At Ehline Law, our personal injury attorneys like to dive deep into severe legal issues by discussing real-life events to help create awareness. This article will cover the details of Sheena Bradenburg’s deadly crash in Michigan State and why it took so long to arrest the professional MMA fighter after fleeing the accident scene. We will also cover the criminal incarceration of fighter Cain Velasquez.
[Page Updated 06/12/2022] The article will also discuss a reverse legal situation where a former professional MMA fighter, Cain Velasquez, was arrested after taking the law into his own hands, causing another death.
After hearing about the Lambert incident, many people attacked Sheena Brandenburg on social media platforms for reckless driving and cowardice. Some felt bad for the ex-MMA fighter and pitied her for her reckless driving situation. However, before she was arrested, Sheena Brandenburg once said that she didn’t want anyone’s pity because that’s when they stop respecting you.
Not many are aware of the harsh life that Brandenburg pushed through to ensure a healthy environment for her young girls. In 2011, Aaron Kirk, Brandenburg’s partner, went into a local pharmacy to buy antibiotics for Brandenburg as she was not feeling well. However, the trip to the pharmacy was the last time Brandenburg would see Kirk alive because, at the shop, he was shot dead by an assailant who was robbing the place. Unfortunately, all of this sadness prompted her to drown her sorrows at the local tavern.
The death of her partner further worsened Brandenburg’s grief as she had already had thyroid cancer for more than a year and a half. However, her treatment cleared cancer a few days after her partner passed. But it took a while before she realized she needed to be vital for her eight and 10-year-old girls and take care of them as a lone guardian.
She further received criticism from her family members, who favored Brandeburg quitting combat sports as she couldn’t juggle between the two; professional fighting and her campaign to raise her two little girls alone. At the time, Bradenburg was 22 out of the 151 female professional fighters who were also mothers, putting her in a rare category.
She never quit professional fighting and instead pushed on fighting while raising her daughters and working at a mechanic shop. She became a licensed MMA referee and judge and learned the techniques of a cut-man.
At the same time, Brandenburg became an advocate for amateur MMA in her state of Michigan, which only allowed professional combat sports. Since she could not get sanctioned fights in Michigan, which restricted her from achieving her professional fighting aspirations, she would travel to different states such as Minnesota, Missouri, and Nevada for sanctioned fights.
Brandenburg once told an interviewer that juggling professional sports and raising her children was challenging as she could barely train for 12 hours each week. She also tried to shelter her kids from her matches. However, after noticing bruises, the Brandenburg kids started worrying about their mother, to which she stated that bruises were part of sports. But her trips to the local tavern never stopped either.
Bradenburg, weighing in at 115 lbs. and standing at 5 feet 5 inches from Flint, Michigan, was also known as the “Puma Starr” in the cage. Although Brandenburg’s passion was to become a professional MMA fighter, she never won any matches in professional or amateur MMA.
Her fight history as an amateur included nine matches where she faced Sarah Neumann, Lauren Foley, Chrissie Daniels, Lizzy Crowley, Anne Malinoff, Cheyanne Vlismas, and Jenny D’Acquisto, Kelly D’Angelo, and Tabatha Ann Watkins. Unfortunately, Brandenburg lost all of the matches, with 33% resulting in a knockout or a technical knockout and the remaining 67% in submissions.
In 2017, Brandenburg entered professional MMA, where she had three matches against Shinju Nozawa-Auclair, Danielle Hindley, and Alibeth Milliron. With few hours of training, Brandenburg lost all three matches, with one knockout (a technical knockout) and two submissions.
In 2019, Brandenburg became part of the BKFC and had a total of four matches. She won her BKFC debut against Ivana Coleman after losing ten consecutive matches during MMA. However, she was back on her losing streak as she lost the next three bouts against Delaney Bailey, Christine Stanley, and Jenny Clausius.
On August 1, 2020, local Crawford County police received a phone call about a motorcycle accident on Lovells Road in Lovells Township, a civil township of Crawford County.
When the police arrived at the accident scene, they saw a single-wrecked motorcycle and a seriously injured man lying on the road. They transported the 56-year-old man, Troy Lambert, to Munson Hospital in Traverse City for medical aid. However, the injuries were too severe, and Lambert died at the hospital.
Further investigation into the incident revealed that it was not a single-vehicle accident that the cops had initially believed. Evidence suggests that Troy Lambert’s motorcycle was rear-ended by a former professional MMA fighter, Sheena Brandenburg, after she left the local tavern nearby the accident scene.
Lambert and Bradenburg were at a Crawford County bar in Northern Michigan when, after midnight, Lambert decided to leave the local tavern. As he rode on his motorcycle away from the bar, Sheena Brandenburg hit his motorcycle from the back, resulting in a deadly crash. State police found that Brandenburg did not stop after causing the motorcyclist crash, turning the incident from reckless driving to a hit and run case.
Unfortunately, even with the evidence gathered by the law enforcement, they still could not arrest Brandenburg for killing the motorcyclist. It was because she had already fled Michigan. The local authorities issued a warrant against the MMA fighter but could not arrest her because they did not know where she was.
In November, police received information that Sheena Brandenburg was residing in Elsberry, Missouri. They promptly informed the Elsberry Police Department and provided them with the warrant for her arrest. The local authorities arrested Brandenburg and sent her to Lincoln County, Missouri Jail, from where she was extradited to Michigan State Police. They placed her in Crawford County jail to await her charges over allegations Sheena Brandenburg hit and killed the motorcyclist and left Michigan. The investigation continues as she prepares for trial.
The arrest in Elsberry was not the former MMA fighter’s first taint in her criminal record before fleeing Michigan State Police. Crawford County Court online records showed a history of arrests for drunk-driving offenses by the bare knuckle fighter.
In 2010, 2012, and 2016, police arrested Brandenburg for operating under the influence of liquor. Even though she had not killed anyone before Lambert’s case, these arrests were concerning as she was drinking at the same bar as Lambert before hitting his motorcycle in the back and fleeing. Her history of arrests revolved around drunk driving accidents.
When the northern Michigan police issued a warrant for her arrest, Bradenburg was set to face Jenny Clausius in the cage at BKFC 15. She continued with the match and lost in the second round when the doctor stopped the fight.
Upon Sheena Brandenburg’s arrest, MMA Junkie approached BKFC President David Feltman for comments on the incident. Feltman disclosed that not all athlete communities in combat sports conduct criminal background checks, allowing wrestlers to fight in the cage. He also stated that he never received any calls from any law enforcement authority regarding her arrest. Hence, the organization was unaware of the Northern Michigan incident, which is why she participated in the match against Jenny Clausius.
David Feltman offered his deepest condolences to the victim’s family for the horrific Northern Michigan reckless driving incident and deadly crash.
Sheena Brandenburg’s arraignment occurred in March 2021, more than seven months after her hit and run incident.
In the 46th District in Crawford County, Brandenburg faced the justice system that set her bond at $250,000 for her two felonies; negligent driving resulting in death and failing to stop at the accident scene.
According to a local news report, Brandenburg admitted to the crime and was sentenced to five to 15 years in jail.
This is not the first time the police have arrested a professional fighter and jailed them on several charges. Recently, police arrested former UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez for attempted murder.
Let’s quickly go over the recent story of Cain Velasquez’s shooting.
On March 1, 2022, after the California shootings in San Jose, police arrested suspect Cain Velasquez, taking him into custody. The police initially did not know what went down, but they found a gun in Velasquez’s car and two empty ammunition casings.
Upon further investigation, they found that Velasquez was following a pickup truck with an older couple and 43-year-old Harry Goularte, the man charged with molesting Velasquez’s underage relative.
Infuriated, Velasquez decided to take matters into his own hands by following the car in an 11-mile high-speed chase. As he got close to the vehicle, he fired several times with his .40 caliber pistol from his pickup truck at the man accused of molesting his relative. Unfortunately, he missed his shot, and it struck Goularte’s stepfather.
Cellphone footage released by a bystander showed Valesquez in his SUV chasing a truck with bullet holes in the dented passenger door. The footage was only 10 seconds long and clearly showed what went down between the two parties.
On March 2, 2022, Valesquez appeared March 2, 2021, and stated that his actions resulted from a man who had repeatedly molested his close relative at a daycare run by Goularte’s mother. The incident infuriated Valesquez even more, as he had been a daycare client for over two years.
The court ordered Valesquez behind bars in Santa Clara County Main Jail without bail until the judge decided. Valesquez faces ten charges, including one count of attempted murder, one count of motor vehicle shooting, three counts of assault with a gun, one count of discharging a gun from a vehicle, and one count of carrying a loaded firearm with intent to kill.
According to the California Penal Code, if the court finds Valesquez guilty of these crimes, he will have to face a minimum of 20 years in prison. What’s saddening is to hear that Goularte, a man accused of molesting a child more than 100 times, was out on bail and awaiting court proceedings.
After understanding why Velasquez pursued the vehicle and shot at it, many fans and professional combat sports fighters came out in support of Velasquez. People expressed their support on social media using the hashtag “#Freecain,” which quickly gained traction.
Daniel Cormier, an American professional MMA fighter, mentioned how Velasquez supported him throughout his career, and now it is his time to support the former fighter in these dark times.
On the other hand, the District Attorney said it was tragic to see a person take the law into their own hands. However, celebrity attorney Mark Geragos stated that he plans on freeing Valesquez, his client, and handing him over to his family as soon as possible.
Although both stories are entirely different, they share the same moral: cooperate with the law. In the case of Sheena Brandenburg, she did not stop after causing the accident and escaped the state, remaining on the run for seven months before getting arrested. Brandenburg could’ve faced a different situation had she stayed at the accident scene and cooperated with the law enforcement officers rather than fleeing.
The same is true for Cain Velasquez, who decided to take the law into his own hands. Harry Goularte was already accused and on bail while waiting for the court’s decision. Although justice was not as swift as Velasquez hoped, the case was set for a hearing. Velasquez could’ve waited for the court hearing rather than taking measures of his own to ensure swift justice. In doing so, Velasquez harmed Goularte’s stepfather, who became the victim of the entire 11-mile high-speed chase.
No matter how furious you might be at someone, you mustn’t take the law into your own hands, or you might end up in hot water. The reverse is also true. Fleeing justice by running from the Michigan State Police assured that a professional MMA bare-knuckle fighter like Sheena Brandenburg would be found guilty by a Crawford County court of hit and run driving.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries from a motorcycle accident due to another’s negligence, contact us at +(833) LETS-SUE for a free case review. Don’t delay speaking with our reputable personal injury attorney team. Our aggressive, compassionate law group will handle your motorcyclist-related legal troubles once we form an attorney-client relationship!
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer on the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.
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