Widow Questions Other Officers' Role In Deputy's Death
By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
DICKSON, Tenn. -- Dickson County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Bellar was ambushed last year, and authorities closed the case almost immediately.
But, now, Bellar's widow is hearing from his fellow officers that investigators may ignored key evidence -- evidence that could have embarrassed the local law enforcement community.
Those are allegations that, Brandi Bellar said, local authorities refuse to investigate.
"He gave everything he had, everything he had -- himself, his family, his role as a father," Brandi told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
"He gave us everything, but we can't give him an investigation? We can't even get the truth about why he had to give everything?"
Keith Bellar was gunned down last year in the line of duty. Compounding the tragedy of that day, Brandi says, has been the response to her pleas for answers from those local authorities.
"I understand why they are not grieved, but I don't understand why they don't care," Brandi said.
Home video shows Keith Bellar not long before his son was born, the day after and sharing little Jacob's first laugh.
Then, just three months later, Deputy Bellar came up on a car crash that turned out to be a domestic dispute.
A Dickson County man had rammed his estranged wife's car.
That man, Jayson Eggenberg, shot Deputy Bellar in the head, before turning the gun on himself.
"It was almost 35 minutes after the shooting that I found out and that will haunt me for the rest of my life -- to know that they didn't even have the decency to call me," Brandi recalled.
In those first hours, Keith's mom began to question how the investigation was being handled.
"I just thought it was unusual with a police officer that the TBI was not called," Debbie Bellar said.
Instead, Dickson police investigated the shooting -- despite the fact that the shooter's wife was a dispatcher for the department.
"I find that odd," Brandi said. "I find that odd that her employer is allowed to investigate when she is directly involved in it."
And the story that emerged was that Eggenberg, a man with a history of emotional problems, had become paranoid that his wife might be having affairs with some police officers or deputies -- an allegation she has insisted wasn't true.
"They just kept telling me that he was just crazy, he was just some crazy lunatic who went off," the widow remembered.
Then, this past fall, Brandi said, she began to hear from other officers. They felt it was time she knew the truth about why Deputy Bellar may have been killed, the truth about how other officers might have blood on their hands.
"After I received those phone calls from those officers, I began to understand that he was provoked, and I felt sorry for Jayson," she said.
She felt sorry because those callers told Brandi that the mentally unstable Eggenberg had been taunted by text messages from two area officers, boasting that they were indeed fooling around with his wife.
"Because Keith looks like one of these officers, perhaps Jayson thought he was shooting that officer," Brandi said.
"It makes me sad that he had to take a bullet for someone else's ignorance."
That's when Brandi decided to reach out to the shooter's family.
Eggenberg's brother, it turned out, told her he had actually seen one of those text messages himself.
"It said, 'Yes, I'm having sex with your wife and next time it happens I'll be sure and tell you how good it was,'" Jackie Coker told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Brandi said, "I feel sorry for a man who has officers texting him very vulgar things about his wife."
"That was never investigated?" we asked.
"No," she answered. "The sheriff told me to my face 'we don't investigate rumor for homicides.'"
It's an answer that this now-single mom said she just cannot accept.
"For Jacob to go see his Dad, I have to drive him to a cemetery," Brandi said, as the tears began to flow.
"And to give his Dad kisses, he kisses a tombstone.
"And then when he's old enough to start to get these ideas and questions in his mind, I am going to have to explain to him why his Dad didn't deserve a proper investigation and why his Dad gave his life for something so juvenile."
NewsChannel 5 reached out to Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe. Even though it was his deputy who was killed, he refused to even talk by phone.
Still, our own investigation discovered serious questions about whether detectives ignored at least one lead that might have implicated other officers.
Tuesday at 6 p.m., we'll show why even the Dickson police chief himself thinks there ought to be an independent investigation.
As for Brandi, she explained that she's not so concerned about those officers being prosecuted.
What is important, she said, is that if they pushed a man over the edge, she doesn't think they ought to be wearing a badge.
NewsChannel 5 also reached out to Jayson Eggenberg's widow. Through her boss, she said that she does not believe there were any such text messages.