Murder suspect, victim shown in Denton bars' surveillance videos
A Tarrant County jury on Monday afternoon sentenced a Haslet man to life in prison for killing a Texas Woman's University student, dismembering her body and burning her remains in a kiddie pool in 2016.
Charles Bryant Jr., 31, had just met Jacqueline (Jackie) Vandagriff, 24, at a Denton bar on the night of Sept. 13, 2016. Hours later, her remains were found by Grapevine firefighters near Lake Grapevine.
The jury needed less than an hour to give Bryant to the maximum sentence.
Jurors also sentenced Bryant to the maximum 20 years for tampering with evidence. The sentences will be served concurrently.
Earlier in the day, the jury of seven women and five men had convicted Bryant, 31, of Vandagriff's brutal killing.
"We don't celebrate holidays or birthdays anymore," her father, Rick Vandagriff, said on a livestream video from the courtroom Monday afternoon as he testified during the punishment phase of the trial. "Friends invite us over for holiday dinners. But we can't celebrate in the house and look at her chair.
The Vandagriff family established an endowment in the name of Jackie Vandagriff for other nutrition and science majors at Texas Woman's University in Denton.
In 2016, Bryant was a personal trainer in Southlake. He also was a bartender at Cowboys, and he lived with his parents in a nice home in Haslet.
On the night of Sept. 13, 2016, Bryant met a friend for drinks and pizza in Denton, but he later was alone at Fry Street Public House in Denton.
That same night, Jackie Vandagriff, a student Texas Woman's University, was supposed to met a date from Tinder, a popular app for meeting people, but it didn't pan out.
So Vandagriff walked to the Fry Street Public House and sat one seat away from Bryant.
A night of drinks and conversation ended in a horrific tragedy for the Vandagriff family.
Her remains were found by Grapevine firefighters in Acorn Woods Park near Lake Grapevine..
In closing arguments Monday, defense attorneys Glynis McGinty and Joetta Keene had argued that Bryant became frightened when Vandagriff died during kinky sex, so he tried to hide the evidence of her death.
McGinty told jurors Bryant and Vandargriff left the Denton bar in his car, and at one stretch sat in his car for 39 minutes.
"No one was scared," McGinty said. "A video from a Denton 7-Eleven showed he bought alcohol and sandwiches for two people."
Cellphone data indicated the two then drove to a Denton park and were there for an hour.
That's when Bryant's attorneys say the two had autoerotic asphyxiation sex with Vandagriff having a zip tie around her neck.
"What happened next? She passed out," McGinty told jurors Monday morning. "He panicked."
Keene told jurors in closing arguments that Bryant made a bad mistake. Instead of calling 911 for help, he took on a horrible drunken plan of disposing of her body.
"He's guilty of making a horrible mistake when something went wrong," Keene told jurors. "There was no motive for a good-looking guy to kill that good-looking girl."
Prosecutors said there was no evidence the two had sex.
Contrary to the claims from the defense, Bryant didn't "freak out" because Vandagriff died while they were having kinky sex, but was indeed calm and deliberately killed her and cut out her heart, prosecutor Lucas E. Allan said in his closing argument.
"The defense says he freaked out," Allan said. "But their own expert said it was homicidal violence. Why cut out the heart? What does it have to do with disposing of a body? He cut her heart out. I want that image to sink in."
Cellphone data traced Vandagriff to the area near Bryant’s home about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2016, the arrest affidavit for Bryant said. At 4:41 a.m., Bryant was seen purchasing a shovel at a nearby Wal-Mart on Avondale Haslet Road.
Police have said that Bryant’s home is in Haslet, but tax records show his address on Sand Hills Drive is within the Fort Worth city limits.
In Bryant’s back yard, detectives later found “evidence that someone started to dig a hole in the ground,” according to the affidavit. They also found a “round patch of grass where it appears a kiddie pool would have recently been.”
A bone from her body was found in the back yard, Allan said.
Detectives also found Vandagriff’s purse in the trash at Bryant’s home, according to the arrest warrant.
The warrant did not say how Vandagriff’s body ended up in the Grapevine park about 22 miles away.
A 911 caller reported seeing a man standing over the fire and then leaving in a light-color SUV. The fire was set just off a narrow dirt path leading toward Lake Grapevine.
Bryant was in legal trouble before he became a suspect in Vandagriff’s death.
The affidavit said Bryant’s ex-girlfriend had a protective order against him stemming from a stalking and harassment complaint.
This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.