No parole for man jailed in teen's death

Christopher Bryant

COLUMBIA — For the past three years, Shannon Spry has replayed in her mind what happened the last time she saw her brother.

The 10 days between 17-year-old Travis Spry's disappearance and the discovery of his badly decomposed body in 2005 were the hardest on their mother, Debbie Spry.

Shannon, though, told the state Board of Paroles and Pardons on Wednesday that she can't stop thinking about how things could have be different if she'd just asked her brother not to leave.

"I wish I could've kept him with me," Shannon Spry said, sobbing.

She said it hurts to see Travis' friends growing up.

"He will always be 17, in a box in the ground," she said.

Christopher Bryant, 23, who was sentenced in August 2007 to 13 years in prison after accepting a plea deal as an accessory to murder after the fact, on Wednesday asked the state to release him early.

He said he wants "to be a successful citizen of society, to be a loving father to my son." He met his son, who is almost 3 years old, for the first time while in prison on the charges.

The two years Bryant served in the Charleston County Detention Center before his plea deal was made were credited toward his sentence.

Members of the parole board denied Bryant's request for an early release without any hesitation.

The body of Travis Spry, who worked at the Montague Avenue Waffle House in North Charleston, was left in the woods in Dorchester County.

Plea agreements were pursued for Bryant and co-defendant Travis Lavar Casey in part because of lack of evidence, prosecutors have said. Casey was sentenced to 22 years for voluntary manslaughter.

Bryant and Travis Spry had been childhood friends. While out for a ride, Casey, Bryant and Spry made a stop, and, according to authorities, when Bryant returned to the car he found Casey choking Spry.

Casey and Bryant then drove to Dorchester County and left Spry's body in the woods, according to authorities. Police suspected robbery as a motive.

Bryant's mother, Vanessa Gilliard, and his twin brother, Kevin Bryant, also spoke at the hearing. Their statements were broadcast from the Lee Correctional Institution to the parole board office in Columbia.

"Christopher is a loving person," Gilliard said. "He made a mistake."

Christopher Bryant said nothing more, other than "thank you" to the board for their consideration. His mother went on to say that he had a place to live and a part-time job as a landscaper lined up. She also read a letter from Christopher's girlfriend, the mother of his son.

Travis' father David Spry and his wife traveled to Columbia with a petition to ask the board to deny Bryant's parole. Shannon and Debbie Spry were joined by 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and Detective Sgt. Barry Goldstein via teleconference from Charleston.

Goldstein, a 21-year veteran of homicide investigation, said he worked the case from the beginning. He and Wilson said Bryant was uncooperative and lied on many occasions.

"This one will stick with me for the remainder of my natural life," Goldstein said of the case.

Bryant will be up for parole next year.