Racheyl Smith Brinson was having problems in her marriage. Steve Brinson was allegedly an abusive husband. There were rumors that Steve was once again cheating on Racheyl. Witnesses report having seen bruises on Racheyl, and police were called many times out to their home to address domestic disturbances. Steve and Racheyl had a toddler; Racheyl had hoped having a child would fix their marriage, according to witnesses.
On Sunday, November 25th, 2001, Racheyl told at least three people that she was going to tell Steve that she wanted a divorce. He had been staying at their campsite at the Mumford Island Hunting Club in Woodbine, GA. She dropped their son off at her mother's house at 2:40 PM that day. She planned to go hunting at the club, and to confront her husband.
Steve Brinson's Story
After sighting in their guns, Steve's story is that they went out to hunt together. They had each had been drinking beer. He went to his tree stand, and she went to hers. At about 6:00PM, he said, he went to go find Racheyl at her stand. He found her body lying face down at the foot of a different stand; one that hunters had stopped using years before because it was deemed unsafe.
According to Steve, he called 911 and then called out on the radio for help. A friend responded to the scene. Steve stated that he began CPR as instructed by 911. When EMTs arrived, they took over CPR. They never revived her.
The Camden County Coroner, L.W. Bruce, ruled Racheyl Brinson's death and accident. Officially, she died of blunt force head trauma due to falling from a tree stand, complicated by a high blood alcohol level. An autopsy was performed by Dr. Lora Darrisaw. No photographs or radiographs were taken by the medical examiner. She later admitted that had she known about the domestic abuse, she would have performed a more detailed investigation. But, she stated, because the coroner told her Racheyl had fallen from a tree stand, she just went with that.
No thorough investigation into Racheyl's death was done by the Camden County Sheriff's department. The Sheriff at the time, Bill Smith, was related to Steve Brinson; they were cousins. Sheriff Smith was known to have protected Steve Brinson, according to witnesses.
According to Steve Brinson, Racheyl was found face down on top of her rifle. The rifle, according to him, was under her right shoulder. There's no mention of any bruising on Racheyl's shoulder, or anywhere else on her body. Curiously, Racheyl's pants were unsnapped and unzipped. EMTs all stated that they did not do that. According to them, they would cut clothing off if it were necessary.
Racheyl sustained a fracture to her skull that extended from right to left through the right and left petrous bones. Her right clavicle was fractured, and there were multiple rib fractures on the right side.
There wasn't evidence under Racheyl's nails to suggest that she tried to grab onto anything as she fell. Add in the fact that there wasn't any bruising from the rifle, and many witnesses don't believe Racheyl fell from the stand.
Further, multiple witnessed report that they overheard Steve Brinson tell his father, "Pop, I really f***ed up this time." Another witness stated they overheard Steve say to his father, "I really f***ed up!"
The theory that has been reported to me by multiple witnesses is that Steve and Racheyl Brinson got into a heated argument at their camp. Presumably, Racheyl told Steve that she wanted a divorce. He became enraged, as he frequently did according to witnesses. As she turned to talk away, he grabbed her by the top of her jeans, and swung her around violently into a tree. The force unsnapped and unzipped her jeans. She struck the tree with her right side, fracturing her skull, clavicle, and ribs. She was knocked unconscious.
Not know what to do, according to the theory, Steve took Racheyl's lifeless body, and staged it at the bottom of an unsafe tree stand. He then dialed 911.