Cousins go on trial for uncle's death

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The disability papers were all filled out. They just needed Doug Brundle's signature.

But when his nephews brought them to the Rose Park home where he lived with his mother, Brundle ripped them up. He got in a physical scuffle with Brian Drown and Andrew Brundle, who were frustrated after many attempts to get their schizophrenic uncle to accept the steady income and ease the burden on their grandmother.

Hours later, he died of massive bleeding in his brain.

Drown, 34, of West Valley City, and Andrew Brundle, 27, of Carson City, Nev., are charged with homicide by assault, a third-degree felony, meaning authorities do not believe they intended to kill their uncle. They each face up to five years in prison.

In opening arguments of their trial Tuesday in 3rd District Court, prosecutor Cliff Ross said Doug Brundle, 51, was a difficult person. One in a long line of masons, he hadn't worked since a three-story fall from a scaffold that broke his back. His wife had left him. He hadn't set foot off his property in three years.

On Sept. 7, 2009, when his nephews brought him the papers and cigarettes — he frequently had his mother or other family members buy them for him — he felt insulted.

"This plan was doomed," Ross said. "It was doomed because Doug was not a man of reason."

Doug Brundle became agitated and started striking his own head, hitting himself 20 to 30 times. He threatened to kick the car where Andrew Brundle's girlfriend was waiting. In the ensuing fight, Drown put him in a headlock and they tumbled to the ground.

Ross said the cousins punched and kicked their uncle, though Drown's attorney, John Walsh, said they were acting in self-defense after what had been a "kind discussion."

"The family wanted to help Doug. Everybody wanted to help Doug," Walsh said. "But Doug didn't want to help Doug."

Andrew Brundle's attorney, John West, added, "This was a tragedy but not a homicide."

According to testimony from Andrew Brundle's girlfriend, he was angered by his uncle's suggestion that Andrew had killed his father, Doug's brother, who died in a car accident a year and a half earlier. Andrew Brundle was in a coma for six weeks after the accident and still had pain and weakness in his legs, allowing him only a single "feeble attempt" to kick his uncle, West said.

Walsh also suggested Doug Brundle may have fallen and hit his head on the driveway after his nephews left and before neighbors arrived to perform CPR. The defense attorneys have previously argued that Doug Brundle could have died of an aneurysm.

The trial is set to run through Thursday.


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Paul Koepp


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