FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) A Texas jury on Monday convicted a man of murder and sentenced him to life in prison for the death of a college student found dismembered, burned and with her heart cut out.
Tarrant County jurors deliberated less than three hours before finding Charles Dean Bryant guilty of murdering Jacqueline Vandagriff, rejecting a defense attorney’s argument that her client panicked only after the woman died during consensual sex. The jurors briefly deliberated later Monday before returning the maximum penalty allowed by law in the murder of the 24-year-old Texas Woman’s University student.
Bryant, 31, also was found guilty of tampering with evidence and received 20 years behind bars. The sentences will be served concurrently.
Defense attorney Glynis McGinty argued that Vandagriff died accidentally during consensual sex with Bryant. She said a plastic tie was placed around Vandagriff’s neck, causing asphyxiation. Prosecutors countered that there’s no evidence the two had sex.
McGinty said Bryant committed a crime by panicking and disposing of the woman’s body in September 2016, but he did not commit murder.
But prosecutor Lucas Allan told jurors that contrary to defense claims, Bryant didn’t “freak out” because Vandagriff died. Bryant deliberately killed her and calmly dismembered her body while cutting out her heart, Allan said.
“Why cut out the heart? What does it have to do with disposing of a body? He cut her heart out,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Allan as telling jurors Monday. “I want that image to sink in.”
Bryant and Vandagriff met at a bar in Denton and went to a second bar before leaving together. Her purse was found in the trash at Bryant’s home. Investigators later learned that a former girlfriend had a protective order against Bryant for allegedly stalking and harassing the woman.