impaired his ability to refrain from committing rape but that he did not have any similar corresponding mental disorder which ․ caused a similar type of impairment in his able [sic] to refrain from committing murder.”
After conducting a hearing pursuant to Spencer v. State, 615 So.2d 688 (Fla.1993), during which McKinney testified and statements from Garrett Coleman were introduced into evidence, the trial court sentenced Brant to death for the murder, concurrent sentences of life in prison for the sexual battery, kidnapping, and burglary convictions, and a sentence of five years’ imprisonment for the grand theft conviction. The trial court found two aggravating circumstances applicable to the murder: (1) the murder was heinous, atrocious, or cruel (HAC); and (2) the capital felony was committed while engaged in the commission of a sexual battery. Each aggravating factor was given great weight. The trial court found three of the mitigating factors specifically enumerated in section 921.141(6), Florida Statutes (2007):(1) Brant had no significant history of prior criminal activity, given little weight; (2) Brant’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired, given moderate weight; and (3) Brant was thirty-nine years old at time of the offense, given little weight. The trial court also found numerous nonstatutory mitigating factors: (1) Brant is remorseful (little weight); (2) he cooperated with law enforcement officers, admitted the crimes, pleaded guilty, and waived a penalty-phase jury (moderate weight); (3) he has borderline verbal intelligence (little weight); (4) he has a family history of mental illness (little weight); (5) he is not a sociopath or psychopath and does not have antisocial personality disorder (little weight); (6) he has diminished impulse control and exhibits periods of psychosis due to methamphetamine abuse, recognized his drug dependence problem, sought help for his drug problem, and used methamphetamine before, during, and after the murder (moderate weight); (7) he has been diagnosed with chemical dependence and sexual obsessive disorder, and he has symptoms of attention deficit disorder (moderate weight); (8) he is a good father (little weight); (9) he is a good worker and craftsman (little weight); and (10) he has a reputation of being a nonviolent person (little weight).