Dustin William Russell was found guilty of second degree murder on Thursday following a four-day trial in the 2018 shooting and death of Brentwood resident, Clark Cable, who was killed in his Dozier Court home on his 25th birthday.
Russell, who was 23 at the time of the shooting, was also found guilty of four counts of reckless endangerment, and was found not guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. The second degree murder charge was a lesser included charge for the death of Cable.
The jury returned the unanimous verdict after nearly five hours of deliberation in the case that saw Russell fire 15 shots into the Brentwood home in what the defense argued was Russell’s attempt to “scare” the occupants and “protect” his girlfriend and co-defendant, Lyndsey Grace Bronston. Bronston was an 18-year-old at the time and a sex worker in Nashville.
Jury selection took up most of the day on Monday, and at the start of Tuesday's trial hearing, Bronston briefly took the stand where she invoked her fifth amendment right against self-incrimination which ended her participation in the trial.
Bronston is set to face trial at a to-be-determined date on charges of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, reckless endangerment, discharging a firearm into an occupied habitation, tampering with evidence and three counts of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, jurors listened to testimony from numerous law enforcement officials from the Brentwood Police Department and Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department, as well as forensic experts from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and a Davidson County Medical Examiner employee, Cable’s mother and father, who were present at the shooting scene, and Russell’s mother.
The jury watched more than an hour of video footage that was recorded by the Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department during an interview with Russell and several conversations between Russell and Bronston after they were arrested by Arizona police on Dec. 13, 2018, 10 days after the fatal shooting in Brentwood.
The jury also heard the 911 call made by Cable’s mother, and a short video clip from a home security camera was shown to the jury which captured an audio recording of the shooting.
That video recorded 15 gunshots within 3.5 seconds, shots that resulted in at least five rounds that hit the Brentwood home, with one of those rounds striking 25-year-old Clark Cable and killing him within seconds.
Russell, who was dressed in a suit and tie each day of the trial, sat quiet and with little emotion throughout much of the week, and as the verdict was read and his family wiped tears from their eyes.
Numerous members of the Cable family also sat throughout the trial, at times in tears as they recounted the son and brother they lost.
Russell's sentencing date has not yet been determined, but in Tennessee, the penalty for second degree murder, a Class A felony, is between 15 and 60 years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING
On the night of Dec. 3, 2018, the family of four had just returned home from a Nashville Predators hockey game where they cheered the Preds onto a 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabers.
The tickets were a surprise birthday gift from Cable’s mother, and he was given the opportunity to take his friends or his family. “My son loved his family … so he took his family,” his mother said between tears. “The Preds won for his birthday.”
Cable’s sister was attending college in Chattanooga studying for finals week before the approaching holiday break, so she didn’t attend the game with her parents and two brothers and was not in the home at the time of the shooting.
Both Cable’s mother and father said that Cable was having fun, but was distracted during the game, frequently checking his phone, and took a brief phone call on their way home from the game in which he appeared to be speaking with a woman.
Cable and his father were very close, but it was his mother, Keri Cable, who started to have him open up that night.
Cable detailed how he had been texting with a girl that he had taken out for a “date” who was now accusing Cable of trying to “set her up” and that she was “coming after” him.
As far as Cable knew, this girl was named “Kacey,” but upon Googling her phone number, Cable saw a different name associated with the number— Lyndsey Bronston.
Cable did not tell his mother that Bronston was actually a sex worker who he had met with on one prior occasion or that she had been looking up information about his family.
His mother was concerned, but Cable eventually assured her that everything was going to be okay and Cable went upstairs.
Cable’s mom described her caring son as an “open book” who “wore his heart on his sleeve” who before going upstairs kissed her goodnight, and saying, “I love you, mommy.”
“He never grew out of calling me mommy,” she told the jury.
Cable’s father, Stephen Cable, was checking the house for the night when he saw a vehicle drive up and park in the cul-de-sac which meet’s the home’s driveway at the end of Dozier Court, with the glow of a cell phone coming from the cab.
“I think Clark’s friends are here,” Cable’s mother recalled Stephen Cable saying upon seeing the vehicle. “The irony of that,” she said tearfully in the quiet courtroom.
Cable’s mother was downstairs with her husband when the shooting started, while Clark and his brother, who was 17 years old at the time, were upstairs in separate bedrooms.
At approximately 11:02 p.m., 15 gunshots shattered the silence of the winter night in the course of just 3.5 seconds, resulting in at least five 45 caliber full metal jacket bullets penetrating the home, one of which struck Clark Cable as he stood in an upstairs bathroom.
Police weren’t certain, but it’s believed that Cable was in the process of walking from the bathroom to the attached bedroom when a single bullet struck his lower left back and traveled in an upward trajectory through his heart and exited the upper right of his chest.
When Stephen Cable rushed up the stairs and saw his son, he was facing towards the damaged bathroom window, the bathroom mirror shattered with shards of reflective glass peppering in the sink.
Cable slowly turned towards his father, collapsing into his arms.
“When I laid him down, he was starting to go on me,” Stephen Cable said.
The 911 call recorded the frantic atmosphere that Cable family had suddenly been thrust into, and within minutes a BPD patrol officer responded to the home, first coming into contact with Cable’s brother who was screaming for help from the home’s front door while Cable’s parents were desperately trying to save their son.
Cable’s gaze was fixed with no visible signs of breathing and blood running from his nose and mouth, and his parents believed that he was gone within moments of being shot.
Police pulled Cable, who was laying on his side half way in the bedroom and half way in the bathroom, into the bedroom in order to better issue him aid, performing approximately 10 minutes of chest compressions before EMS took over and soon pronounced Cable dead at the scene.
Over the next few hours, police scoured the scene marking and collecting evidence, documenting the home with photographs and a 3D scanning device, searching the yard with a metal detector and using a fire department ladder and drone to examine the home’s roof.
Police recovered nine spent 45 caliber shell casings in the cul-de-sac which was approximately 49.4 yards from the home, and three fired bullets— one laying on the floor near Cable’s body, one lodged in an upstairs closet and one lodged in the roof.
In total, police believe they could account for six bullets, five of which struck the house, with two bullets passing through the home, and one “skip round” that police believe hit the home’s front yard and left evidence of its trajectory in the grass in the form of a ditch-like groove.
THE SEARCH FOR A SUSPECT
When BPD Detective Adrian Breedlove responded to the Brentwood home that night he knew that one of the most important pieces of evidence would likely be Cable’s cell phone.
That phone was recovered and analyzed by detectives who located a phone number with a 931 area code that had texted Cable’s phone at 11:01 p.m., just one minute before the shooting.
That text read, “This your house,” followed by a cell phone photo taken from inside of a vehicle at night that showed the arm of a person holding up a black Smith and Wesson M&P 45 caliber pistol.
It’s unclear if Cable ever actually saw the incoming text before he was shot and killed.
Det. Breedlove testified to recognizing the interior of the vehicle in the photo— a Chevrolet Trailblazer, which was familiar to him because he owned one himself— but this one had one small difference which may have been overlooked by a less seasoned detective who only had a cell phone photo to go off of. There was a small black burn mark on the passenger side door just between the door lock button and the window’s control button.
Detectives then discovered that this 931 phone number was a Google Voice number, a digital phone number, that was tied to an existing cell phone number that was tied to Bronston.
While detectives combed through the phone using various law enforcement software, Det. Breedlove relied on one of the tricks of the trade just to see what would come back.
He searched this 931 phone number in a program called Spotlight which uses a provided phone number to search through a database of online escort listings which returned several ads in Atlanta and Nashville, including an “active” listing in Nashville with photos of a young woman attached that had been posted just one day before the shooting.
The woman in the photos was scantily dressed and in sexually-suggestive poses, with a moth tattoo visible on left breast and tattoos of bows on her thighs.
Breedlove told the jury that he used the Spotlight software just to see if it would return any information, detailing that his law enforcement experience working with the Drug Enforcement Agency and conducting numerous sex crimes investigations has given him many different avenues and databases to cross reference potential information.
Bronston was now a suspect in a murder.
Bronston cell phone last pinged along I-24 in Coffee County at 12:41 a.m. on Dec. 4, but had since gone dark. Luckily for police, the data collected by Google was still accessible.
She was tied to an address in the Rock Creek Road Trailer Park in Tullahoma, but detectives didn’t find her there.
Detectives then interviewed Bronston’s mother who mentioned that Bronston may be with her boyfriend, Dustin Russell, who was then unknown to BPD.
Detectives also spoke with Bronston’s sister who told them that she owned a Chevy Trailblazer that Bronston had been driving in the company of Russell, and that the couple may have skipped town.
Both Bronston and Russell had some previous interactions with law enforcement, but nothing similar to a murder.
One of those interactions was documented in a police report at a Tullahoma home that was tied to Russell where Bronston had been listed as both a suspect and a victim of domestic violence with another unidentified person who was also listed as both a suspect and victim.
Detectives arrived at Russell’s 13 Central Avenue home with an arrest warrant for Bronston and made entry, conducting a sweep of the home in search for Bronston, but no one was home.
Russell’s home was described by Det. Breedlove as “dirty” and “unkempt” with no working electricity and a broken toilet. While the focus of the search was to find Bronston, detectives noted seeing two empty shell casings on a bedroom floor.
Detectives then interviewed Russell’s mother at her job which led them to Russell’s grandmother’s home on Dec. 7, where they found a silver Chevy Trailblazer. Russell and Bronston had both stayed at his grandmother’s home for two days before taking her green Nissan Sentra and leaving town.
Russell’s mother, Johanna Gifford, testified that Russell admitted to her that he had killed someone in Brentwood, and showed her a news story of the shooting on a cell phone.
Russell hadn’t seen his mother since late in the summer of 2018, saying that Russell had become distant lately and didn’t show up for Thanksgiving.
They lived just 15 miles away from each other, his mother in Winchester while Russell was staying in Tullahoma.
She immediately knew that something was wrong when she saw him at Russell’s uncle’s home, and after hearing Russell’s story about “bad cops” and “gangs” and a girl who was “going to get sex trafficked,” she was in disbelief.
She met this girl— Bronston— for the first time that day, where Bronston apologized to Gifford for getting Russell involved in the situation.
When his mother asked him why he hadn’t yet gone to the police, Russell told his mother that the police were “involved.”
Russell went to his grandmother’s nearby home at the urging of his mother, and Russell’s mother testified that she planned to get Russell’s father to join her in urging him to turn himself in to police.
“I didn’t want him to run,” Russell’s mother told the jury.
Detectives then obtained a search warrant for the Central Avenue home and the Trailblazer, which was towed to a secure lot at the Tullahoma Police Department.
The home was searched first and detectives recovered two spent shell casings from a bedroom, both of which were stamped with 45 caliber markings.
Inside of the Trailblazer detectives found a temporary Georgia license plate, copies of an apartment complex application with both Bronston and Russell’s names and photocopies of their identification cards.
They also recovered a single unfired 45 caliber bullet and a receipt from a Hermitage Walmart with a timestamp of 12:16 p.m. on Dec. 3. Det. Breedlove also saw something he was expecting— a small burn on the Trailblazer’s interior passenger side door.
Forensic testing through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would soon show the presence of gunpowder residue in the vehicle -- an indication that a firearm had been shot from inside.
Russell was now their second murder suspect.
FOLLOWING THE (DIGITAL) BREADCRUMBS
Cable and Bronston’s first known communication was at 9 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2018, when Cable texted her.
Detectives believe that they met on the night of Nov. 9 at the Nashville hotel after Cable waited in the hotel’s parking lot for about two hours before Bronston told him to come up to her room.
Cable later texted Bronston, “Thank you, sweetheart.”
Cable and Bronston communicated several times throughout November and into December 2018, but detectives don’t believe that they met up again.
It appears that Cable wasn't really looking for a sex worker, but was really seeking companionship in the wrong place, with several of his messages revealing that he was attempting to take Bronston out on seemingly legitimate dates, but they were from two different worlds with two different sets of life experiences and understandings.
Throughout their exchanges of texts and brief phone calls, Bronston became suspicious that she was in danger of becoming the victim of human trafficking, something that Det. Breedlove testified was a very real threat to her given Bronston’s lifestyle and line of work.
While both Bronston and Russell had brought up their concern over “gangs in Memphis” and “bad cops,” Det. Breedlove said that BPD tracks all of their police vehicles using GPS software, and the department saw no record that their patrol vehicles had traveled to the Nashville motel.
Both the defense attorney Eric Larson and Det. Breedlove acknowledged that BPD was not involved in any crime related to the couple’s claims of “bad cops.”
Bronston had been a sex worker for around six months working between Nashville, Tullahoma and Atlanta, and at some point she began to become fearful of a Black man from Memphis she called “Joe Jones.”
Russell saw himself as Bronston’s protector who wanted Bronston to leave sex work, and upon their arrest in Arizona, he told a Phoenix Police Department detective about an interaction he had with who he believed was Joe Jones in the Nashville motel parking lot that Bronston was working out of.
Russell described seeing the man, both of them looking at each other, and exchanging a brief, “What’s up,” while the man mentioned that he was looking for room 230 and how “they must have changed the room numbers.”
That same day Bronston showed Russell a photo of the Joe Jones that she was in fear of, and Russell said this photo was of the man in the parking lot.
Eventually Russell began to open up to the detective in Phoenix, telling him how he was trying to protect Bronston, and how he was scared.
“I didn’t know I was going to do this. I didn’t mean to,” Russell said to the detective in the recorded interview, adding, “I just wanted me and her to live a good life,” and, “We did not want to hurt nobody.”
The PPD interview footage was shown to the jury in several parts while the prosecution fast-forwarded through long sections of silence while Russell sat alone.
Much of the video’s audio was hard to hear due to poor audio quality, as well as frequent moments of nervous mumbling and whispering.
For two of these portions of the recording, detectives allowed Russell and Bronston to be in the same room by themselves, and it’s unknown if they were aware that they were being recorded.
When Russell and Bronston first see each other they are in tears, holding hands and kissing across the interview room table that separates them.
Bronston tells Russell that she loves him and that she’s “sorry,” and to “stay strong, and I’ll stay strong too.”
“We’ll be together again,” Russell told Bronston. “I know, and we’ll be happy," she replied.
“Don’t give up,” Russell told Bronston. “I never will,” she replied.
“I got you,” he said. “And I got you,” she replied.
At other points in the interview room they are laughing and seem carefree, and later Bronston acknowledges to Russell that the police “know everything.”
The jury did not view any video from Bronston’s individual police interview, but Judge Deanna B. Johnson did allow the PPD detective to testify on his interview with Bronston.
The PPD detective testified that Bronston initially told him that she had been the shooter who killed Cable, claiming that she shot from the passenger side of the Trailblazer.
This story then evolved into the claim that she was driving and took the gun from Russell, leaned across him and fired the shots at the home. Then, she told the detective that Russell had fired the shots in an effort to protect her.
“That’s my girl and I’d do anything for her,” Russell told the detective at one point in his interview.
During the interview with Russell, the detective placed a photo of Cable on the table, but Russell didn’t appear to know who the man was, a point that the defense said was crucial to their argument that Cable wasn’t specifically targeted by the couple.
While it appeared to be true that Cable and Russell had never met or communicated, the prosecution argued that Bronston’s internet history showed that they had clearly researched Cable enough to find out his relatives names and his home address.
The prosecution also showed the jury a search history log from Bronston’s phone on the afternoon of Dec. 3.
These searches included “counties near me,” “Brentwood Police Department,” “Lotus Inn,” “Clark Cable” as well as a search for Cable’s parent’s names. Just a few hours later after the shooting, she searched “delete apps.”
Just over one hour before the shooting, Bronston texted Cable, “You fucking tell me right now,” and one minute later he responded, “Tell you what?”
“Who the fuck you sent to me and what they were planning,” Bronston immediately responded before calling him at 9:48 p.m.
At 9:54 p.m., Cable texted Bronston, “Honestly, I’m sorry for whatever happened to you. IDK [I don’t know] what you’re talking about.” Following that text with, “Wish I could help you out, but I’m clueless.”
Bronston replied, “That’s okay, we’ll see if your mother knows anything. Keri Amos Cable, right?”
“You’re on my Facebook, yeah,” Cable responded
At 9:59 p.m. Cable texted Bronston, “Literally I’m the one who tried taking you to dinner and a Preds game.”
“Way more than your Facebook, I’ve done about every research clue I can find and I know all of your information,” Bronston texted Cable. “You stepped into real serious territory.”
She then briefly called Cable twice at 9:39 p.m. and at 10 p.m.
At 10:02 p.m. Cable texted her, “Seriously, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
At 10:08 p.m. Bronston texted Cable, “That sucks that you’d let something happen to them.”
One minute later Cable responded, “Can you please explain? I’m seriously clueless.”
Bronston again briefly called Cable at 10:09 p.m. and at 10:16 p.m.
“He called her back at 10:22 p.m. for 87 seconds, then she missed two calls from him, and then he texted her at 10:26 p.m., ‘Can you please answer?” Det. Breedlove told the jury. “At 10:26 p.m., she called him for 83 seconds and at 10:28 p.m. he texted her, “What text messages? What phone calls?”
This was the last communication between Cable and Bronston until he received the “This your house” text just before being shot and killed.
Other evidence included photos of items recovered from Russell’s grandmother’s car, including 16 rounds of 45 caliber full metal jacket ammunition and a jacket that appears to the be the same jacket worn by the person holding the gun in the photo that was texted to Cable just one minute before the shooting.
The TBI was able to show that all of the spent shell casings recovered from both the Dozier Court cul-de-sac and from Russell’s Tullahoma home had been fired from the same gun.
While they weren’t able to build complete DNA profiles, TBI scientists did find two samples of DNA on the spent shell casings, one of whom they could confirm was a man.
In addition to the gunshot residue that was recovered from the Trailblazer, gunshot residue was also found on a black hoodie confiscated by police.
Assistant District Attorney Kelly Lawrence began her closing arguments by displaying a photograph of Cable that was taken by his sister on a large television screen that was mounted to the courtroom wall.
Lawrence argued that while Bronston, who by all accounts was in control of her own illegal business dealings and “running the train,” and in their estimate, is equally responsible for Cable’s death, she was not in control of Russell.
She also argued that Russell intended to physically harm someone, noting that all of the bullets that struck the house were concentrated in one area of the home where the lights were on and visible by the illuminated windows.
“In the end, the only answer that the state has to give to you the jury, or to the Clark Cable family, is that the defendant and his girlfriend just didn’t care,” Lawrence said. “They chose to hunt Clark down. They chose to come to his home. They consciously decided to send these threatening texts. They decided to bring a gun to his home, and they decided consciously to directly aim and fire 15 rounds. Not one, not two, but 15. Then they were gone.”
“They just left the scene and moved on,” Lawrence continued. “They left behind Steve and Keri Cable to deal with their dying son.”
“December 3 should be a day of celebration for the Cable family, it should be a celebration for Clark, he should be here to celebrate, but because of the defendant’s actions, that’s no longer possible,” Lawrence said.
The defense argued that Russell was not intending to kill Cable and did not specifically target him with the intention to kill Cable, only to scare him, pointing out that 30 minutes after the shooting Bronston called Cable’s phone.
“They were trying to scare,” Larson said. “This was an attempt to scare that went wrong," and calling that fatal shot, "one horribly tragic bullet.”
Larson argued that Russell was not a skilled marksman and shot randomly in his attempt to protect her against this perceived threat of Bronston being taken away, something he appeared to be convinced of.
The defense also argued against the initial first-degree murder charge, and instead argued that Russell was guilty of reckless homicide.
This was argued by detailing that there was no proof of communications between Bronston and Russell about conspiring to or committing the killing, and that they fled the state after admitting their involvement in the shooting to Russell’s mother, in addition to Russell’s admission to the Phoenix, Arizona, detective that he never meant to hurt anyone.
“They want you to think that he’s a cold-blooded killer,” Larson told the jury. “It’s easier to present him that way so you just go, ‘throw him away,’ but he’s a human being.”
“I think it’s important for you to remember as you sit here after the fact,” Larson told the jury. “It’s important for you to remember that at that time, they still believed that Clark was involved in something. It wasn’t until they got back here, and you see all the evidence that you realize that’s not true.”
Ultimately the jury's decision fell short of the efforts of the prosecution, and short of the hopes of the defense, with the second degree murder conviction, that now sets the stage for Bronston's own trial in the near future.