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‘Smart, enthusiastic’ 8-year-old murdered by grandfather in North Texas, friend and cops say

Police car with lights. (Dreamstime/TNS)

An 8-year-old boy was murdered Sunday morning at his Richland Hills home when he suffered “sharp force injuries to his neck and chest,” according to police and a ruling by officials with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Brenym McDonald’s death was ruled a homicide, and his grandfather was arrested in the case.

Richland Hills police have not released information on a motive for the killing.

Family friend Maddox Sullivan described Brenym as smart, enthusiastic, always smiling and with the biggest heart.

“There wasn’t a single room he couldn’t light up with his smile, or a story he couldn’t tell you that would make you laugh,” Sullivan posted on a GoFundMe account for the boy’s family. “A mother does not ever expect to have to bury their own child. We’re all devastated by this tragic event and not prepared for his unexpected passing.”

Sullivan created the account on behalf of Rachel McDonald and the family, setting up a memorial for Brenym and saying their final goodbyes. As of Tuesday, more than $1,000 had been raised for the boy. The goal is $10,000.

WFAA-TV reported that the 8-year-old was a student in the Birdville school district. The district released this statement Monday: “Sadly, this was one our students. Campus staff have been processing this tragedy today and calling parents in the impacted grade level. We will have additional counselors on campus when students return.”

The Richland Hills police and fire departments were dispatched at about 8 a.m. Sunday to a home in the 3500 block of Labadie Drive.

When officers arrived, they found the child dead.

Phillip Hughes, 62, the child’s grandfather, was found about a block away from the house and taken into custody without incident, police said. Hughes faces a charge of capital murder of a person under 10 years old.

The boy lived in the home on Labadie Drive along with his grandfather and other relatives, Richland Hills police said. Someone in the home called 911.

Police found the suspected murder weapon, according to Sheena McEachran, a Richland Hills spokeswoman.

A neighbor told WFAA that Hughes is a military veteran.

“He was an Army veteran, and he did a terrible thing, but also … he had issues going back a long way and … it’s just a terrible tragedy,” said the neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s just heartbreaking.”

Brenym’s great-grandmother Linda Hubbard told KTVT-TV that she and other family members drove to Texas from Missouri after hearing about the child’s death. Hubbard had last seen her great-grandson at Thanksgiving.

Brenym was “just a normal 8-year-old boy, full of life,” Hubbard told KTVT. “… He liked to cook, which we were excited about. My daughter had ordered him a chef’s hat with his name on it and an apron. He brought that with him so he could help in the kitchen. He just had fun.”

Hughes was arraigned Monday and his bond has been set at $2 million.

Hughes’ only previous criminal conviction in Tarrant County was for driving while intoxicated in 2020, for which he was sentenced to 90 days in jail, according to court records.

Anyone with information about the homicide can reach detectives by calling 817-616-3788 or emailing [email protected]. Those who wish to remain anonymous can go to or call 817-469-TIPS.

“The Richland Hills Police Department would like to express its condolences to those affected by this senseless tragedy and ask for continued prayers for everyone involved,” police said in a news release.


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