Renaissance, Texas: Fantasy and Murder at the World's Biggest RenFaire [8]

The verdict arrives on the murder of Brandon Smith.

“Renaissance, Texas” is a nine-part, serialized story I’m running exclusively in my newsletter. To read from the beginning with Post 1, click here.


Following Brendan Smith’s death, King George’s reign came under question as reports spread that the Festival had failed to provide adequate security.

When pressed by a Houston Chronicle reporter, Coulam pushed back. “It was a tragic mistake that happened out there. You can't blame that on our security — we had plenty of security out there."

During the investigation, however, Sheriff Sowell learned the festival only had 15 people working security for a crowd in the tens of thousands, and two of them had been sent home early. There were no security guards at all in the parking lot at all.

“Drink, weed, and stupidity can mix anywhere."

After deputies quickly matched the car outside Noland’s home to the witness reports of the one seen speeding away from the crime scene, Noland arrived at Sheriff Sowell’s office the day after the murder to turn himself in. In the trial two years later, Noland’s attorneys alleged that he had acted in self-defense. "I think if you look at the evidence and listen to Brent Noland you see what was in his heart,” he told the jury, “He isn't the type of person to do what they say he did unprovoked."

The jury didn’t agree.

On May 16, 2006, Noland was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the murder. His friend, Joshua Damuth, who had kicked Smith in the head while Noland stabbed him, pled guilty to aggravated assault, and was sentenced to 100 days in jail.

The murder soon became the talk of the RenFaire forums. On Renaissancefestival.com, a poster nicknamed “Sir Martin” lamented the stain on the TRF’s storied history. "The important thing for all of us to remember,” he wrote, “is that this is the only incident of this magnitude in the 35 year history of our great faire.  In the past few years, security has been increased and TRF attendees can be confident that they are in a safe environment."

Another, Captain Killian, addressed the irony that when real violence came to the Faire, it wasn’t period-appropriate. "No one pulled forth the sword on their hip and went to town, no battle axe mayhem, no black powder flintlock executions....just some Shiner Bock and a knife,” he wrote, “Drink, weed, and stupidity can mix anywhere." He went on to proclaim, "Huzzah to our Faire, and the staff and police that help keep it safe...because as was told to me on my very first visit, Where else can you walk around with 42 inches of razor sharp steel, walk into a pub, and the only thing the cop at the door might say is...'nice sword'."

In the next part of “Renaissance, Texas:” Can the party go on?