Suspect’s sister: Texas dragging death not racial

DALLAS — A white man accused in the dragging death of a black east Texas man was close friends with the victim and didn’t kill him, the suspect’s sister said Monday.

“This was no hate crime,” Krystala Boyd said. “You can’t hate somebody you love.”

She also said she doesn’t believe her brother, Shannon Keith Finley, and his childhood friend Charles Ryan Crostley had anything to do with the death of Brandon McClelland.

Finley and Crostley, both white, were arrested on murder and evidence tampering charges after McClelland’s body was found on Sept. 16. Authorities have said the three men got into a fight during a late-night beer run from Paris, Texas, to Oklahoma, and that Finley and Crostley in a pickup truck ran over McClelland and dragged him as far as 70 feet.

McClelland’s family and black activists call the death a “copycat” of the decade-old James Byrd slaying, in which a black man in Jasper, about 200 miles south of Paris, was chained by the ankles to a pickup by three white supremacists and dragged for three miles.

But Boyd’s sister and prosecutors said they don’t believe race was a factor because the victim was friends with the two suspects. Investigators also said there’s no indication McClelland, 24, was tied to the truck.

Boyd said her brother and McClelland have been friends for about 10 years.

“They were like brothers,” Boyd said. “Brandon would come to all of our family functions. He was around all of our kids. He would have dinner with us. I have known Brandon longer than I have known my own husband.”

Ben Massar, Finley’s attorney, also dismissed the hate crime angle as false.

“And that is what is really upsetting to his family,” Massar said.

According to Boyd, the two suspects have been friends since they were young boys and with McClelland about 10 years.

Deric Muhammad, a Nation of Islam member who is helping an independent investigation of the case, said proof of the friendship between Finley and McClelland bolsters the argument that the killing was racially motivated.

“I think that worsens the case,” Muhammad said. “It doesn’t exonerate the case from being a hate crime.”

Boyd said she spoke to Finley by telephone Monday and that her brother does not understand the reason behind the case’s racial implications.

“He’s doing OK for the most part,” she said. “I am so sorry, my whole family is so sorry for (the McClellands’) loss. But we believe Shannon and (Crostley), and we don’t believe they had anything to do with his death.”

Finley’s criminal record includes DWI convictions, marijuana possession, property theft, and a four-year prison sentence for manslaughter in 2004. In that case, Finley was accused of fatally shooting a white friend in the head and McClelland served jail time for providing a false alibi for Finley.

A phone call to a listing for Crostley’s attorney was unanswered.

Crostley and Finley have not been indicted. They face up to life in prison if convicted.

The grand jury is scheduled to convene Nov. 13.

About Deric Muhammad

Deric Muhammad believes that man is given power for one reason; and that is to serve others. Muhammad is an accomplished Houston-based Activist/Organizer who addresses issues on Social Justice, Black Male Development, Police Brutality, Racial Inequality and other critical topics. Muhammad prides himself in being an “on the ground watchman” of Freedom, Justice and Equality for the Black community and other poor, underserved, disenfranchised communities, as well. A native Houstonian, Deric grew up on the rough and tumble streets of Northeast Houston. At the age of 11 his father died and his mother struggled with an addiction to drugs that she, later in life, overcame. Deric was raised in an environment where drugs, gang violence, prostitution, police brutality and other “social cancers” were prominent. This is important to know, because it verifies that Muhammad addresses these issues based on vast knowledge and personal experience. Like countless Black men who came before him, he changed his life around through his studies as a member of the Nation of Islam. Muhammad hosts an annual “Smart’n Up” Black Male Summit that deals with the unique issues that Black men and boys face in society. In 2009 he independently produced and starred in a critically acclaimed documentary called “Raising Boys: Tips for Single Moms” that addressed the plight of Black women raising sons in the absence of a father. He recently launched a Houston-based Black Male Initiative called Project FORWARD that focuses on Stopping Inner-City Violence and creating Economic Development. His writings have been published in many newspapers and he is currently working on his first self-published book. Muhammad has been, for years, seen on local and national television stations addressing the tough issues faced by Black people in America. He says that he is unashamed of his love for Black people and thanks God every day for giving him the honor of serving his community.

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