Lexington County family waiting for justice

cwinston@thestate.comJanuary 6, 2014 

Christmas at the Mayo household could only be described with one word:

Unbearable.

That’s how Travis Mayo summed up his family’s first holiday following the tragic death of his 15-year-old son. Brandon, a student at White Knoll High School who was killed Dec. 6 on his way to school when another vehicle slammed into his.

Michael Gray, the driver of that vehicle, has been charged with felony DUI after officials said they found multiple pills in his vehicle. His first court date is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 20.

Travis Mayo said he went on Christmas Day with his wife and two daughters to their favorite Chinese restaurant – a favorite of Brandon’s and a family tradition – for lunch. From there, they took an egg roll to Brandon’s grave.

“We shared last year’s Christmas pictures and just cried knowing he wouldn’t be in this year’s photos or any of our future photos,” Travis Mayo said. “It was very hard on the whole family. (Fifteen) years old and knowing he will never see another Christmas with us is just so hard for us to deal with.”

Every time the couple’s other two children – ages 20 and 18 – leave the house, Jennifer Mayo said she’s “scared to death.”

But that doesn’t mean the Mayo family is resigned to wallowing in sadness. Instead, Travis and Jennifer Mayo are committed to justice in the case of their son and other families torn apart by DUI crashes.

Their focus is on justice.

Jennifer Mayo points out the flashing sign on U.S. 378 heading into Lexington that says there will be “zero tolerance” for drunken drivers.

“It’s not true,” she said. “This isn’t ‘zero tolerance.’”

Instead, she points out that Robert Craft – the man charged with DUI in the crash that killed Cameron and Haley Upchurch in October 2011 – was released after serving just one year of a two-year sentence. The charge in the fatal crash was lowered because the driver of the children’s vehicle was also found at fault. Craft had been previously charged with a DUI in Swansea and was charged for a third time last month in Springdale.

And Billy Patrick Hutto Jr. – the man charged with felony DUI in the New Year’s 2012 crash that killed 6-year-old Emma Longstreet – was sentenced to nine years in prison this past summer. He also had been previously convicted of DUI.

And even more concerning to Jennifer Mayo, the man charged in her son’s death was released on a $115,000 bond just two days after the fatal crash, even though the S.C. Highway Patrol asked that he be denied bond.

“He’s able to spend Christmas with his family,” she said. “For the next 45 years, I’ll be visiting Brandon at the cemetery.”

Travis and Jennifer Mayo are concerned that justice will not be served in their son’s death. They worry about plea bargaining. They worry about a delay in evidence coming from the lab. They worry that a trial will not come for years instead of months.

So they plan to be vocal in their insistence on justice. They have heard from several politicians – including state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington -– who have offered to help. And the Mayos plan to take advantage of it.

They hope that keeping their son’s tragic death in the forefront of people’s minds will prevent future tragedies. Jennifer Mayo said she’s committed, even if that means making signs and standing by the roadway to embarrass judges, lawyers or convicted drivers.

“If we can save someone’s life,” Jennifer said. “That’s the way I look at it.”

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