WALLACE – Bryan Lankford testified that it was his brother, Mark, who beat a Texas couple to death in an Idaho campground – and that numerous other stories he told in the 25 years since then were to protect himself from prison violence.
Bryan Lankford, 47, testified Friday in the retrial of his brother, 51-year-old Mark Lankford. Mark Lankford is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the June 1983 bludgeonings of U.S. Marine Capt. Mark Bravence, 27, and his wife Cheryl, 25, at a remote campsite outside Grangeville.
The Lankfords were convicted in separate trials in 1984. Bryan Lankford is serving a life sentence. Mark Lankford was on death row for more than two decades.
But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Mark Lankford’s conviction in 2006 over an improper Idaho County jury instruction and ordered him released or retried. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During often-heated exchanges Friday with his brother and his brother’s defense attorney, Bryan Lankford told a Shoshone County jury that stories in which he implicated himself, his brother, and both of them were only told to protect themselves from the threat of prison gangs and friends of his older brother, the Lewiston Tribune reported.
“Are you an honest man?” lawyer Charles Kovis asked to conclude questioning. “I believe I am honest,” came the response from the witness stand, “unless my life’s on the line.”
Idaho County Prosecutor Kirk MacGregor also asked Bryan Lankford about the numerous versions of events.
Lankford said he told several stories out of fear and a need to survive in prison.
He said the testimony he gave Friday was the same he had given at the two prior trials in 1984.
“That’s the truth,” Lankford said. “I can’t remember all the made-up stories, but I can remember that one, because that’s the truth.”
Testimony during the trial’s first week indicated the Lankfords were in Idaho after Mark Lankford lost his job as an accountant at a Houston oil company and the brothers decided to move to Canada to live in the wilderness.
They encountered the Bravences, who were vacationing in Idaho during a leave from Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas.
Bryan Lankford testified that his brother hatched a plan to rob the Bravences of their Volkswagen camper van and that it was Mark who had the couple lie down and then struck them on the back of their heads with a club.
The bodies were then driven to another campsite, Bryan Lankford told the jurors, where his brother dragged them into the forest.
Kovis told jurors in opening statements that he would introduce evidence that Mark Lankford was at another location miles away when the Bravences were killed and that he later met Bryan, who was driving the couple’s van.
The bodies were discovered by an elk hunter that fall.
The Bravences’ van was found abandoned in Los Angeles a month after their deaths. The Lankfords were arrested in Texas about three months later. Items belonging to the Bravences were found in their camp.