Sister charged with murder after woman found dead

Victim had called Jacksonville Sheriff's Office minutes before

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The sister of a woman found dead inside a home early Friday morning in the McGirts Creek neighborhood has been charged with murder, News4Jax has learned.

Mary Brantley, 41, was scheduled to have her arraignment hearing Saturday morning. Court officials say she became combative when authorities went to move her from the jail. She is not in a hospital. On Sunday the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office jail web site shows Brantley is not eligible for bond. Her next court hearing is scheduled for April 18th.

The victim, who family identified as Latonya Brantley, 44, had called the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office about 10 minutes earlier to report a disturbance.

Her sister, Mary Brantley, 41, was booked into the Duval County jail on a murder charge Friday. Police have not confirmed the identity of the victim or the connection to Mary Brantley's arrest.

Detectives have not said yet how the woman in the house died. They said after obtaining a search warrant, they would look for a weapon and other evidence to learn more about what killed her.

Family members stood behind crime scene tape Friday looking at the house at the end of the block that Mary Brantley shared with her sister. The family said Mary Brantley has a history of mental illness, and her sister, Latonya, who was a nurse, tried to care for her.

Mary Brantley was legally ruled incapacitated in 2012, and Latonya Brantley was appointed her guardian.

George Brantley, the father of Mary and Latonya Brantley, said he lost both of his daughters in one day.

"My daughter took her in over there, and she killed my daughter," George Brantley said.

He said that Mary had been in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“They tell her to not take her medication, and she needs her medication," George Brantley said. "That’s my baby daughter.”

Jacqueline Curry, a cousin of the Brantley sisters, fought through her emotions to talk about her cousins Friday.

“It’s definitely a tragedy. It’s just unreal,” Curry said. “It’s something that you could never think could ever happen. We knew that Mary was sick for a long time, but we never, ever thought that it would be life-threatening. I guess I’m just in disbelief.”

Latonya Brantley called the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office non-emergency line Friday morning just before 7 a.m. to ask for help.

Police said calls about disturbances are common, and the caller didn't seem like she was in great danger.

But in the 10 minutes it took officers to get to Brantley's house on Sarahs View Court, something happened and Latonya was dead.

"Due to the injuries that the patrol officer observed, we are treating this as a homicide," JSO Detective Michael Paul said.

Police said another woman, who identified herself as a family member, answered the door for the officer and was taken downtown for questioning. George Brantley said that was his younger daughter, Mary.

“They were living together. She was taking care of my daughter. Latonya was taking care of Mary, and she put her in a rehabilitation place, and they kicked her out of there, because she didn’t want to do what they were telling her to do,” he said.

Hours after she was taken into custody, Mary Brantley was booked on a murder charge.

“She was trying to find placement for her because she thought -- I told her that the care Mary needed was beyond what she was capable of,” Curry said of Latonya. “But I guess we didn’t get her placed where she needed to be in time.”

News4Jax learned that Mary Brantley has been committed for psychiatric evaluation 16 times dating back to 2004. She was twice committed by emergency order.

Mary Brantley was arrested in 2009 for an incident in which she went to her daughter's school to try to pick her up. She did not have primary custody and was refused access to the girl. She became irate, and police were called. It was the third incident of its type at the school.

The arrest report said Mary Brantley suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was refusing to take her medications. Her father told the court that without a court order, she will not seek medical attention and could pose a danger to herself and others.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of schizophrenia or anything like that, but, I mean, it’s definitely a problem, and I know that a lot of times we, especially as African-Americans, want to sweep it under the rug or pretend it doesn’t exist,” Curry said. “We try to help beyond what we’re capable of doing, but sometimes, we need to know that it’s OK to get help.”

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the state is working on programs to better serve those who are mentally ill.

“Just last week in the Florida legislature, they passed a bill that they are calling 'No Wrong Door,'” Smith said. “What it is, is they are putting $65 million into the Florida mental health and substance abuse system.”

Gov. Rick Scott signed that bill Friday.

Smith said lawmakers are looking for extra money to make the program more effective, but it’s a start to get patients in the right place.

“If someone is taken to the wrong facility, like they were doing before, taking them to jail, and they shouldn’t be there, they would release them when their time was served,” Smith explained. “Now, the person has to be stabilized and sent to a central receiving center, and they can be evaluated and then sent to the proper facility, hopefully, for the proper treatment.”

George Brantley, who said he also recently lost his wife, said it may be too late to get his daughter the help she needs, but maybe something could change in the future.

“I really don’t care if I see her no more,” he said. “I did all I could for her. That’s my baby.”

Instead of planning Latonya Brantley's wedding to her fiance, her family must now plan her funeral.

“Tonya was great,” Curry said. “She has the spirit of a nurse. She always wanted to help, and she definitely wanted to help her sister. That’s what she did. She was taking on and caring for her sister.”

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