From AJC archives: Slain court reporter made jurors, friends feel special

This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 12, 2005.

It didn't matter how tired she was, if a jury trial was in progress, Julie Ann Brandau would come home and bake something for the jury, something rich and sweet.

She enjoyed cooking so much that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes praised her in a letter to The Atlanta Journal- Constitution.

"Every day of every trial, she creates something special for our jurors, " Barnes wrote in July 2002, when he nominated his court clerk for a Food section profile. "The staff and I are sometimes jealous of her attentions to the jury and lament the usual lack of leftovers."

The 46-year-old court reporter was killed Friday morning, along with the judge and a Fulton sheriff's deputy, during a violent rampage in downtown Atlanta.

With the passion she had for food, decorating, gardening and tending to her golden retriever named Heidi, Brandau was the sort of person Martha Stewart might have gotten along with, said Brandau's friend DeAnn Nunnally.

Not that she wasn't passionate about her job as a court reporter. She was a member of the Georgia Certified Court Reporters Association and had worked in the field for 25 years. But when she got the opportunity to blend work and the passion for food, she did.

"It doesn't matter how tired she is, she can come home after a long day and stay up until midnight baking a pound cake or something for the jury, " Nunnally said in between tears. "She was just that type of upbeat person."

Nunnally is also a former neighbor of Brandau's. The two had been friends since their children were in the first grade.

A little more than a year ago, Brandau moved into her Snellville home on Chimney Top Lane in a bustling subdivision of tidy brick homes and manicured lawns. According to Gwinnett County court records, she and her husband, Andreas Scholte, divorced in 1999. Brandau was enjoying her new life, spending her spare time redecorating her home, gardening and going to dinner with friends, Nunnally said.

"She loved to have Mexican food --- chips and dip, that was her favorite, " Nunnally said.

Brandau's daughter, Christina Elise Scholte, is a freshman at Auburn University. The mother and daughter loved to travel, venturing to Hawaii and Costa Rica over the years. On Friday, Christina Scholte's father drove to the campus to pick up his child and bring her back to Atlanta, said Nunnally, who had just spoken to them on the phone.

About 10 years ago, Brandau's mother died of cancer, Nunnally said. A few years later, one of Brandau's sisters died from the disease, she said. Another sister, who lives in Costa Rica, was to move in with Brandau in her Snellville home this June, Nunnally said.

A native of Moncks Corner, S.C., Brandau was the youngest of three girls.

Although Brandau did not attend church regularly, she had a spiritual side and each Easter would attend a sunrise service atop Stone Mountain, Nunnally said. Afterward, she would walk around the park. Nunnally said that had been her friend's plan for this Easter, as well.

Brandau's neighbors ex- pressed shock upon hearing of her death. Though they didn't know her well, Bob and Joyce Lloyd said they knew Brandau worked for a judge.

"I saw her go to work this morning, " said Joyce Lloyd. "She leaves at about 7 o'clock and I leave about 7 to go for my walk, and I saw her in her blue BMW."

Judy Jackson, who lives across the street from Brandau, was visibly shaken Friday after hearing the news. She said Brandau had spent a lot of time remodeling her new home, putting in hardwood floors, painting and decorating.

"Oh, she loved that house, " Jackson said of Brandau's big brick home, with dark red shutters and pale yellow trim.

Jackson said that although the two were not close, they often chatted when they saw each other in their yards.

"She had just gotten her hair cut, and I told her how pretty it was, " Jackson said. "She was always courteous, really nice and always had a smile on her face."

John Williamson lives three doors down from Brandau. Out mowing his back yard late Friday morning, he had heard about the Atlanta shooting but didn't realize that one of the victims was his neighbor until a reporter told him. Williamson clasped his head in his hands.

"Oh, no, it's her?" he said, bracing himself against a chain-link fence.

Williamson said Brandau was open to working on neighborhood improvements.

"I remember . . . trying to get her to help us get a septic system in the neighborhood instead of a sewer system, and she signed on the dotted line real quick, " Williamson said. "She was just very friendly."

Bob Lloyd, a retired engineer, said he helped Brandau three times --- when her basement flooded, when her pilot light went out and when a tree fell. His wife said Brandau often repaid their favors with gift cards.

They had a hard time believing she was gone.

"I'm just so shocked, " Joyce Lloyd said. "I just keep seeing Julie out in the yard playing with the dog."

For those who worked with Brandau, the pain was even greater.

Evelyn Parker, a court reporter for Fulton Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter, wept outside the courthouse Friday morning wondering whether her friend, Brandau, had been shot.

"Was it Julie? Was it Julie?" Parker, highly distraught, asked almost everyone she saw.

"This is a nightmare, " she said. "This is unbelievable."

Martha Hufstettler is a freelance court reporter who was friendly with Brandau. She remembered Brandau as someone who would light up a room when she walked in.

"She had an infectious personality, and you just want to be around her, " Hufstettler said. "And she took her job to heart. She was totally committed to working with that judge and that court."

--- Staff writers Mae Gentry and Bill Rankin contributed to this article.