The man charged in the 2019 deaths of the Auburn announcer Rod Bramblett and his wife, Paula, in a wreck is facing more charges Friday for allegedly using synthetic urine to fool a drug test in an unrelated case, court records showed.
Johnston Edward Taylor, who was 16 years old when he was charged with manslaughter in the deaths of the Brambletts, has been in the Lee County Jail since January for failing a drug test stemming from unrelated child pornography charges.
Taylor, now 20, was granted youthful offender status in the manslaughter cases. Sentences in youthful offender status cases are not made public, although whatever punishment he received carried a three-year maximum term.
On Friday, Taylor “used a bottle of urine that had a hand warmer attached to the bottle,” according to the complaint filed against him in Lee County Circuit Court.
The complaint said the purpose of the synthetic urine was to “defraud an alcohol, drug or urine screening test.”
The drug test was required as a condition of Taylor’s bond after he was charged with six counts of possession of child pornography in June 2022.
Taylor is also seeking youthful offender status in the child porn cases. A hearing is set for July 18 on the request.
His bond was revoked in January after failing a drug test, according to an order by Lee County Circuit Court Judge Russell Bush.
Taylor was 16 on May 25, 2019 when he was traveling south in the outside lane on Shug Jordan Parkway approaching West Samford Avenue in his Jeep Laredo.
The Brambletts, in a 2017 Toyota Highlander, were stopped in the southbound outside lane of Shug Jordan parkway at a traffic light.
The Jeep struck the Bramblett’s SUV to the right of center, according to the crash report. The impact caused the Jeep to hit a pedestrian and a traffic light pole before coming to a final rest.
The Bramblett’s vehicle was pushed into the intersection and through the opposing lanes of traffic before coming to a final rest on the curb.
Taylor’s “blood sample contained THC, which is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, and is indicative of recent usage of marijuana at the time of the collision,” records state. The teen was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Paula Bramblett, 53, was airlifted from the scene but had to be diverted to East Alabama Medical Center due to the severity of her injuries. She was pronounced dead in the emergency room from multiple internal injuries.
Rod Bramblett, 52, who was the driver of the Highlander, was airlifted to UAB Hospital in Birmingham, where he later died from a closed head injury.
At the time of the deadly crash, Taylor was driving 89 mph in a 55-mph zone, under the influence of marijuana, and still accelerating, authorities said, when he rammed into the back of the couple’s SUV.
A judge in April of 2021 granted Taylor youthful offender status in the manslaughter cases.
Lee County Circuit Judge P.B. McLauchlin, a retired judge handling the case, in his order said, “At the time of the accident the defendant was a 16-year-old teenager with no prior criminal history, who had smoked or used marijuana and had been diagnosed with marijuana use disorder,’’ McLauchlin wrote. “None of this justifies what happened; however, it does lend itself to treatment as a Youthful Offender.”
The youthful offender status eliminates a jury trial, if there is a trial, and the range of punishment goes from two to 20 years had he been tried as an adult to zero to three years maximum.
Youth offender cases are sealed, so the outcome of that case is not made public.