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Judge Dismisses Murder Charge in Death of Gay Former Houston Resident

By John Wright

A judge on Monday dismissed several felony charges, including murder, against 22-year-old Bryan Canchola, who’s accused of fatally beating his boyfriend, Stephen Sylvester, in 2015.

Bryan Canchola

Sylvester was a former Houston resident who had recently moved to Austin.

Travis County state district Judge David Wahlberg dismissed the charges after ruling that jurors could not consider testimony from the medical examiner related to Sylvester’s cause of death.

The Austin Statesman reports:

Absent a credible cause of death ruling, Wahlberg then acquitted Canchola of murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault involving serious bodily injury. Canchola, 22, had faced up to life in prison. He still faces a second-degree felony charge of aggravated assault by causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

As OutSmart reported last year, Sylvester had lived in Houston with his previous boyfriend, Taylor Shirley, before moving to Austin.

Shirley, who says he and Sylvester had eventually planned to get back together, is attending the trial.

“Judge David Wahlberg is not even allowing us to say that Stephen Sylvester was murdered,” Shirley wrote Tuesday morning as closing arguments began. “Despite all evidence showing he was murdered by that son of a bitch. I feel so disgusted with our judicial system,” Shirley wrote morning. “#justiceforstephen will not be found in court today.”

The Statesman reports that the jury began deliberating at about 11:35 a.m. Tuesday.


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