Muskogee man charged in death of girlfriend

Saturday, October 25th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) -- A first-degree murder complaint has been filed against a 45-year-old man accused of killing his girlfriend.

Jessie Wayne Mendenhall of Webbers Falls told authorities he was trying to shoot out the tires of a car driven by Billie Jean Branam, 40, when she was struck.

"He said he had no idea he'd hit her, and I believe him," Muskogee County Sheriff's Deputy Tim Brown said.

Branam's body was found in a yard Friday in a rural area south of Webbers Falls near the residence she shared with Mendenhall.

She had been shot three times -- once in the shoulder and twice in the back, said Brown and Darrin Smith, chief deputy with the Muskogee County Sheriff's Department.

Mendenhall was booked on complaints of first-degree murder, cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. A large amount of marijuana was found in Mendenhall's home.

The shooting took place about 3 a.m. Friday at the end of the driveway where the couple lived.

"Friends say they had been arguing a couple of days," Smith said.

Mendenhall reportedly had been drinking when Branam left in Mendenhall's car and took her daughter to a relative's home. She then drove back by the home she shared with Mendenhall, Smith said.

"She was driving by the house, and he was sitting in a chair out by the gate waiting on her," Smith said. Mendenhall had an assault rifle, a spotlight, a case of longneck beer and a set of binoculars, Brown said.

"She took his car, and it made him angry," Brown said. "When she drove by, he intended to shoot out the tires to get it back. He said he shot four or five times. I can account for four."

Mendenhall confessed to the shooting, but did not realize he had shot Branam.

"When he found out she was dead, he started to cry," Smith said.