Charles Bryant’s life seemed as ordinary as that of any other 30-year-old bachelor.
He liked to work out, as evidenced on his Facebook page, where he posted videos of himself flipping tires and lifting weights. He posted selfies, too, and shared music videos, sending out links to Mumford & Sons and Johnny Cash.
He would post the occasional moody status, or allude to his recent breakup. But none of his public persona indicated what would happen on Sept. 14.
When a young, blond college student was found burned and dismembered in a park near Lake Grapevine, investigators named Bryant as a suspect in her killing. Firefighters had found the body of Jacqueline Vandagriff, 24, burning in a blue kiddie pool early that morning.
Police eventually had enough evidence to draft a murder warrant for Bryant, who remains jailed with bail set at $1 million.
A ‘strange, strong leap’
Bryant’s arrest shocked those who know him.
His boss at the Fort Worth bar Urban Cowboy described him as friendly and reliable. “The customers loved him,” the boss told KTVT-TV.
He battled depression and “was a very emotional guy when it came to women,” one friend told WFAA-TV, “but never did he express anything out of the ordinary.”
A search of his past doesn’t reveal much.
He enlisted in the Army in 2006, but left after less than a year, according to a report by the Dallas Morning News.
Before September, his brief criminal history showed nothing too alarming. He had been arrested twice in Grapevine for marijuana possession and forgery — two misdemeanor charges — and he had been convicted on a misdemeanor assault charge in Washington.
He hadn’t faced a felony charge until about a week before Vandagriff’s death, when he was jailed twice on stalking and harassment complaints filed by his ex-girlfriend, who attends the University of North Texas. Bryant showed up at her dorm room multiple times, and delivered a note to her at her job, prompting her to seek a protective order.
But going from stalker to killer would be a “strange, strong leap,” especially because Vandagriff wasn’t the person Bryant was accused of stalking, said G.M. Cox, a criminal justice professor at Tarleton State University
“Who takes the time to kill somebody, dismember them, and then take them 22 miles away and burn them?” said Cox, a former police chief in Murphy and Corsicana. “That takes a great deal of anger to do that.”
Also odd, Cox said, was the Tweet posted from Vandagriff’s account after she had been found dead. The tweet said “Never knew I could feel like this,” and was posted at 11:22 p.m. on Sept. 15.
The tweet added an eerie element to the crime but also provided a potential piece of crucial evidence, Cox said.
“This was a clumsily controlled crime scene,” Cox said. “This was not a crime that was planned. I think it was totally a haphazard event.”
Using court documents and media reports, below is a step-by-step look at what unfolded from the stalking complaints against Bryant, to Vandagriff’s murder, to Bryant’s arrest on a capital murder charge. View an interactive timeline of the events here:
Aug. 24-Sept. 13
Aug. 24, 2016: A day after he and his ex-girlfriend break up, Bryant shows up unannounced at her dorm room at the University of North Texas in Denton.
“I was surprised to see Charles because I had not told him where I was staying,” she wrote in an application for a protective order against him.
Bryant asks to talk to her, so they go to a dorm common area, where Bryant tries to kiss her, according to the affidavit. She pushes him away and he begs for them to get back together. She tells him not to come back. After he leaves, she files a harassment complaint with UNT police.
Aug. 25: UNT police issue a criminal trespass warning to Bryant, barring him from campus.
Aug. 31: Bryant arrives at a Buffalo Wild Wings, where his ex-girlfriend worked, and hands her a note, according to court documents. He then orders a drink at the bar and asks to sit in her section.
She tells him she doesn’t want to see him or speak to him again, and contacts police. A UNT police lieutenant later calls Bryant and tells him that any further contact with the ex-girlfriend would result in criminal charges.
Sept. 6: Bryant knocks on the door of his ex-girlfriend’s dorm room at Kerr Hall. She sees him through the peephole but doesn’t answer.
“I heard Charles say that he had something for me,” the ex-girlfriend wrote in the application for a protective order.
She then goes to her roommate’s bedroom and calls UNT police. By the time an officer arrives, Bryant is gone from Kerr Hall. But police find him outside the building and arrest him for violating the trespass warning.
An arrest warrant affidavit says Bryant was trying to bring her flowers. As officers walk him off campus, he is seen handcuffed, shirtless and smiling.
Bryant is booked into jail and released the same day after posting $500 bond.
Sept. 7: UNT police obtain a stalking warrant for Bryant and arrest him. A municipal court judge issues an emergency protective order against him. A post on what appears to be Bryant’s Twitter account shows a picture of flowers with the caption: “Pretty flowers though, right? So much for being a nice guy.”
Sept. 9: Bryant posts $5,000 bond and is released from jail.
Sept. 13: In the evening, Jacqueline Vandagriff walks from her apartment in Denton to the nearby Fry Street Public House, where police believe she meets Bryant for the first time. At about the same time, a tweet from her account says: “I’m glad I decided to get off tinder and walked to a bar.”
Vandagriff is seen leaving the bar with Bryant. The two are then seen together at a nearby bar, Shots and Crafts. They are seen leaving Shots and Crafts together at about 9:45 p.m.
About two hours later, at 11:57 p.m., Vandagriff’s cellphone connects to a tower near U.S. 377 south of Interstate 35 and the Fry Street bars area. Her cellphone connects to four other towers as it travels south out of Denton.
Sept. 14, 1:32 a.m: Vandagriff’s cellphone connects to a tower near Bryant’s home in far north Fort Worth, near Haslet.
Sept. 14, 4:41 a.m: Bryant purchases a shovel at Wal-Mart near his home, according to an affidavit for Bryant’s arrest. Police later find “evidence that someone started to dig a hole in the ground” in Bryant’s back yard.
Sept. 14, 6:27 a.m: About 20 miles away from Bryant’s home, a 911 caller reports a fire in Acorn Woods Park near Lake Grapevine in a brushy area just off a narrow dirt trail leading toward the lake. The caller also reports seeing a man standing over the fire and then leaving in a light-colored SUV. When the fire is extinguished, authorities find a body, dismembered and burned, in a blue kiddie pool, and traces of “an accelerant used to set the fire,” the affidavit says.
Sept. 15: Officials conduct an autopsy on the body and identify the victim as Vandagriff.
Sept. 15, 11:22 p.m: Vandagriff’s twitter account posts: “Never knew I could feel like this.”
Sept. 17: Three days after Vandagriff’s body is found, Bryant’s ex-girlfriend notifies police that she received five emails from Bryant, who asked her to “drop the charges” in the stalking and harassment complaints. Bryant also wrote that he misses her, and that he wishes they could reconcile. UNT police issue a warrant for his arrest.
Sept. 18, 2:29 p.m: Grapevine police obtain a search warrant for Bryant’s home near Haslet and arrest Bryant on the outstanding UNT warrant.
Detectives, including crime scene investigators from the FBI, comb through Bryant’s belongings for hours, arriving at his rental home in a quiet subdivision in the afternoon and staying until early the next morning.
They find a hacksaw with “potential hair on the blade,” according to a returned search warrant. They find “fire pit sift remains,” a “possible bone fragment,” and they collect seven possible blood samples.
They find Vandagriff’s purse in the trash, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
In Bryant’s back yard, they find a blue kiddie pool “which had the same pattern and markings” as the one in which Vandagriff was found, the affidavit says. Next to the pool, detectives find a round patch of dead grass “where it appears a kiddie pool would have recently been.” Bryant’s roommate confirms to police that recently there were two kiddie pools in the back yard.
Sept. 19: A Grapevine detective files for a capital murder arrest warrant for Bryant, whose bail is set at $1 million. The Urban Cowboy Saloon, a Fort Worth bar where worked, posts a statement on Facebook:
“We, The Urban Cowboy Saloon, would like to acknowledge the disturbing news that has broke today and assure our customers that Charles Dean Bryant was terminated as of Sunday, September 18th, for not showing up to his scheduled shift. Monday afternoon we learned why he didn't show. We are grieving with our community and offer our deepest condolences for the Vandagriff family and friends. We are cooperative with authorities and will fully support law enforcement in their investigation.”
Sept. 21: At a sunset vigil in Frisco, Vandagriff’s friends describe her as a “big personality in a tiny body.”
“We’re angry,” a friend says. “We have a lot of questions and they probably will never, ever be answered. But justice will be served and she knows that.”
Sept. 22: Bryant is transferred to the Tarrant County Jail in downtown Fort Worth and formally charged with capital murder. He receives a court-appointed attorney, Glynis McGinty, and his first court appeareance is scheduled for Dec. 7.