Home Mailbag: Was an Augusta County deputy involved in the Khaleesi Cuthriell murder?
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Mailbag: Was an Augusta County deputy involved in the Khaleesi Cuthriell murder?

Chris Graham
Khaleesi Cuthriell
Khaleesi Cuthriell. Photo: Augusta County Sheriff’s Office

I have heard a lot of people talking about a post on Breaking Through News on the Candi Royer case about how a deputy was involved in this tangled homicide. If this is true, how come the local media isn’t going after Sheriff Smith for answers?


The “if this is true” part is the answer to the question from James.

The Breaking Through News piece making the rounds cites an interview with Candi Royer’s co-defendant in the 2021 murder of Khaleesi Cuthriell, Travis Brown.

In the interview, Brown claims that Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith had knowledge of an alleged romantic relationship between Royer and a county sheriff’s deputy, Dylan Johnson, who among other things, according to Brown, allowed his children to play with Cuthriell at the property where the 3-year-old was last seen alive.

Oh, yeah, no doubt, if true, this information would cast a dramatically different light on the sheriff’s office investigation into the Cuthriell murder, which dragged on for months.

If true being the important piece here.

My analysis here is, Brown can’t be treated as an impartial party in this case, as the authors of the Breaking Through News piece seem to concede when they point out that Brown, who was given a life sentence for his role in the murder of the child, maintains his innocence and is pursuing an appeal.

In light of his interest in appealing his life sentence, is it possible that Brown is offering up this new talking point, which he apparently first raised at his sentencing earlier this month, because he’s hoping to use it as a bargaining chip in his appeal?

Seems a fair question to ask.

He’s talking for a reason.

If that’s his motivation, he’s been misled by somebody, or by having watched too much courtroom-drama TV; appeals don’t work that way.

If it’s me writing a story about claims being made by a convicted child murderer, I’d make sure to add that background to the reporting, to make clear that it’s at least somewhat possible that the person making the claims might have a motivation regarding where he’s going to spend the rest of his life.

And then there’s the distinct possibility that the convicted child murderer might also have an axe to grind against the people who put him away for life.

There might be a better way to get back at those people than to throw out these kinds of allegations, but this one would rank near the top of the list.

This all said, maybe there is a there there.

The Breaking Through piece claims to have information on the existence of text messages that would prove the relationship between the deputy and Royer.

It would be helpful if those text messages were made public, but that may be coming.

If it’s me, and I had tangible proof of something of this nature, I’d feel compelled to be public about it, to force the deputy, the sheriff, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Tim Martin, to have to address them head-on.

As it stands, what we have is a story that is getting tons of reads and shares on social media, and has people talking, but there’s not a lot of substance, not now, because the whole thing is sitting on a house of cards propped up by the claims of a convicted child murderer and texts proving a relationship that we just have to trust actually exist.

Once we get some there there, we’re more than happy to do our part to press local authorities to answer questions.

Until then …

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].