Let’s talk about Brandon Embry. On Sept. 12, 2019, Brandon Embry, 33, was found by his mother and sister in his Asheboro, North Carolina apartment clinging to life. The scene was as if a grenade had gone off and Brandon threw himself upon it: Brandon was stripped of his clothes, items were strewn about, the bathtub was overflowing, the toilet cover was snapped in half, his blood was in various spots throughout the apartment, a few doors were literally torn from their hinges and Brandon looked as if he had taken the full brunt of that grenade; his eyes were blackened, he had bruises all over body, including his spine and legs, and other blunt-force object injuries, as well as purportedly defensive wounds on his hands (according to the nurses who treated him). And weirdly, there was also blood found in his truck and not merely a drop or so. No, not an amount where you go, “Maybe he had a nosebleed while driving.” There was blood on the passenger carpet, the driver’s side, the backseat and the decal.
Brandon would die from his injuries 24 hours later.
All of this I learned listening to the Wondery podcast, The Generation Why Podcast, hosted by Aaron and Justin, two friends. The episode is here, if you want to listen before continuing.
Created in 2012, I’m only just now hearing about the podcast from my sister-in-law. They are two normal dudes who shoot the crap about unsolved murders, controversies, mysteries, conspiracies and true crime, like the case of Brandon Embry. They’re not experts in any way and they make me wonder why I didn’t start such a podcast.
Nonetheless, in the first paragraph, what I described sounds like a crime scene, right? At minimum, it raises suspicions to understand what happened and what led to the apparent disarray. According to Brandon Embry’s mother, Sarah, who has spearheaded actually trying to answer the “why” and “how” of it all, one of the cops on the scene that day told her something like, “It looks like he freaked out on meth.” What?!
If true, and yes, I will caveat that with an “if” and emphasis, that is legitimately mind-blowing. That members of the Asheboro Police Department’s first impression of that scene would be a meth-fueled rager. And that ridiculous first impression was, of course, debunked by the toxicology report, which found only Benadryl in Brandon’s system. No meth. They later tried to argue perhaps it was some sort of synthetic marijuana in his system. In 2019 (at the time), let’s dispense with such silly reefer madness, okay?
The coroner later identifies Brandon’s cause of death as complications from pneumonia and rationalizes that the pneumonia could have made him disoriented and that’s what explains the mess in the apartment. Yes, you read that correctly. Pneumonia.
The case is closed because it’s pneumonia; no foul play suspected. At least, the case seems closed because they don’t suspect foul play, but other news reports suggest the Asheboro police are still investigating. In fact, the same report I linked said they aren’t ruling out the possibility of a suicide. My understanding of suicides is that suicides are never this messy or chaotic, so I would find that odd.
As Aaron and Justin note, though, Brandon’s girlfriend at the time, Cassandra Welch, seems … suspicious in that one of her first questions to Sarah was apparently to ask if he was cremated or not. Which, we later learn he was and that, I don’t get. If Sarah thought his death was suspicious, why did she create him? Aaron and Josh rightly point out later that that makes it impossible, obviously, to do a second autopsy to get a second opinion on his death.
Then, we learn that Cassandra’s story about how she found about Brandon’s death appears to be a lie. She said she learned about it from a neighbor at the apartment complex and nearly had a meltdown then and there. Instead, the neighbor said Cassandra was matter-of-fact about it, “Okay, thank you,” and left. Now, something I always point out in these true crime scenarios: You can’t judge how someone reacts to something unthinkable. You can’t judge someone in their grief. On its face, “Okay, thank you,” as a reaction isn’t suspicious. But if you combine it with the other items, then that reaction does become suspicious.
Also of note from the podcast is that Sarah suspects someone attempted to clean up. It looked as if somebody had used a spray bottle and a generic Walmart brand of bleach was also found.
One of the questions I have is this. Let’s say this was indeed a murder. Brandon was killed. It certainly couldn’t have been the case that he was killed by Cassandra directly. It would have to be a murder-for-hire plot, I would think. Why? Because Brandon was a Navy veteran. He was six feet tall. And by the way the apartment looked, he was thrown around the room (or engaged in a fight) with somebody of equal or bigger size.
If you’re squeamish, I do not recommend clicking on this link to see the photos of the apartment and of Brandon, but holy heck, I don’t understand how you couldn’t suspect foul play in this case? How could these injuries be self-inflicted? And/or a suicide? And that amount of blood all over the apartment is astounding. Again, to me, it suggests a heck of a struggle and Brandon fighting for his life against someone. Or maybe more than one person, given Brandon’s size and Navy background.
Finally, another weird wrinkle to all of this is that Sarah believes Brandon was potentially poisoned. The reason for that is because after Valentine’s Day in 2019, about seven months before his death, he was admitted to the ER for vomiting, respiratory distress and eventually ending up on dialysis. None of which the doctors could explain. Sarah and others have said the poisoning symptoms seem akin to poisoning someone with antifreeze. According to my Googling, those symptoms he expressed are similar: vomiting, dizziness, confusion and so on. The third stage of untreated antifreeze is also kidney failure. Its comparable to being overly intoxicated, essentially. So, yikes. That matches up pretty well.
Something Aaron and Justin are bewildered by is that the coroner classified the bruising and cuts to Brandon as “superficial.” But I think they are taking that as the layman’s term rather than what a coroner might mean by that. My understanding is that bruises and cuts are considered superficial because it’s impacting the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. Even when you’re bleeding, the wound itself can be considered superficial when the wound exists close to the surface of the skin. So, I didn’t think that part was particularly odd. I think it’s the confusion over what a laymen, like Aaron and Josh (and myself, obviously), might think “superficial” means and what a medical examiner would think when writing a report of his or her findings.
We return back to the why and the how. The “how” seems to indicate some sort of altercation occurred between Brandon and an unknown number of assailants, whether it was one, two or more than that. Again, I have hard time believing Cassandra acting alone and perhaps even an additional person helping, could have manhandled Brandon in this manner. Then again, if he was being slowly poisoned by Cassandra, as insinuated by the Valentine’s Day incident, perhaps he was in a weakened position to defend himself?
What’s less clear is the “why.” Let’s say Cassandra did a murder-for-hire plot and/or was slowly poisoning Brandon over time with antifreeze. And then, once he was weakened or she figured it was taking too long to do it that way, she had him killed. Why? She was only a girlfriend, so it’s not as if she stood to gain a big life insurance payout, as is sometimes a motive in such matters. Is she just a pathological liar, as insinuated in the podcast, which is apiece with sociopathic behavior and she preyed on Brandon just because?
Or is she completely innocent and while perhaps a pathological liar and a bit cuckoo, someone else harmed Brandon? Something stemming from his time in the Navy? Something unrelated? Something random (more rare)?
And I return back to the truck. That might be the most confusing aspect of this whole confusing story. Whether somehow self-inflicted or a murder, what explains all the blood found in Brandon’s truck? I don’t even have a theory as to how that happened.
This is one of the most befuddling true crime stories I’ve ever heard and would be befitting of the revamped Unsolved Mysteries. If you’ve listened to this podcast episode or are otherwise familiar with the case, I welcome your reaction to my thoughts and your theories.