August 15, 2022 | By Jay Mafela
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
The rolling of skateboard wheels down the sidewalk. The smell of fresh mud entering a house. The clink of metal tags from a dog playing in the neighborhood.
All these sensations could be associated with Brandon Gentry.
Brandon was an adventurous, yet relaxed guy, always looking to have some fun. But these sensations would never come again after Brandon was pronounced dead on August 14, 2013.
Police say it was a hit-and-run crash*, but his case has never been solved. He was just 26 years old.
Brandon lived with his father after his parents, Jonathan Gentry and Carol Kent, divorced. He spent most of his childhood in Springfield, Illinois, with his dad, stepmother, and brothers, Jonathan and Mike.
In 2003, when he was 16 years old, he moved to Jacksonville to live with his mother.
He spent most of his time outdoors riding around on his skateboard or playing soccer with his friends and brothers. According to Jonathan, if the game had winners and losers, Brandon was usually on the winning team. He always liked to have fun, even if he got a few injuries on the way.
Brandon was a regular kid growing up. He didn’t ask for much and was always happy with what he had. Even when it came to his skateboard, he was pleased with anything if it rolled around.
“He was just one of those guys who’d be happy with a cardboard box and a ham sandwich,” Jonathan said.
Brandon had one big goal in life: to be a father. And he got that wish in the form of his two daughters.
He and his then-girlfriend had their first daughter in 2010 and her sister in 2013. After the two separated, he cared of both girls himself, from playing peekaboo to changing diapers, all with a smile.
Anyone sitting down with Brandon knew it was only a matter of time before he started talking about his girls. He even had a tattoo of one daughter’s name on his arm.
He also had a tattoo of a pit bull on his chest, representing his love of pit bulls. When he lived with his mother, he owned and took care of two pit bulls who would always find some way to escape and run around outside. It got to the point where Brandon couldn’t keep up with the fines from the city and he had to find them new homes.
Carol described her son as a silly class clown in school, but a reserved kid at home. He was an easygoing peaceful person, never bickering or arguing with his brothers. In fact, he was usually the mediator of his siblings’ arguments, getting them to calm down and stop fighting. He wasn’t a naturally confrontational person, but he was not afraid to stand up to anyone who tried messing with his friends.
Brandon always enjoyed “mudding,” or going to mud holes and driving off-road vehicles. On August 10, 2013, he planned to go to the Picketville Mudhole with some of his friends. Police believe that while he was out, he got into a confrontation with someone who accused Brandon’s friend of stealing alcohol. After the encounter, the rest of the friends left for the mudhole.
The next day, a group of teens driving around the Picketville area thought they saw a deer lying on the side of the road. Once they got closer, they could tell it was a person with multiple injuries.
They had found Brandon Gentry.
He was rushed to the hospital and treated for days. While the news shook Carol to her core, Jonathan was in disbelief. He thought it was just another case of Brandon getting into a scrap and getting back up in no time. It wasn’t until he entered the hospital and saw his mother’s despair that he realized how dire the situation was.
Police told the family he was the victim of a hit-and-run and possibly struck intentionally. Four days after the incident, Brandon succumbed to his injuries.
When Brandon’s girls were still young, his family would frequently have video calls and release red balloons into the sky each year. Jonathan says he now just has a drink in remembrance.
Brandon’s death meant he left behind his two daughters. His mother swore she would make sure the girls were raised happily. After his passing, she would foster and eventually adopt the girls. She and her husband also foster three other children.
“Sometimes, I just think he’s not gone,” Carol said.
“He’s just out with his friends. Like I’d hear the phone ring and I’d hear his voice telling me he’s just late coming home.”
*Often hit-and-runs are referred to as “accidents” by the media and sometimes law enforcement. Project: Cold Case uses the term crash and asks others to consider changing the way they describe hit-and-run incidents as well.
If you have any information, no matter how small you think it is, about Brandon Gentry’s death, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-2178. To remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
You may be eligible for a reward of up to $3,000 if your Crime Stoppers tip leads to an arrest in this case.
October 4, 2015 – Original Spotlight
Brandon Gentry, 26, spent Saturday evening, August 10, 2013, hanging out with friends at a popular mudhole off Pickettville Road in Jacksonville, Florida.
Early Sunday morning a vehicle driving northbound on Pickettville Road spotted something on the side of the road and called authorities.
Police found Brandon bleeding from the head and with life-threatening injuries. Brandon died from multiple injuries on August 14, 2013.
Evidence at the scene suggests that Brandon may have been the victim of a hit and run.
Brandon’s family and friends have continued their fight for justice by refusing to let Brandon’s case be forgotten. They have a Facebook page in Brandon’s honor and continue to seek answers and justice.