A cold-case trial was set to begin today, but late last week, the family of Marsha Brantley, who was reported missing in 2009, decided to drop the case for now so investigators could continue to collect evidence and information.
Donnie Ray Brantley has been freed from the charge of first-degree murder, according to Paul Rush, who took over prosecution of the case recently after assistant District Attorney General Stephen Hatchett left the District Attorney General’s Office to seek election.
“There are more people coming forward with information and the family of Marsha Brantley approached us to discuss dropping the charge at this time,” Rush said.
Medra Justis, Marsha Brantley’s aunt, said family members got together and discussed the case and the possibility of new evidence.
“We don’t know what any evidence might be, but we felt the case was moving to trial quickly and we decided it would be better for the district attorney’s office and Sheriff’s Office, to give them more time. We feel this is not over by any means,” said Justis.
Judge Amy Reedy granted the dismissal of the charge at the family’s request, according to Rush, who had met with and discussed the request with District Attorney General Steve Bebb.
Donnie Brantley was arrested in August 2013, after a grand jury indictment. He was represented by attorney Joe Hoffer.
He told investigators Marsha had left him and was planning a divorce, according to investigative reports from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
According to reports from investigators, Donnie Brantley moved to Kingston, Ga., into a travel trailer, sometime after his wife disappeared.
Marsha Brantley was a graduate of Lee University and had also worked there.
Marsha was 52 when she allegedly left her husband and was seeking a divorce, according to Donnie Brantley’s statement to investigators.
Investigators believe she disappeared in early June 2009.
Later in the fall, family and friends began to contact officials regarding her disappearance. The TBI asked the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in 2011.
Investigators learned Donnie Brantley abandoned the couple’s home and took the travel trailer to Georgia.
Jana Wills and Medra Justis, along with other family members, spearheaded a search for information into Marsha’s disappearance.
The family was able to retain the Brantley home through court action after attorney James Logan filed paperwork.
In Logan’s complaint seeking control of the property, he stated, “the defendant (Donnie Brantley) who was her husband, had and continues to embark upon a course of lies, deceit and misrepresentation.”
Logan’s complaint also said Donnie Brantley has given inconsistent statements regarding his wife’s disappearance and “... has asserted falsehoods regarding the circumstances surrounding her death and disappearance.”
Logan said today the declaratory judgment civil case is set for June.