James C Brown was today convicted of four murders of women he met through a website. The Detroit man now faces life without the possibility of parole when he returns for sentencing on April 15. The murders all happened in a period of days in December 2011, and each time the women were murdered in pairs.
Sobs and cheers were heard in the courtroom after the verdict, with family members expressing regret that the state would not be executing the man for his crimes. Brown’s victims were Renisha Landers, Demesha Hunt, Natasha Curtis and Vernithea McCrary, who were all in their twenties, and had agreed to meet him via backpage.com, a website that has ads for sexual encounters on its pages. Brown is believed to have suffocated the women, although the exact cause of death could not be determined. However, drops of blood were found in his apartment that matched the victims, and traces of Brown’s DNA were found under the fingernails of two of the victims.
Brown of Mount Sterling, who stands six feet 10 inches tall, and weighs 300+ pounds, would have had no problem overpowering the women. He was tried on ten charges, including the murders, arson, and disinterment and mutilation of a dead body. The jury only deliberated for four hours before finding him guilty on all counts. He had admitted disposing of the bodies at the trial, but had denied the murders. He claimed instead that he had smoked marijuana with the women and fallen asleep, awaking to find them dead. However, the unlikelihood of this happening twice in seven days was noted by the jury. Before the murders Brown had a clean record, with no signs of criminal activity, and it was this record that lead defense lawyers to try to create reasonable doubt in the case of the murder accusations. However James C Brown now stands convicted of four murders.
Relatives of the women who were killed had expressed concerns to them over the practice of using backpages.com to find “dates,” although the victims were likely working as escorts at the time. One relative of the victims, mother to one, and aunt to another, demanded the death penalty, although this is unavailable in Michigan.
Judge James Biernat Jr. who oversaw the trial requested that no display of emotions be shown at the verdict, however, several relatives made cheers of joy at hearing the news, being convince Brown was guilty of the deaths of their loved ones.
After each pair of murders Brown loaded the bodies of the deceased into the back of a car, and took them to a blighted area of Detroit to dispose of them. In one instance he set fire to the car and so the bodies were badly burned when later examined as part of the investigation. Apparently the mother of Brown was in the family home when each of the murders took place, and she testified at the trial that she had no indication that the murders had taken place in the house.
The victims were found in their own cars, and they had been dumped in an area of Detroit Brown knew well, in one instance on Christmas Day, having grown up in the area before moving to Sterling Heights. This being amongst the evidence that sees James C Brown convicted of four murders.
By Andrew Willig