CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Thirty-year-old Stephanie Brainerd of Virginia Beach was a mother of two young children. She was staying with her friend, a coworker, Edward Wiseman and his family, as she worked towards getting her life back on track.
On March 14, 2019, it was a clear, cold Thursday night when Brainerd was working late at Chanello’s Pizza. A call came in asking for a pizza to be delivered to a residence in the Marina Point Apartment complex on Canal Drive in Chesapeake. She borrowed Wiseman’s car to make the delivery. However, when she arrived she was unable to deliver it so she returned to the restaurant. The caller called again. Brainerd returned to the complex again, where three suspects were waiting for her in a silver SUV in the parking lot.
A nearby patrol car was in the area at the time. The police officer heard multiple gunshots coming from the Marina Point complex. Then, the silver SUV pulled out of the parking lot and recklessly sped away from the scene. The police chased the car, trying to get the driver to pull over to no avail. A desperate young male named Antonio Britton jumped out of the speeding SUV and ran into a marshy area off of Canal Drive with a police officer running after him until he was caught. The other officer continued to pursue the driver.
Meanwhile, Chesapeake Police had arrived at Marina Point Apartments where they found Brainerd — lifeless — shot to death in her friend’s car.
Finally, the high speed chase ended in Portsmouth near Maryview Hospital. The driver and girlfriend of Antonio Britton was 20-year-old Semiya Mone Davidson. She was accompanied by a friend of hers who was no stranger to police, 19-year-old Tonagee Ravenel. Shockingly, there was another person in the car, a baby — Davidson’s baby. I guess it’s difficult finding a babysitter when the excuse for your absence is robbery and murder.
When police searched the SUV, they found Brainerd’s pizza warming bag and a firearm, damning evidence that would link the three suspects to robbery and murder.
The three suspects, Antonio Britton, Tonagee Ravenel and Semiya Davidson were arrested.
Although he’s only 18 years old, Antonio Britton has quite a rap sheet. During the time of the incident, he had several charges pending in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, including gang participation and assault of a law enforcement officer.
Tonagee Ravenel is no exception and proves to be criminally resourceful. The 19-year-old was arrested twice for drug possession in two different cities. On Oct. 27, 2017, he was caught with marijuana and a firearm and arrested in Virginia Beach, racking up a couple of misdemeanors for drug possession and carrying a concealed weapon.
On Aug. 2, 2018, Chesapeake Police arrested him for having heroin and cocaine. He had enough drugs on him to be charged with a felony for possession with intent to distribute.
Now, It’s been my experience that Chesapeake police rarely catches drug dealers and the Chesapeake criminal justice system doesn’t hold them long, which makes me think that an APB was issued by Virginia Beach Police in 2017 to Chesapeake Police about Ravenel since he lived in Chesapeake. It may have been for that reason that Chesapeake Police had to keep an eye on him.
In any case, Ravenel was inevitably going to prison. However, the case didn’t get filed with the court until a month after Brainerd’s death. So, Ravenel was bailed out of jail and was awaiting trial on the outside where he was able to participate in a robbery and murder.
Semiya Davidson, 20, doesn’t appear to have a criminal record. In fact, she was trying to do something with her life. She had graduated high school, had a baby and was aspiring to be a registered nurse. How does one arrive at a decision to take their baby along for the ride while you drive the getaway vehicle?
A search warrant filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court suggested that the incident was a setup. It seems that the three conspired to rob a pizza delivery driver at gunpoint. They knew of a vacant apartment in the Marina Point complex and used the address when placing a fictitious pizza order to Chanello’s. There are still lingering questions that remain unanswered. How did they know that the apartment was vacant? Did one or all of them live at Marina Point, or did they know a resident of Marina Point that informed them that the apartment was vacant. No one just knows whether an apartment is empty or not.
The three suspects had a court date in May 2019, however it was continued for reasons unknown.
On Jan. 29, 2020 (ten months later after Brainerd’s murder), a preliminary hearing was finally held for the three suspects. They entered a closed courtroom handcuffed and stood before the Judge with their attorneys.
Davidson – the getaway driver – immediately waived her right to a preliminary hearing so that she could testify against her boyfriend and her friend. She testified that she couldn’t stop the car while being pursued by police because Britton and Ravenel were calling the shots. Moreover, Davidson said that she saw her boyfriend Britton shoot Brainerd and said, “I shot that Bitch!”
Britton’s and Ravenel’s attorneys said that her current account of the incident was different from what she said when she was questioned after being pulled over. Her rebuttal was that she was afraid to tell the truth. Their attorneys said that she was “inconsistent” and “unreliable.”
However, an inmate who shared the cell with Britton corroborated Davidson’s story by testifying that Britton confessed to him that he did shoot Brainerd. Britton’s attorney argued that the inmate’s testimony was charged by alternative motives in his own cases.
A police officer who was there that night testified. He showed the court a pizza delivery bag and receipt that was found in the back of the SUV after they finally pulled over. According to court documents, they also found black & silver 9mm handgun, 9mm handgun magazine, 9mm cartridges, 3 iPhones and blue sweatshirt.
After all testimonies and defenses were heard, Britton, Ravenel and Davidson were charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. No one was charged with Brainerd’s murder.
The judge certified the case to a grand jury on Feb. 4.
On Feb. 4, the General District Court Judge deliberated that prosecutors had established probable cause in the robbery case, which sent the case to the Circuit Court. Britton, Ravenel and Davidson received direct indictments on robbery, conspiracy and first degree murder charges by Chesapeake Circuit Court grand jurors. In case you’re unfamiliar with a direct indictment, it means that the case will go straight to trial. The three suspects also face firearm felony charges. Moreover, Semiya Davidson received additional charges, such as eluding police and reckless care of a child.
On Mar. 17, 2019, a candlelight vigil was held for Stephanie Brainerd. Family and friends gathered from her home state of Georgia to pay their last respects and remember what the dedicated mother of two meant to them. According to her sister Chrissy Wood, “She was all about her kids and that was the best thing as a mother she could do was spend as much time as she could with her kids.”
With Brainerd’s family and friends now knowing that the suspects have been caught, they can finally have some closure.
Stay tuned for sentencing updates.