New information is being released by the father of Mackenzie Branham, the 8-year-old girl who died in an unsolved arson homicide in Jeffersonville in 2006.
Donald Branham has been searching for answers to his daughter’s death for 11 years. After 11 years of no new information on the cause of the fire, Branham said he heard in May that the clothes Mackenzie had been wearing the night of the fire were destroyed just three months into the investigation on Aug. 15, 2006, but a report was never filed.
When Branham learned in May of 2017 that the clothes had been destroyed back in 2006, he organized a protest for May 30 at the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office annex building.
“I wanted to ask why my daughter’s clothes were destroyed because you don’t destroy evidence after three months of investigation. You don’t destroy something that is relevant to the case,” said Branham. “The Montgomery County Coroner supposedly said the clothes were wet and singed and felt that there was nothing they could do with the clothes, but that’s not true because I did my own investigation of DNA and found that DNA can last 521 years, and water or any kind of solution does not destroy DNA.”
Branham said that during the protest in Washington Court House May 30, a local resident came to the protest and asked to see the reports from the coroner’s office that were filed concerning Mackenzie’s death. After reviewing the files, the woman told Branham there was much more to the story — including an additional report from the coroner that had never been filed.
Branham said he doesn’t know why the additional coroner’s report was never filed or why someone is just now coming forward with the report. He also said that at this time he does not wish to release the name of the person who gave him a copy of the report, citing privacy reasons as the investigation is still ongoing, but said this person has been an upstanding citizen working in the community for a long time.
And even though it has been 11 years since his daughter’s tragic death, Branham said he is not surprised that this old coroner’s report has surfaced.
“I did know there was another report out there because Dr. Mesker (current Fayette County coroner) mentioned to me a few years ago that there were some things missing out of Mackenzie’s file,” said Branham.
According to Branham, the Fayette County Coroner who responded to the scene of the fire at the time of Mackenzie’s death was Dr. Albert G. Gay, who has since passed away.
Branham said the newly-surfaced report is Dr. Gay’s own notes from the scene of the fire April 27, 2006 and contains new information about what happened to Mackenzie.
Branham said that the report from the coroner that he has relied on for information for 11 years provides a description of Mackenzie’s body. Branham said the newly-surfaced coroner’s report includes descriptions of the crime scene and statements from the firemen and others who responded to the fire immediately.
“What’s more important is the crime scene. You’re talking to witnesses down there, you’re supposed to do certain things at the crime scene,” said Branham.
In this newly-surfaced coroner’s report, Branham said Dr. Gay wrote a detailed description of the crime scene with some new information that Branham said he had never heard before about the involvement of the child’s mother, Mary Ann Potter Branham, and the mother’s boyfriend.
Branham said he and Mackenzie’s mother were separated and on the night of the fire, Mackenzie was at the mother’s home on Walnut Street in Jeffersonville.
According to Branham, the new information in the surfaced coroner’s report states that the mother and boyfriend’s red pick-up truck, in addition to sitting in front of the burning house with its doors open, was running. This was news to Branham.
“I already knew about the pick-up truck being in the road. I knew about the doors being open, and the mother’s cell phone on the front seat, and the firemen moving the truck out of the way so they could fight the fire. But in this newly discovered report, it says the truck was turned on and running while it was sitting in the middle of the road. It also says that the mother and the boyfriend waited 15 to 20 minutes to tell anyone that my daughter was in the house,” said Branham. “How does a mother stand on a porch across the street watching her house burning with her daughter in there, and then waits 15 to 20 minutes to tell the fire responders, ‘Oh, by the way, my child is in the house?’ You just don’t do that. I’ve talked to a lot of mothers in this town and a lot of them, the first thing out of their mouths is, ‘I would have died right along with my child,’ and the second thing they say is, ‘I would have been running and screaming and saying where my child was at,’ but neither of those things happened that night.”
Here is what the text of the coroner’s report states that has surfaced, allegedly written by Dr. Gay:
“Fireman Harper told me that when they arrived they were told that the mother was standing on a porch across the road from her home and that when the first responders to the scene arrived, her truck was outside running… The firefighter…estimates that from the time he arrived on Fire truck #3 until the time that they were informed that there was someone still inside and where they might actually be, was approximately 15 to 20 minutes.”
Branham said this new report is something that he thinks will help to solve the ongoing case. Mackenzie Branham’s body was exhumed earlier this week by officials working on the case. Branham said more testing will be conducted now with the latest technology.
“With this new DNA testing, with this new coroner’s report out, and a new detective on the case with fresh eyes, I think there are going to be answers that are going to come out of this very soon,” said Branham. “If they would have had this report after the night of the fire, they would have focused on this truck immediately. It’s a part of the crime scene. You have a truck sitting in front of a burning house, running, and so someone exited that vehicle that night. What I am hoping from this community is that someone will come forward, maybe they were walking their dog, and say that they saw who exited that truck.”
The Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the ongoing case.
A graveside memorial service will be held in honor of Mackenzie Branham Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. at Fairview Cemetery in Jeffersonville. Branham said he is inviting the entire community to come out to the event to meet him and to give thanks for all of the help that has been given to him during the investigation.
“Daisies were her favorite flowers. Her favorite colors were yellow and purple. She loved butterflies,” said Branham.
Ashley may be contacted by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton