Brandon Kabelman's Death Remains a Mystery a Year Later

Michelle Kabelman posted this photo commemorating her husband last fall, a few weeks after his death.
Michelle Kabelman posted this photo commemorating her husband last fall, a few weeks after his death. Facebook
It was a bizarre scene that greeted emergency responders late in the evening of August 4, 2016. Lying in the roadway near the intersection of 10th and Garrison in Lakewood was a thirty-year-old male who'd suffered a severe head injury. Nearby was an SUV that had crashed into a utility pole. The only witness to the entire episode, the injured man's sister-in-law, said that he'd decided to leap from a moving vehicle, for reasons that weren't entirely clear.

One year later, much about what happened to Brandon Kabelman remains bafflingly unclear. His obituary describes Kabelman's death as "a tragic accident," but Lakewood police detectives have declined to declare it an accident or a suicide, and they continue to work the case as "a very much still active investigation," according to LPD spokesman Steve Davis.

No one directly involved in that investigation will comment on it. But records associated with the case give some indication of why the circumstances of Kabelman's death remain shrouded in questions and mysteries.

According to initial news reports, Kabelman's sister-in-law, Megan Harvey, told police that she was riding in the SUV with him when the two got into an argument. Kabelman, who was driving, abruptly jumped from the moving car; Harvey said she grabbed the wheel but was unable to keep the SUV from crashing into power poles. Kabelman's wife, Michelle, who was evidently in the area in another vehicle, then arrived on the scene and called 911.

But a police statement indicates that detectives were unable to confirm that Kabelman was driving. And the
subsequent autopsy examination yielded forensic evidence that was at odds with witness accounts. Kabelman had suffered a skull fracture but lacked certain injuries associated with jumping from a vehicle in motion, leading the forensic pathologist to state that "the proffered account of a jump from a moving car is implausible."

"There were apparently conflicts and inconsistencies between the sister-in-law's and wife's accounts of events leading up to the decedent's body ending up in the roadway," the autopsy report observes.

The report also notes areas of "road rash" and tarry deposits on Kabelman's back, but not his front — as if he'd been dragged across an asphalt surface, not tumbled over it.

Kabelman had been a firefighter in Michigan before his move to Colorado several years ago; he married Michelle in 2011 and leaves behind a daughter and two sons. Megan Harvey and her sister are twins, and records indicate that Harvey and the couple lived in the same residence — despite an incident in 2013 in which Kabelman was charged with assaulting Harvey.

According to court records, a Douglas County deputy came across an oddly parked car on Rampart Range Road shortly before midnight on April 3, 2013, and observed what appeared to be "some kind of physical altercation" between its two occupants, Kabelman and Harvey. Kabelman, who smelled of alcohol, maintained that his sister-in-law had received an upsetting text and started hitting him in the face. Harvey, who was visibly distraught, said that Kabelman had declared, "I'm going to make you mine," grabbed her phone from her when she tried to call her sister, and began hitting her in the face with his elbow. At trial, Kabelman was found guilty of third-degree assault and a misdemeanor harassment charge and was placed on probation for two years.

Harvey and Michelle Kabelman didn't respond to requests from Westword for comment on the ongoing investigation.
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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast