FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — After leading police on a manhunt across three states and forcing some parts of southwest Virginia to go into lockdown last fall, the former Marine accused of shooting and killing his mother’s boyfriend is set to appear in front of a judge at the Franklin County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon.
The manhunt began after authorities named 22-year-old Michael Alexander Brown as a person of interest in the fatal shooting of his mother’s live-in boyfriend, 54-year-old Rodney Brown on Nov. 9, 2019. Michael Brown is also accused of deserting his post as a Marine combat engineer at Camp Lejune in North Carolina around Oct. 18, 2019.
On Nov. 14, 2019, authorities found an RV believed to be driven by Michael Brown at Saint Elizabeth Episcopal Church in Roanoke, which is part of his grandmother’s neighborhood. After that sighting, numerous Roanoke schools canceled classes and city officials issued a shelter-in-place for most of the day.
During an interview with WFXR News less than a week into the manhunt, Michael Brown’s mother begged her son to to surrender himself, saying she feared for his life.
“Michael, you’re my baby, I love you. Please, I can’t lose you,” said Vanessa Hanson. “I’m scared for you. Please, just turn yourself in.”
Michael Brown’s grandmother, Diane Hanson, also asked her grandson to turn himself in, reminding him how loved he was.
“I still love you, Michael. I care what happens to you. I don’t want to see you hurt or killed,” Diane Hanson said. “We just need you to be safe. Please turn yourself in.”
“I need you, baby,” Vanessa Hanson added.
Many people actually shared their support for Michael Brown on social media following Rodney Brown’s death, even after his eventual arrest. However, the attorney hired on Michael Brown’s behalf, Deborah Caldwell-Bono, said she he hoped the supporters would encourage him to turn himself in, and that they wouldn’t break the law in their attempts to help him.
Officials used helicopters, search dogs, and more to look for Michael Brown. In addition, officials say they received hundreds of tips from the public as members of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies searched through neighborhoods in three states — mostly in southwest Virginia — over the course of 18 days.
WFXR News spoke with several people in the areas being searched during the manhunt back in November.
One woman described the manhunt as “very concerning because you just don’t know when you might be shot at.”
Meanwhile, another resident said, “The unease is something you kind of… but then you say, well, we’ve got to go on and live and just trust things are going to turn out alright.”
The FBI, NCIS, and the U.S. Marshals Service also joined in the search, even placing the accused Marine deserter and alleged murderer on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Authorities finally took Michael Brown into custody on Nov. 27, 2019 when he crawled out of the attic in his mother’s Franklin County home, which is the same place where Rodney Brown was murdered less than three weeks earlier.
WFXR News looked at dozens of search warrants filed by law enforcement over the course of that 18-day manhunt. Those search warrants reveal multiple guns, a gas mask, and an Army handbook about explosives were found in the RV investigators say he was driving back in November. In addition, the warrants say police found body armor, night vision goggles, and a Kevlar helmet, as well as credit cards and an ID belonging to Rodney Brown.
Furthermore, earlier warrants show Rodney Brown had withdrawn a significant amount of cash from the bank before the murder.
WFXR News was the first to report court documents dating back to 2006 that showed child abuse and neglect charges against Rodney Brown. Even though he was initially found guilty of those charges, the ruling was eventually reversed and the charges dismissed. The reason behind that dismissal is unknown since many of the documents were sealed.
Michael Brown’s hearing has been delayed for more than three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Records for the Franklin County General District Court say Michael Brown faces several charges, including second degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
WFXR News will be inside the courtroom for Michael Brown’s preliminary hearing, which is set for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24 at the Franklin County Courthouse. Check back with WFXRtv.com for more updates on this case.
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