Change of venue, bond reduction requested in Harrisburg teacher\'s death

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COLUMBIA - The man charged in the crash that killed a Harrisburg teacher in September has asked for his bond to be reduced and his case to be moved out of Boone County, according to court documents.

Brandon Brill was charged with second degree murder in the Sept. 28 crash on Route F west of Sturgeon that killed Harrisburg teacher and coach Brian Simpson.

Brill's attorney filed for a change of venue out of Boone County and a reduction of Brill's bond from $1 million.

Court documents show Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight responded to that request Monday, saying there was not a reason for a change of venue. A contested hearing was scheduled for Nov. 22, indicating the prosecution and defense do not agree on the issue.

KOMU 8 News reached out to Knight's office for clarification Tuesday, but did not receive a response.

As Brill's legal case moves forward, the cost of the September crash still lingers at Harrisburg high school.

"There's not a day goes by that we don't think of coach Simpson," said Doug Fessler, athletic director for Harrisburg R-VIII. "It will never be normal. I really don't think it will ever be normal again." 

Simpson was driving a bus with four teen girls, including at least one of Simpson's cross country runners, on board Sept. 28 when a truck crossed the median and hit the bus head-on. Simpson died at the scene. The four students had minor to serious injuries.

"It was one of the worst days of my life," Fessler said. "It was, you know, very surreal. I'll never forget the phone call that we got and, uh, you know, it's just tough to talk about. It's one of those things that you try to forget and you still ask the questions why."

Brill, who was behind the wheel of the truck that hit Simpson's bus, was driving without a valid license at the time, something he had done at least five times before.

In an interview with KOMU 8 News the week after the crash, Knight said it is a class E felony to drive without a valid license after the third time.

"As far as speculating on what exactly would have kept him off the road, I can't go into that at this point," Knight said. 

Fessler said the community at Harrisburg High School isn't worrying itself with the court case.

"The legal stuff, I'll let the justice system take care of that," Fessler said. "We're focused on the kids and the community and the students and his family, you know."

He said the students are learning from Simpson, even in his absence.

"We talk about him, we tell stories," Fessler said. "He taught us all how to be better people and now I think we're all trying to lead by his example." 

Fessler said the school plans to erect a trophy case in memory of Simpson. He said the administration plans to install it over Thanksgiving break.

"We're gonna put different things that coach had from his classroom or just some reminders from sports stuff that students have left," Fessler said.

(Editor's note: This story has been changed to more accurately reflect who was on board the bus with Simpson at the time of the crash.)