On July 13, 2003, a pink Monte Carlo pulled into the driveway of the Bryant household, located near Rochester, New York. In the driver's seat sat a young woman, Cassidy Green, while Cyril Winebrenner—armed with Cassidy’s monogrammed rifle—headed inside.
They killed 26-year-old Tabatha Bryant that night, but while Cyril did the deed and Cassidy drove the getaway car, there was a third party with blood on their hands. Tabatha’s husband, a lawyer named Kevin, had given the pair their mission—promising thousands of dollars in return. While his children slept and his wife was shot and stabbed in the living room, Kevin was allegedly upstairs...reading.
At the time, Kevin Bryant was practically the age of his wife’s mother. A city boy at heart, he first noticed a teenage Tabatha—a small-town girl with blonde hair—at the church they both attended. Their paths crossed again when Tabatha, then newly married, moved to Rochester with her husband, Arnold Martin. Kevin pounced—offering Tabatha not just his friendship, but a job at his law firm.
Being in such close proximity, and with Tabatha's worsening marital problems, their professional relationship evolved into something more. After one year, Tabatha filed for divorce, and the proceedings were overseen by Kevin himself. Soon, she was no longer just his client or his employee—she was his wife, to have and to hold.
But though Kevin was a small, sickly man—he’d suffered a heart condition all his life—his health never stopped him from wanting to have and to hold as much as he could. He loved cocaine and women, though his own extramarital affairs didn't soften the blow of Tabatha's eventual infidelity. When he discovered his wife had strayed, Kevin wanted more than just simple revenge—he wanted blood. Enter Cassidy and Cyril, whose connections to their target only heightened the heinousness of the crime they agreed to commit.
In Betrayal in Blood, author Michael Benson recounts the murder of Tabatha Bryant, and how her husband almost escaped, scot-free. The following excerpt takes us to the night of the crime, just after Kevin’s unsettlingly calm 9-1-1 call. Though he claims innocence, police turn to the blood, which hints at a much different story...
Read on for an excerpt of Betrayal in Blood, and then download the book.
By 12:02 A.M., Monroe County sheriff’s deputies were on their way to 2 Pennicott Circle in Penfield in response to Kevin Bryant’s 911 call. Jacqueline Sanabria kept Kevin talking on his cordless phone until sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Bryant home. Only then did she allow the strangely calm man to break the connection. It was approximately 12:08 A.M.
Deputies, noting that there was no walk, crossed the lawn and came into the house through the front door. Straight ahead was a hallway that led to the kitchen. Looking to the left, they saw the minimally decorated living room. The living-room rug was whorehouse red, a strange choice, some of the deputies thought. There, they discovered Tabatha on the fold-out couch. She was dead—both shot and stabbed. First job: get the family out of the house.
Kevin called his parents, who came over immediately to pick up the two Bryant boys. Sheriff’s deputies sealed the house. Crime scene investigators (CSI) arrived and began the long process of going over every square inch of the home. Within minutes the quiet semicircle street was lined on both sides by official vehicles, some with lights flashing. By this time all of the other residents of Pennicott Circle were out on their lawns. Something had happened at the lawyer’s house. No one had heard the popping of the champagne cork.
Kevin wanted to leave with his dad and the boys, but he had to remain behind. Leaving was out of the question. He was going to need to answer just a few questions. Kevin followed a sheriff’s deputy out of the house through the garage. Barefoot and still in his blue T-shirt and plaid shorts, Kevin stood out in the driveway. Two deputies accompanied him, one on either side. One of them was Deputy Bridget Davis, a six-year patrol deputy. A systematic grilling of the husband began. The neighbors could see him clearly, the little guy—clear as day out there, with the full moon. Although there were no streetlights on the tract, additional light came from the streetlights and headlights on the nearby main road.
Kevin must have felt like he was in a spotlight. He answered the deputies patiently, but from time to time, he would have to excuse himself in the middle of a question or an answer so he could fold over at the waist and convulse with dry heaves. For three hours he stood there, answering question after question.
In the meantime, inside the house, there was also the occasional sound of retching. Even the hardened members of law enforcement, used to seeing the more unpleasant manifestations of society’s underbelly, were shocked by what they saw in the living room of the Bryant house.
The young blonde was still on the bed—actually the couch that had been pulled out into a bed. She was on her back, her face now a ghastly mask of blood. She had been stabbed repeatedly, including, most noticeably, in the neck, where there was a gaping, and still frothing, wound.
Those scientists of the county sheriff’s office paid particular attention to locations near the house’s several sources of running water—bathroom sink and tub, both upstairs and downstairs, kitchen sink, and the outlet for the garden hose at the back of the house. Blood in these areas would indicate that the killer or killers had made an attempt to wash themselves up before fleeing. At this early stage, investigators knew that the husband had called the crime in, and that he claimed the killer or killers had fled before he could get down the stairs to see who they were.
If blood had been found on or near the house’s drains and faucets, it would have been an indication that more time had passed between the crime and the phone call than had been indicated by the husband’s statements.
Of course, from a police mind-set, just the fact that the victim’s husband had reported the crime was suspicious. Add to that the fact that he was offering a seemingly unlikely scenario—attempted burglary, or was it a breaking-and-entering boyfriend? Whatever, it turned—just like that—into savage homicide, on an ultraquiet suburban street.
Deputies doubted right off that Tabatha’s killer was a stranger. Whoever did that to her cared. Maybe it was love, maybe hate, maybe a combo—but he or she cared. There were real feelings involved.
It was a hot-blooded crime. For experienced law enforcement, these things raised the red flag.
After three hours in his driveway, in his shorts, retching every now and again, Kevin Bryant was put into a sheriff’s car and taken to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Downtown Rochester. There, his interrogation continued.
Back at Pennicott Circle, the fingerprint experts came in and did their thing, dusting all of the surfaces. Those who lived in the house, including the victim, would need to be fingerprinted so that those prints could be matched against those found by the investigators. They were interested in prints that didn’t match the family members. No matter how sure the investigators might have felt at that early hour that the victim’s husband had at least something to do with the death of his young and pretty wife, they knew that fingerprints were not going to help their case. Kevin Bryant’s fingerprints could have been found on every surface of every room in the entire house and it would have been evidence of nothing. He lived there. Fingerprints could help exonerate Kevin; they couldn’t convict him.
Of course, any blood found near the drains would have been evidence that Kevin’s scenario wasn’t true, but it might not have been evidence that he was the killer. It might have been simply a case of cowardice.
The splatter patterns told a story.
There was also a wound to Tabatha’s right eye. As it turned out, her largest wound was in the back of her head, the exit wound, but that wasn’t apparent at first.
The attack had been horrifically violent. Blood had splattered in all directions, onto the lamp shade of a nearby table lamp, on the walls—in particular, the north wall—on the ceiling, and onto the blades of a ceiling fan overhead. The splatter, experts surmised, was probably caused mostly by the knife attack. The throat wound looked like it might have severed the jugular. That would have caused a rhythmically squirting wound. The killer had been frenzied and had stabbed the victim many times in a short period of time. The violent pulling out of the knife after each stab and the raising of the knife for the next stab was what sent blood flying onto the ceiling fan.
The medical examiner would later determine that Tabatha had been shot once in the eye and stabbed fourteen times in the neck and upper body. Semen was found on her body.
Crime scene investigators went over the entire home, square inch by square inch. To the right after entering the front door, you went into a small room. Deputies could tell by the scattering of toys that this was a playroom for the kids. Connected to that was the dining room, which went along that side of the house on the bottom. Also, to the right of the living room was another hallway that led to a small bathroom and to a door that led to the garage. Behind the living room was the kitchen, which provided access to the backyard deck through the sliding glass door. Just inside the front door, a little bit to the left, was the flight of stairs that led to the house’s upper level. At the head of the stairs, a right-hand turn took you into the master bedroom, where Kevin said he had been reading. Pretty much straight across from the head of the stairs was the upstairs bathroom. To the left was the kids’ bedroom, a spare bedroom, and a third bedroom, which had been converted into an office. Once the house was cleared of the Bryants, the deputies checked every room for evidence.
The crime scene investigators who arrived at the murder scene knew one axiom to be true: the truth can often be found in the blood. And that didn’t just mean determining how much blood there was, or to whom a drop of blood evidence originally belonged. The matter of where the blood was, and how it was arranged, tended to paint an accurate picture as well.
It was true, killers frenzied enough to cause this kind of mess were often careless enough to cut themselves, leaving their own blood evidence at crime scenes. But puzzles were also solved by analyzing the manner in which the blood had splashed. The splatter patterns told a story.
In addition to the mess in the living room, the only obvious blood were the droplets that led down the hall and across the kitchen. It appeared the killer had been dripping blood as he or she made an immediate exit from the house.
The CSI personnel were used to searching carpets for bloodstains, but that was going to be harder than usual in this case because of the crimson rug.
Each speck of blood had to be identified by location and tested for type. If a second type of blood was found, there was a chance it could be matched later with an accused killer’s. Investigators checked to see if there was evidence of ejaculation elsewhere, first in the living room, and then in the rest of the house. They looked carefully for specks of blood elsewhere in the house. A quick scan of the house told them that most of the blood was in the living room, although there were several drops on the flowered linoleum floor of the kitchen, which turned out to belong to the victim.
Kevin Bryant was a small man—indeed, one of the smaller men that the members of law enforcement at the scene had seen in some time. He was the sort of man who would have had a lifelong vulnerability to physical threats from men and verbal barbs from women—the sort of man who would compensate, try to achieve power in other ways. Because of his size, it was easy to imagine him as less than courageous in moments of danger—such as when there was an intruder in the house with a gun. Perhaps he had waited until the killer or killers had left the house before he went downstairs, waiting upstairs even as the killers cleaned up. And perhaps now Kevin was afraid to admit to that because he didn’t want to expose his cowardice, a weakness theoretically displayed as the life of his wife and the mother of his children hung in the balance.
If the husband had killed his wife, apparently with both a gun and a knife, he would have gotten bloody. There was no indication that Kevin had blood on him at the time sheriff’s deputies first responded to his 911 call.
If Kevin Bryant had done it, he’d had some major cleaning up to do. The search went on, in and around the house, for a pile or bag of bloody clothes that someone might have changed out of and dumped. Except for the mess in the living room—the victim’s blood splattered outward from the point of attack—and the spot of blood on the kitchen floor, no blood was found in the house—not even near cleanup spots, the various sources of running water.
The only thing suspicious the crime scene investigators found was in a garbage can outside, there was a pair of latex surgical gloves, the kind that come out of a box—perfect for a murderer to wear if he or she didn’t want to leave fingerprints. They found DNA evidence in the form of skin cells on those gloves.
Law enforcement gave the house the once-over and there was nothing immediately recognizable at the crime scene that would throw doubt onto Kevin’s story—nothing except for the fact that it didn’t quite make sense.
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