Was young Airman's death a tragic accident or murder?
Robert "Robbie" Walters and Brittney Brashers
A car crash leaves a young Iraq veteran dead, but her boyfriend alive. The crash didn't kill her, what did? Susan Spencer reports.
Produced by Gail Zimmerman
The call to Barry Brashers' Illinois home was the call parents dread the most. It was about his daughter, Brittney.
"I got a phone call in the middle of the night -- 2:00 in the morning," Brashers said. "A traffic officer had said that -- Brittney had been in a wreck...And-- told me that I should go to the hospital."
That hospital was half a continent away in Denver, so he got the terrible news long distance.
"Talked to the doctor, and he told me that we-- that she was no longer with us," said Barry Brashers.
Brittney's brother, John, was there with his dad.
"Honestly, we both just kind of sat there. Like -- I know I couldn't cry. Like that night, I couldn't. I was just in so much shock. Like, there's no way it's actually happened," he said.
They learned someone else also was in the car: Brittany's one-time boyfriend, Robbie Walters, who, miraculously, survived the wreck unhurt. Barry had met him - once -- and was not impressed.
"...guys come and go," Brashers told Spencer. "I'll be honest. I don't even remember one word Robbie said."
"And did she ever say anything about, you know, 'Dad, I really like this guy? I really think this guy is--" Spencer asked.
"No, but she wouldn't have said that to me."
Brittney didn't tell her father much about her personal life. He says she always had confided in her mom. A vibrant woman who shared her passion for the outdoors, her mother died of cancer when Brittney was 17.
"What was the impact of her death?" Spencer asked John Brashers.
"It affected Brittney the most...they were best friends. They did everything together. Talked about everything," he said.
She took it hard and began running with a crowd that, in her father's eyes, partied a bit too much. He was thrilled when, at age 20, Brittney suddenly signed up for the Air Force.
"...she really needed -- the discipline. The part of being a part of something," Barry Brashers told Spencer.
"So you felt this would give her some direction."
"And she seemed committed to it?"
"Oh, absolutely," he said.
Retired Master Sgt. Art Figeroa was her boss at the Air Force dental lab in Colorado Springs where Brittany was a technician.
"She was one of our top performers and that's how I looked at her," he explained. "She loved what she did. I mean, she -- she helped people out. ...she was easy to like and everybody liked her."
In February 2009, Brittney was deployed to Iraq and assigned to non-combat security. She ended up spending a lot of time with a cute Airman from southern California named Robbie Walters.
"She had so much energy. She was such a free spirit and -- amazing girl," Walters told Spencer.
"But you pretty much immediately clicked."
"Yeah, right away, right away. She was all smiles every time I talked to her," he said.
Brittney's best friend, Tiffany Peeples, watched the relationship grow.
"My impression of him was, you know, this is a really -- he's a funny guy. He always has to be, you know, the clown," she said.
But Brittney was not amused when she learned that Robbie was married. No problem, he told her, it was a marriage in name only.
"Going to Iraq -- they give you family separation pay. They give you all these -- this incentive to get married, like these -- this extra pay and so many--" said Walters.
"So that's the only reason you got married?" Spencer asked.
"That's the main reason I got married," Walters replied.
"And Brittney believed that?"
"That was -- there was no reason for her to believe any -- anything-- anything else," he said.
That July, fun-loving Walters' disciplinary problems got him kicked out of the service with a less-than-honorable discharge.
After a four-month stint in Iraq, Brittney returned to the Air Force dental lab in Colorado. Walters was right behind her.
"...it was all good for probably a month, and then -- Brittney went from being this vibrant girl to just -- and bein' this superstar Airman to just showin' up to work late, wanting, you know, calling in sick," Peeples explained. "Just kinda pushing everybody out of her life."
Everyone, that is, except Robbie Walters.
"I started to really dislike Robbie," said Peeples.
Asked what kinds of things was he doing, Peeples told Spencer, "He would do crazy things like park her car in the middle of a -- you know, of a four lane in traffic with her in the passenger seat, take the keys out and run with her sitting there in the car."
Walters denies ever doing that, but contrary to all his assurances, his marital status was a problem. Adultery is a serious offense in the military and Brittney's boss found out about the marriage.
"When you looked into it, what did you discover?" Spencer asked Figeroa.
"We had a nice conversation," he explained. "I said, '...I understand if you guys have feelings for each other. Fine.' I said, 'But let this situation with his wife play out...and when he's away from her, they're divorced, and then maybe you can pursue a relationship. But anytime in between now and then,' I said, 'it's not legal so I -- I suggest you not do that.'"
Still, the affair continued -- on and off.
"It was always the same thing. 'I want to get out of this relationship. It's not good for me.' But just in a matter of a couple days, they would be back together," Peeples said. "...and I asked her a hundred times, 'Why are you doing this to yourself?' And it was, 'I love him. I love him.'"
Then, on Oct. 24, 2009, just eight months after they'd met, an overheated argument outside Brittney's home turned into a physical fight. Brittney ended up with bruises and Robbie ended up with a few days in jail.
Master Sgt. Figeroa issued a formal "no contact" order. Now, if Brittney saw Robbie again, the Air Force could kick her out.
"...and she had told me that she had broken up with Robbie," Peeples said. "He was coming to get his stuff, he was movin' back to California. ...she was completely done with him. She was ready to move on."
Three weeks later, Brittney -- always an athlete -- had a new passion: Football. She signed up to play in an all-female league. The night before her team's photo shoot, Robbie sent her a text begging to see her just one more time.
"He knew her weaknesses. They were close enough to where he knew what to say, what button to push to get them to meet up," Figeroa said. "...I think she loved him enough where...she would honor when he said, 'This one time.' And then everything would be OK."
She could not have been more wrong.
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