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Brandon Chad BruceBut cops caution cause of death still unknown
Brandon Chad Bruce may have been murdered – and the car he was found in may have been deliberately set on fire, according to a search warrant filed in Fluvanna County Circuit Court.
Firefighters discovered Bruce’s body in a blazing car around 1 a.m. on July 3. But how he got there remains a mystery.
The day after Bruce’s death Fluvanna investigators cited his possible murder as grounds for a search warrant. They also referenced the “illegal burning or destroying of personal property” – or arson – of the 1995 Lexus in which Bruce was found.
The warrant gave authorities permission to search for all “mobile phone and text transmissions sent and received, including tower locations, as well as all text message content” for Bruce’s cell phone on the days leading up to his death.
With access to his cell phone transmissions on July 2 and July 3, authorities hope to locate “possible witnesses/suspects and…help track Bruce’s movements” in the hours before his death, according to an affidavit to the warrant.
Though the warrant refers to murder and arson, Sheriff Eric Hess is withholding judgment on what actually happened. “Until we get anything back from the medical examiner we can’t say what the cause of death was,” he told the Fluvanna Review. “We have to wait on the autopsy and the toxicology, the blood, the coloration of the skin, and all that stuff. It all plays together. So we can’t make that determination before the results come back, and it could be a while – even weeks.”
The search warrant revealed that Bruce, 34, of Palmyra, lived in the house on Rising Sun Road where the car fire occurred. The car was parked just off the driveway in the backyard, exactly where the homeowner said he had left it. Bruce’s body was discovered in the driver’s seat.
At a press conference on July 4, Lt. David R. Wells told reporters that the intensity of the fire made it hard to tell if there was any trauma to Bruce’s body. “It’s just an extreme oddity,” he said of the circumstances surrounding Bruce’s death. “You can see how odd it is.”
Evidence suggests a car struck and snapped a mailbox post near the house, ran into a ditch, and then left. Investigators are unsure if that incident is related to Bruce’s death but are investigating.