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Parking lot murder suspect was on pretrial release from Sullivan jail

J. H. Osborne • Apr 23, 2020 at 7:34 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A man charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of another man outside a convenience store in Kingsport early Monday was out of jail as a participant in Sullivan County’s new pretrial release program, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Capt. Andy Seabolt confirmed to the Times News.

Brandon Castle, 26, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Christopher Todd Lane, 39, of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. A Sullivan County grand jury also indicted Castle on charges of  possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and tampering with evidence.

The shooting took place shortly before 4:50 a.m. on Monday in the parking lot of the Zoomerz at 1673 Fort Henry Drive, according to Kingsport police, and officers arrived on the scene to find Lane lying in the parking lot, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Castle was arrested at about 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday by Kingsport police at a car wash on Bloomingdale Pike, allegedly attempting to sell narcotics, including methamphetamine and Alprazolam, to undercover officers, according to a press release from the Kingsport Police Department. Castle was charged with four counts of drug possession.

Detectives established sufficient probable cause that Castle had shot and killed Lane, the release said. That evidence was presented to a grand jury, which returned an indictment on Wednesday.

Acting on a reader tip, the Times News asked Seabolt if Castle was out of jail on pretrial release at the time of the murder and his arrest on charges of drug possession. Seabolt confirmed that as fact:

“Brandon Castle came into the Sullivan County Jail on March 1, 2020 on the charge of failure to appear on charges he received in December 2019 for driving on a suspended or revoked license, expired license plates, and possession of drug paraphernalia,” Seabolt wrote in an email. “Pretrial officers review all new arrestees that do not post a bond. Castle's charges and criminal history were reviewed as are all pretrial release candidates. The review of his charges and criminal history placed him as eligible for the pretrial release program. Since all releases require judicial review, Brandon Castle's file was taken to the court and was approved by the judge for pretrial release. Due to the fact that Castle's charges were non-violent, his release was approved at the minimum level of supervision (requirements below) and he was released from the Sullivan County Jail on March 9, 2020.”

The Times News asked what kind of monitoring Castle was subject to as a pretrial release program participant. Seabolt provided the following.

The minimum level of supervision is comprised of the following requirements:

• Initial pre-release meeting with a pretrial officer

• Provide contact information and sign the pretrial agreement

• Receive a phone call from a pretrial officer prior to each court date

• Defendant will provide verification of court attendance

• Pretrial officer will document and keep record of court attendance

Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy told county commissioners during a budget hearing on Tuesday that 180 inmates have been placed in the pretrial release program since it got up and running. Funding for hiring 10 new officers to coordinate and manage the program was approved by the Sullivan County Commission in late November.

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