He murdered the mother of his child, Chelsea Bramblett, back in January 2020
By WILLIAM SNOWDEN
Chad Westerlund, who murdered the mother of his child as she sat nursing the child on a sofa, was sentenced to life in prison at a hearing last week.
Westerlund had entered a plea to second degree murder and a felony count of child neglect several months ago. At a hearing on Thursday, Nov. 2, Wakulla Circuit Judge Layne Smith ordered Westerlund to serve life in prison and to have no contact with his daughter.
It was an intensely emotional hearing with friends and family of Chelsea Bramblett, the murdered woman, portrayed Westerlund as an unfeeling often violent alcoholic.
According to the arrest report, Westerlund’s blood alcohol was .186 six hours after he placed the 911 call – .08 is considered legally drunk.
Westerlund’s attorney, Ed Bodiford, said that his client drank a half-gallon of liquor a day and was a functional alcoholic.
In Westerlund’s statement to the court, read by his attorney Bodiford, Westerlund wrote that he never wanted to hurt anybody, and that if he hadn’t been drunk that night, the killing never would have happened.
At one point he stood and turned to Bramblett’s family and said, “I just want to say I truly am sorry.”
But the family didn’t buy it, father Donnie Bramblett said Westerlund never showed any emotion in the time he’s known him – except at his first appearance and today.
Jon Fuchs, the former chief prosecutor for Wakulla, had left the position to take time off but came back for Westerlund’s sentencing, and he cast doubts on Westerlund’s apology to the family, saying he heard Westerlund’s attorney tell him to stand and face the family and say he’s sorry.
In Westerlund’s account to law enforcement, he and Bramblett argued and he stepped outside to calm down. When he re-entered the house, he saw a shotgun, grabbed it and fired at Bramblett, striking her in the face as she nursed her child. (Two other children of Westerlund’s were also in the house at the time, children that Bramblett had taken to raise in her relationship with Westerlund.)
Fuchs noted that the child was still attached to the mother’s nipple when law enforcement arrived.
Fuchs called the murder “cold blooded,” saying Westerlund “either aimed at the mother of his child and shot her in the face or he fired at her and by the luck of God missed the child.”
Bodiford asked the court to sentence his client to 25 years; Fuchs asked for a life sentence.
Judge Smith took a short break before announcing his decision and came back and said he was “mindful” that, while Westerlund eventually took responsibility for Bramblett’s death, he initially told law enforcement that she had committed suicide.
Judge Smith ordered Westerlund to serve life in prison for the murder, serve 15 years for child neglect and to never have contact with his daughter, who is being raised by the Bramblett family.
During victim impact statements, Donnie Bramblett, who is a preacher in addition to being a Leon County deputy sheriff, said he was initially concerned about Westerlund when his daughter told him she met him at her job working at a liquor store where he came through the drive-thru every night. Bramblett said he worried that Westerlund either had a drinking problem because of his daily visits to the liquor store or he was just really attracted to his daughter.
Bramblett recalled working an off-duty detail back in December 2020 at the library when Westerlund came up there to ask for Bramblett’s blessing to marry Chelsea. Bramblett asked why he wanted to marry her, and he said Westerlund didn’t have an answer. Noting that they had a child, Bramblett asked Westerlund if he just wanted to marry to avoid paying child support. He said Westerlund became surly and Bramblett withheld his blessing.
Bramblett said his daughter was planning to leave Westerlund at the time she was killed.
Bramblett said of Westerlund’s life that it’s in the hands of God and the judge. But where he’s going, Bramblett said, “There’s no air conditioning and the heat is set on high.”
After he finished speaking, a distraught Bramblett turned and walked out of the courtroom.