Brianna Nicole Post, an Anniston mother of two, would have turned 25 years old on Thanksgiving this year. Instead, just a day before, in the early morning on Nov. 21, she died in a car parked at the Talladega Walmart, the victim of an alleged kidnapping and shooting.
Christina Post, Brianna’s sister, wants to know why. She wants to understand what happened so she can one day explain it to Brianna’s twin children, two 7-year-old boys, when they’re older.
“We need some answers. This is our baby, she was the youngest one,” Christina said by phone Thursday.
The alleged kidnapper, Benjamin Eugene Weathers, also of Anniston, died in a shootout with police; the circumstances around their deaths are unclear. Whether Brianna was killed before or during the firefight is a question that has yet to be answered by Talladega police or the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. Efforts to reach both by phone for this story were unsuccessful through the week following the shooting.
Brianna’s autopsy report is months away from arriving, Christina said, and the police haven’t told the family anything new since the shooting.
Bradley Smith, the father of Brianna’s children, said he tried to explain what happened when he heard news of Brianna’s death.
“The first thing I did (when I found out) was talk to the kids,” he said. “It ain’t quite hit them yet. They don’t quite understand what’s going on.”
Weathers, the man with Brianna the morning she died, was 48 years old at the time of his death. He has a well-documented history in Anniston: In 1988, he and a friend, both 17 years old, stabbed a local gardener named Clara Fordham 10 times in her home, stealing $50 from her billfold and leaving her for dead, according to an Anniston Star story written soon after the incident.
Fordham survived the attack; she told The Star in 1989 that her doctor “says (the knife) missed my heart a hair. He says it missed my brain a hair. I guess the good Lord was with me." She showed the reporter a 4-inch scar running down her throat as evidence of the attack. (Fordham died in 2012.)
Weathers and his accomplice, Travis Leon Roberson, were set to be tried as adults for the crime. Weathers pleaded guilty and accepted two 30-year sentences, to run concurrently, for charges of first-degree robbery and attempted murder. Roberson pleaded guilty as well to the same charges, and received 10 years imprisonment.
Weathers was charged with second-degree assault in 1995 while imprisoned at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, and in 2003 was charged with promoting contraband. He was released Nov. 28, 2017, less than a year before his death.
His sister, Jo Anne Turner Anderson, said Weathers was always calm and steady around her, but she’d heard stories about instability from other siblings. After he was released from prison, he seemed to have a hard time adjusting.
“I could look in his eyes and see pain, and it would hurt me to see so much pain in his eyes,” she recalled.
Why was Brianna Post with a man who had a history of violence, who was twice her age, and just a year out of prison? Christina thinks they might have met at a party that night through a mutual acquaintance, but that’s not certain. Whether the meeting was related to the sale or use of drugs is also uncertain.
Brianna had a short history with Calhoun County’s courts; she was charged with possession of controlled substances on three separate occasions from 2015 to 2017, and possession of drug paraphernalia in two of those instances. She’d had hearings with the county Department of Human Resources about custody of her children, and spent some time in Calhoun County jail.
Weathers was on anti-psychotic medication, Anderson said, and he was also using drugs.
“He was using,” she said, though she didn’t know what specific substances. “I know it was a needle.”
Bruce Word, a chaplain with the Etowah County Detention Center and a pastor with 30 years of drug counseling experience, didn’t know Post or Weathers, but has worked with countless inmates with addiction problems. He said by phone Thursday that addiction has such an effect on someone’s actions, it changes who they are.
“It can happen to anybody, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, educated or uneducated, from a good home or a bad home,” he explained. “Drug addiction has no respect of person.”
Anderson said that Weathers told her two weeks before his death that “he was ready to go home.” At the time, she thought he might have been talking about prison — now she thinks he might have meant something more spiritual.
“I actually got a lot of relief when it caught me that he’s gone. I feel like he was in a lot of pain. I have closure now. I know, even the way it happened, if God wanted him to be here with me, he’d still be here,” she said.
Christina said she had also had problems with addiction, but she pushed past them. She has a new job, a new home, a new car and a new life. Christina said that she was taking Brianna to job interviews and trying to get her to follow her lead.
“We were supposed to live and be happy with our children and follow the Lord,” Christina said, “and now she’s gone.”