By JESSIE HORTON
July 28, 2020
While Brendan Jenkins sits behind bars in a Comanche County Jail on a bond of $3 million for Capital Murder, the family of his former girlfriend is picking out caskets and making service arrangements. He is accused of murdering not only Ashlyn Smith, but her grandparents, Earl and Patti Stephens of DeLeon, as well.
“I can’t even say his name, I don’t even think there’s a word I’d want to say to him,” said Jason Smith, father of Ashlyn Smith. “All I want from now until it happens is to see justice, to watch him take his last breath the way he watched my daughter take her last breath. It’s all I’ll fight for, even if it takes all my life.”
Ashlyn hadn’t known Jenkins long, according to family and friends. Only 18 years old, Ashlyn had recently seperated from her husband, Eric Salas, in March and, at least to the best of her father’s knowleadge, only known Jenkins since around the same time.
Both Jenkins and Smith have Twitter accounts and the first post made together is posted on April 1. According to family members, Ashlyn and Jenkins moved into a camper on her grandparents’ property the end of March. However, not all was well, and just a couple of weeks ago, Jason Smith said Ashlyn had contacted him wanting to move home.
“She must’ve known something was up, that something wasn’t right,” he recalled. “She just kept saying she wanted to come home, that he was staying there and she wanted me to come get her.”
“When I asked if she was okay, if she could wait a few more days until I was off work, she said she was fine and she could wait. I was planning on picking her up Friday evening or Saturday, but I couldn’t because I got called into work. I’d give anything to have just gone and gotten her then,” he said through tears.
Family and friends said Jenkins was possessive at times and controlling, some even said he converted to the Muslim faith as was pressuring Ashlyn to convert as well. However, Jason Smith said he did not know about anything like that or what happened that fateful evening to cause Jenkins to take a handgun and shoot the family.
“Honestly, I can’t say what happened, I can’t even begin to imagine what would cause someone to do something so terrible to a kid and her grandparents,” Smith said. “I don’t know what kind of man he was before this or why he made the decisions he made. But he made them, he made the choice to pull the trigger and now, I pray, he answers for those choices with his life.”
Jenkins shot Earl and Patti Stephens, as well as their granddaughter, Ashlyn Smith, either late Friday night or early Saturday morning. Following the murders, Jenkins called 911 around 7 a.m. on Saturday, July 25, and told the dispatcher there were three dead at a home in the 2900 block of Highway 2921 in the Oliver Springs Community in northern Comanche County.
First responders, including Comanche County Sheriff’s Deputies, Texas State Troopers and DeLeon Police Department found the suspect as well as all three victims on the property. Earl Stephens and Ashlyn Smith were found deceased, Patricia Stephens was transported to JPS Hospital in Fort Worth where she succumbed to her injuries.
Jenkins was taken into custody immediately. He was booked into Comanche County Jail on one charge of Capital Murder and is being held there (as of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 28) on $3 million bond. Comanche County Sheriff Chris Pounds said his office is working with the Texas Rangers to complete the investigation.
Visitation for Earl and Patti Stephens will be from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29, at Higginbotham Funeral Home in Gorman. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, at the funeral home in Gorman.
Visitation for Ashlyn Smith will be held from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, July 31, at the Crosier-Pearson Funeral Home in Cleburne. Her funeral services have been scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 1, in the Crosier-Pearson Funeral Chapel.
This terrible tragedy has hit the families of the victims hard. If you would like to help, they would appreciate donations for the funerals. To donate to the Stephens’ services, call Higginbotham Funeral Home directly at 254-734-2272. To donate to Ashlyn’s services, call the Crosier-Pearson Funeral Home directly at 817-648-0523.
Jason Smith said he hopes the world remembers Ashlyn by the way she always wanted to help others and how she was a true friend to so many across the globe.
“She was an amazing friend to everyone, no matter who you were or what you were going through, she was there for you no matter what,” he remembered with a smile in his voice. “It didn’t matter if she was going through the worst of it, you’d never know and she’d be there giving you advice on whatever you needed.”
Smith said he found out after Ashlyn was gone just how much of a community his daughter had built online.
“That great friend she was, she was the same online, and I was just overwhelmed by the messages and kind words from people all over the country, from around the world, really,” he said. “I’ve heard all kinds of new stories about Ashlyn that I’d never heard before. Everyone has been telling me how she was there for them and how kind and loyal she was. Dozens are even flying in from all over (Florida, Cincinnati and other places) for her funeral. Just to be here with us, to support us during this. It’s just like her to show me the beauty in people, even in her death. And that’s how I want people to remember Ashlyn – a kind, loyal friend who showed us beauty, even in the tragic.”