West Virginia Jockey’s Cellphone Records Lead to Murder Charge

Posted on: July 27, 2023, 06:43h. 

Last updated on: July 28, 2023, 01:00h.

A young West Virginia jockey charged with first-degree murder was linked to the crime by cellphone records, according to Maryland prosecutors.

Bryson Butterfly, jockey, Elias Cieslak, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
Bryson Butterfly, above, claimed he had met Elias Cieslak to buy drugs and was ambushed by two men. Prosecutors say the jockey was the “ringleader” who orchestrated Cieslak’s fatal robbery. (Image: Thoroughbred Daily News)

Bryson Butterfly, 18, was a promising rider who raced regularly at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. He was arrested by U.S. Marshalls at his home close to the casino on June 23 on suspicion of participating in the murder of his friend, Elias Cieslak, 17.

Prosecutors claim Butterfly conspired with two others to rob Cieslak at gunpoint, but the holdup turned fatal. Cieslak was shot dead in Overlea, Md. on April 23.

David Lofton, 32, and another 17-year-old, who is not named because he is a minor, have also been charged with murder.

Robbery ‘Orchestrated’

Police spoke to Butterfly near a McDonalds in Overlea shortly after discovering Cieslak’s body. The jockey told officers he had picked the victim up in his Subaru Forester as part of a drug deal. Cieslak had agreed to sell Butterfly four pounds of marijuana for $8,500, according to court documents.

Butterfly claimed that while the deal was going down, two men showed up in a black Infiniti Q50 and robbed Cieslak of his drugs as Butterfly fled. Butterfly told police he left the area before the victim was shot dead.

Police found $7,700 in counterfeit money at the crime scene.

Suspicious of Butterfly, investigators examined records of his cellphone, which he claimed had been stolen in the robbery. They discovered that the phone called the cellphone of the younger alleged robber shortly before Butterfly picked up Cieslak in his car.

Records also appeared to show Butterfly was in constant contact with Lofton on the day of the crime.

After the killing, the phone traveled to, or close to, an address in West Baltimore, where Butterfly had claimed to live. It pinged off the mast at the same time the jockey was being interviewed by police.

‘Circumstantial Evidence’

At a bail hearing on Wednesday, Butterfly’s attorney, Sara Kopecki, argued the state’s case was “based at best on circumstantial evidence,” as reported by The Baltimore Sun.

State prosecutors painted Butterfly as the “ringleader” of the robbery.

Cieslak’s father, Juan Cieslak, said Wednesday the victim was proud to watch Butterfly competing in races on TV and wore a T-shirt with the accused’s face printed on it.

“I wish I could have my son back and they could have theirs,” he told The Baltimore Sun after the hearing, referring to Butterfly’s family members. “They can talk to their son on the phone, but I can’t talk to my son in heaven.”

Butterfly was denied bail and remains incarcerated in the Baltimore County Detention Center. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for August 18.