Brittany Stykes had an online job interview on Wednesday, August 28, 2013. She made plans to use the computer at her mother-in-law’s home to complete the interview; that afternoon, she and her 14-month-old daughter, Aubree, left their Ripley, Ohio, home and made the 30-mile drive to her mother-in-law’s home in Bethel, Ohio.
Brittany had quit her previous job at Wal-Mart a few months earlier when she learned she was pregnant with her second child. The 22-year-old had recently applied for a seasonal job with the Internal Revenue Service and had been pleased when they contacted her for an interview. After the online interview was finished, she was hopeful that everything had gone well. Brittany ate dinner with her mother-in-law, then told her that she was going to stop by her parents’ house on her way home.
It was around 7:00 pm when Brittany left her mother-in-law’s home, carrying a platter of leftover chicken, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese for her husband, Shawn. She strapped Aubree into her car seat and climbed into her yellow Jeep Wrangler, then started driving towards her parents’ home in Ripley. It was her father’s 49th birthday and she wanted to wish him a happy birthday before she returned home to her husband. She never made it.
Shortly after 8:00 pm, a man driving on US 68 was startled to see headlights coming from some woods on the other side of the highway. Concerned, he made a U-turn and pulled over to investigate. He found a yellow Jeep, with its motor still running. He could see a woman inside covered in blood and assumed that she had been in a car wreck. She didn’t appear to be breathing; her lips were blue and she was slumped over the steering wheel.
At 8:11 pm, the man called 911 and told the dispatcher, “There’s a Jeep in the woods. Looks like somebody drove off the road into the woods and they’re passed out at the wheel.” While he waited for first responders to arrive, the man realized that there was a small child in the passenger seat of the Jeep. Although she was covered in blood, the little girl was conscious and was screaming for her mother. Although the man didn’t know it at the time, he had just found Brittany and Aubree.
Police and paramedics arrived at the scene around 8:20 pm. They quickly determined that they were not dealing with a traffic accident; both Brittany and Aubree had been sh*ot. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do to save Brittany, and she was pronounced dea*d at the scene. Her unborn child died along with her. Aubree was rushed by ambulance to Southwest Regional Medical Center in nearby Georgetown, Ohio; she was then airlifted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where doctors frantically fought to save her life.
It appeared that someone had fired at Brittany’s Jeep from a distance; there were five bullet holes visible in the driver’s side door. Two of the bullets hit Brittany; one hit her in the neck and the second went through her chest and right arm. Aubree had been sh*ot once; a bullet had entered her forehead and exited through the top of her head. Miraculously, after two emergency surgeries, doctors were able to stabilize her and she was expected to survive.
Brittany’s husband, Shane, learned of the mur*der at 11:30 pm that night, when two deputies from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office showed up at his front door. After telling him that Brittany had been found de*ad inside her Jeep, the deputies asked if Shane would be willing to accompany them to the sheriff’s office for questioning. He agreed.
Shane told investigators that he had worked all day at Star Manufacturing in West Chester Township, then gone to a gym in Decatur, Ohio, to work out for a while. After his workout, Shane had gone home. He knew that Brittany planned to go to her parents’ house to celebrate her father’s birthday, so he hadn’t been concerned when she wasn’t at home when he got there. While waiting for her to return, he had fallen asleep, only to wake up to find police on his front porch.
Shane agreed to submit to a gunsh*ot residue test. His hands were swabbed and it was determined that he had not fired a gun recently. After a few more questions, he was released. He called Brittany’s parents and told them the horrible news, then went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to be with his daughter.
From the start of the investigation, detectives struggled to understand why anyone would have wanted to shoot a pregnant mother and her young daughter. Brittany was a sweet young woman with no known enemies. She didn’t drink or use drugs and wasn’t involved in any sort of illegal activity. There seemed to be no reason why anyone would have wanted her dea*d.
Brittany was one of David and Mary Dodson’s five children. They had grown up on a farm in the small, quiet town of Ripley, Ohio. They were a close-knit family, eating dinner together every night and often spending their weekends playing board games together. Brittany was very involved in the Future Farmers of America when she was younger, taking great pride in showing some of the family’s pygmy goats at the Brown County Fair each year.
After graduating from Ripley High School, Brittany started working at a local Subway sandwich shop. One of her frequent customers was Shane Stykes. He was 15 years older than Brittany and had two children from a previous relationship, but they grew close over time and started dating in early 2011. By the end of the year, Brittany was pregnant and the two of them decided to get married.
According to Shane, their February 2012 wedding was spur of the moment, but a decision they were both happy with. Brittany gave birth to Aubree four months later. The two settled into a home not far from Brittany’s parents and Brittany delighted in motherhood. She welcomed Shane’s two sons, aged 6 and 14 at the time, into her life and treated them as if they were her own children.
Brittany had an extremely close relationship with her parents and would go to their house nearly every day while Shane was at work. Dave Dobson told a reporter, “Brittany was a big part of our lives…[I] woke up from a phone call from her every morning.” His final text message from Brittany had been received the day she was kil*led. “Happy birthday, Dad. I love you. I’ll see you later in the day.” She was only 10 minutes from their home when she was sho*t and kil*led.
At a press conference, Brown County Chief Deputy John Schadle stated that the department was using all available resources to find the person who had k*illed Brittany and injured Aubree. Although they desperately wanted to solve the case, detectives admitted that no one stood out as a person of interest. Shane’s alibi had checked out — three police officers had been working out in the same gym Shane went to and were able to confirm that he had been there at the time the shooting took place — and they were unable to find anyone with any reason to dislike Brittany.
Hoping to bring in some new tips, investigators submitted the case to Crime Stoppers, and they offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the kil*ler. Although dozens of tips were received, no solid leads were developed.
Six weeks after the shooting, detectives admitted that they were no closer to making an arrest. Detective Sgt. Buddy Moore stated, “We do not have enough to say right now that this was random. Was she targeted? We don’t know.” They were unable to determine where the gunsho*ts had come from; it was possible they had been fired from a passing car but they might have been fired from someone standing somewhere across the highway. It could have been a targeted hit or a tragic accident. They simply didn’t know.
One of the theories that was tossed around was the possibility that Brittany had been sho*t in some kind of road rage incident. They were able to find surveillance footage of her Jeep as it traveled past the Georgetown Police Department and then a McDonald’s restaurant on Ohio 125, but they saw no evidence that she was being followed by anyone at that time.
As they struggled to come up with leads, investigators once again focused on Shane. Although they stated that they had never been called to their residence for any reason, domestic or otherwise, they still wondered if there had been tension in the marriage that no one had known about. They conducted a DNA test on Brittany’s unborn child; although they didn’t release the results, it seems safe to say that Shane was indeed the father. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office would only say, “There was nothing to look into.”
Detectives administered several polygraph examinations in connection with the case. Shane was polygraphed twice; he passed each time and was eventually cleared as a suspect. One of Brittany’s ex-boyfriends was also tested, as was a third person whose name was never released to the public. Both of them passed, leaving investigators back at square one.
Shane told reporters that the couple had been very happy and were looking forward to having another child. He admitted that they had sometimes struggled financially due to the fact that they were living on just his income, but they were getting by and Brittany had felt confident that she would get the job she interviewed for at the IRS. Detectives noted that Brittany didn’t have any life insurance, eliminating a financial motive for her mur*der.
As weeks and then months went by without any answers, Brittany’s family grew frustrated. Mary told a reporter that they were desperate to find out who had kil*led their daughter and unborn grandchild. “Who did it was evil and they took away something that was not theirs to take. Time is not going to fill the hole in my heart…it never should have happened.”
In November 2013, Brown County officials announced that witnesses had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury and testify in connection with the mu*rder. At least one of Shane’s ex-girlfriends was subpoenaed, although it wasn’t clear what sort of information investigators believed she might have. Detectives noted that she was one of three persons who had been reluctant to answer their questions; the identities of the other two people were not released.
A year after the crime, the case appeared to be at a standstill. Detectives had been unable to find any shell casings connected to the shooting and hadn’t identified the mur*der weapon. If they had any suspects, they kept that information to themselves. Shane, however, told reporters he was convinced he knew who had kil*led his wife.
According to Shane, he had told the detectives the name of the person he believed was the mur*derer. He claimed it was someone he knew, although “not on a personal level.” He was critical of police because he felt that they were not following up on the information he had given them. “This should have been wrapped up months ago.”
Detectives wouldn’t comment directly on the information provided by Shane but denied that they hadn’t followed up on it. They told reporters that they had followed up on more than 70 leads and were working on a theory that they believed might soon solve the case, though they wouldn’t release any additional information. Their optimism seems to have been misplaced; the case remained unsolved.
Despite the horrific nature of the crime, it soon faded from the headlines as the investigation stalled and then went cold. Although detectives continued to work the case behind the scenes, they had no new information to report.
In September 2015, a home in Falmouth, Kentucky, was raided as part of the ongoing investigation into Brittany’s mu*rder, but if anything was found it was not reported to the public and no arrests were made. The case went cold once more.
In January 2017, Brown County officials held a press conference and announced that they were making a new push to solve Brittany’s murd*er. A spokesperson stated they were committed to identifying the mur*derer and were pouring additional resources into the investigation. “We know that someone out there has information.” They also announced that the reward for information was being raised to $20,000. Despite the surge of publicity that followed the increased reward, no substantial leads were developed.
To date, the case remains unsolved. Nine years after Brittany was brutally sh*ot and k*illed while on her way to celebrate her father’s birthday, detectives still have no idea if it was a targeted ki*lling, a tragic case of mistaken identity, or a freak accident.
Brittany Dobson Stykes was 22 years old and 5 months pregnant when she was k*illed in 2013. She was a friendly young woman who was devoted to being the best mother possible. Her dea*th had a devastating effect on her family and they are desperate to find her k*iller. Her daughter, Aubree, has fully recovered from her wounds but constantly asks questions about her mother’s dea*th; detectives want nothing more than to be able to provide her with answers. If you have any information about Brittany’s mur*der, please contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Office at 937–378–4435.