Man charged with fatal crash had pattern of illegal driving

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COLUMBIA - The man charged in a fatal crash near Harrisburg last week had at least five previous convictions for driving without a valid license, according to court documents, part of a dizzying timeline of crimes that resulted in at least two probation sentences and two incarcerations. His record raises questions about how he could have still been able to drive.

Brandon Brill was charged with felony second degree murder Monday afternoon. Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight said the hefty charge stemmed from Brill's criminal record. Knight said Brill was in the process of committing a felony when he caused the death of another person, which fits into Missouri's definition of second degree murder. 

"Under the laws of the state of Missouri, it is a class E felony to drive without a valid operator's license on the third time," Knight said.

According to the probable cause statement from the crash last Thursday, "Brill did not have a valid operator's license at the time of the crash."

It's not clear if he had an invalid license with him, or no license at all. 

But available records showing Brill drove without a valid license go back to 2010. In 2012, after at least his third offense, records show he was sentenced to 5 years probation, but it ended early, and he was sentenced to 2 years in prison in 2014. It's not clear how much of that sentence he served, if any.

Court documents suggest that he was on probation in 2013 (from the 2012 offense), when he was again sentenced to incarceration: 3 months in the Boone County Jail, according to records. But the start date listed for that sentence was August 8, 2014, two weeks after his two-year prison sentence was supposed to start. In that case, a request for the case to move forward without Brill present was filed.

In May 2014, he was again charged with operating a vehicle without a valid license, according to court documents.

In August 2016, just weeks after his two-year prison sentence would have ended, records show he was hit with drug charges and put on two years supervised probation to start that November. It's not clear if Brill was on probation at the time of Thursday's crash.

Brill's record is so extensive and confusing that it's not immediately clear when, or if, he was ever in jail or on probation. Timelines overlap, and in some cases, there is no completion date listed on probations or incarcerations.

But his record raises red flags about why Brill was on the road last Thursday afternoon when the truck he was driving crossed the median and hit a school bus with five Harrisburg cross country team members and a teacher on board. The teacher, Brian Simpson, died. His funeral was Tuesday in Columbia.

Firefighters extricated Brill from the truck he was driving, and emergency responders took him to University Hospital. When KOMU 8 News called the hospital Tuesday, a staffer said there was no patient there with the name Brandon Brill.

After prosecutors charged Brill Monday, KOMU 8 News viewers on Facebook asked questions about how the crash could have been prevented. 

"Should never have been on road!!!" wrote Charlie Harrison.

"This accident should never have happened and yet it did. May God help everyone, including the driver charged with this accident. He should never have been driving," wrote Jean Feddema Sundet.

"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, emphasizing that he was only able to talk about what was in the public record, like the probable cause statement.

According to Knight, Brill could face between 10 to 30 years or life in prison if he's convicted of felony second degree murder.

"I'm not gonna speculate at all on what sentence might eventually be imposed," Knight said. "Individuals who are charged with this crime, they can be placed on probation."

According to Knight and Boone County Detective Tom O'Sullivan, people driving without a valid license is nothing out of the ordinary.

"We have a large number of cases of individuals driving without a valid operator's license," Knight said.

While Knight and O'Sullivan didn't have exact numbers, they both said it happens frequently.

"The deterrent, hopefully is there, it's against the law," Knight said. "People should recognize you can't drive, you know, vehicles without a valid operator's license and there should be ramifications for that."

It wasn't clear Tuesday if Brill was in law enforcement custody. Knight said his office would contact the family of Brian Simpson soon.

Below is a timeline of Brill's criminal past.

Editor's note: The Boone County Jail provided KOMU 8 News with a mug shot of Brill from October 2013.