The FAQ: The Murder of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen
What were the circumstances of Justin Bruton's death?
Justin Bruton1 vanished from sight shortly after Anastasia's murder. He was seen on security video camera buying a new shotgun at the Bullet Hole,2 a local gun shop, at around 10:30 AM on Thursday, October 23, 1997, less than seven hours after the discovery of Anastasia's body by police,3 and several hours before she would be publicly identified. He was not publicly seen alive again.Top of page
Justin's body was discovered early in the afternoon of Saturday, October 26, 1997, by the Johnson County Sheriff's Department, behind an unoccupied warehouse outside of DeSoto, Kansas.4 From evidence taken at the scene, he was judged to have died very early that morning or late the night before. He had been killed by a shotgun slug that was fired from just below his head. The Johnson County Pathologist ruled Justin's death a "Probable Suicide".
There is some dispute at this. Justin Bruton's family commissioned a private investigator to independently investigate, and found several issues with the Sheriff Department's handling of the case. We cannot publish the report owing to matters of privacy, but the basic facts of the report were that the Sheriff's Deputy who found Justin's body was there to investigate a report of an abandoned car (Justin's was found parked in front of the building), and discovered Justin's body behind the building (reportedly while stepping to the back of the building to relieve himself); this was the officer's first experience with a violent death. The officer quickly (if unintentionally) tainted the scene of the shooting by moving the body and weapon, and trampling the grass near the body. The Sheriff's Department was loathe to admit the errors and ruled Justin's death a "Probable Suicide", helping bury its own errors, along with a possible crime.
Among the information unearthed by the P.I. was that Justin's vehicle had been parked facing the road, with both the driver's side and passenger's side doors ajar. While not proof of anything in itself, it was out of character with Justin's supposed intent of just pulling in somewhere and killing himself; he parked his car as if he were watching for someone else, as if he were waiting for someone. Justin's eyeglasses (without which he could not have driven) and his backpack were missing from his person, his car, and his condo. The police hypothesized that such items might have been stolen from his car as it sat there abandoned, though CDs and other valuables had been left undisturbed.
Where Justin stayed between the time he was seen buying the shotgun and when he died is a mystery as well. Justin did not return to his condo any time after late-morning October 23rd, and he could have been traced had he stayed at a hotel, especially with a police alert seeking him as a person of interest in the case. He did not know many others outside of Byron Case's circle of friends, and it is probable that he stayed with him at Case's father's house in Kansas City, Kansas.
Do we know for certain that Justin did not commit suicide? No, we do not. Do we know for certain that he DID commit suicide? Again, the answer is no. Even the official finding was that his death was a Probable Suicide. At least one of the killer's supporters claims that it is "an indisputable fact" that Justin committed suicide; they are not simply incorrect, they are ignoring the evidence and lying about the matter.
So it remains a mystery where Justin stayed and whom he saw on that final night of his life, whether or not he actually took his own life, and if so, why he chose to do so. The information available, however, says loudly and clearly that on the morning of October 23, Justin indisputably knew that Anastasia had been murdered the night before.
Kelly Moffett testified that after Justin had been found dead, Byron Case decided to plant information with the Sheriff's Department that would implicate Justin or at least muddy the issue.5 During the trial, one of the defense witnesses offered testimony that Justin has tried to obtain a gun a few weeks before the murder,6 but upon cross-examination had to concede that he had not shared such information with police when he spoke to them just nine days after the murder, but volunteered the information for the trial.7 He could not offer an explanation for what seemed to be strategic withholding of information.8
Since Byron Case's conviction, some of his supporters have directly stated that they believe Justin Bruton murdered Anastasia, or even more fantastically, that he killed her as part of a bizarre suicide pact. They do this despite the fact that they can offer no evidence to support such claims, and have been unable or unwilling to explain away the evidence already available that rebuts such claims.9