|Ramada Inn Resort and Conference Center in Branson|
Police Chief Kent Crutcher says a housekeeper at the Ramada Inn Resort and Conference Center discovered the body of Marilyn J. Brown when he went to clean the room. It is believed the sixty three year-old woman had been deceased for at least twenty four hours before the discovery.
The couple, who were in the process of moving to the area from Palm Springs, California, had checked into room 182 at the hotel along the 76 Strip last Thursday (02-21-13) and were due to check out on Sunday, according to Crutcher.
Crutcher says there were signs of a struggle in the room, but would not say what they were citing the ongoing investigation.
The housekeeper told a guest that there was a do not disturb sign on the door. He said when he entered he that he thought the woman was sleeping on her side on one of the beds in the room, but when he got closer he noticed a pool of blood and backed out of the room. Sources say the woman had been shot multiple times.
|Thomas Phillip Brown (Branson PD)|
When reached by phone at home late Tuesday (02-26-13) evening, Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell said he had filed first degree murder and armed criminal action charges against Thomas Phillip Brown. The date of the alleged murder is listed as February 21st, the same day the couple, who both had children from previous marriages, checked into the hotel, according to online court records.
Merrell has requested that Brown be held without bond when he is arrested, according to those same court documents.
Brown, 68, who remains at large with the couples cocker spaniel, was named a "person of interest" in the case on Monday. He is believed to be driving teh couple's only vehicle, a blue 2006 Dodge Durango, similar to the one pictured, with California plates 5WR-F678. "We're still looking for him," said Merrell.
Marilyn Brown's daughter told investigators that Thomas Brown, who is known to carry a gun due to his past work as a security guard, did not want to move to the area, according to the probable cause statement. A statement from police goes on to say he was upset that the couple had to reside out of hotel rooms "due to being displaced from the place they had planned to reside." They also say that it appears that no one else accessed the hotel room without the electronic key cards that were issued to the couple.
Before they relocated to Branson on Valentine's day, the couple lived in a small rented condo in the Mesquite Country Club for over a decade, according the their former neighbor, Joyce Bacon.
Bacon said Thomas Brown had been employed as a security guard at a casino until he was promoted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which he left about a year ago. She said the couple decided to move to the Branson area because the cost of living would be substantially less in Missouri than California.
Marilyn Brown, who had major health issues about five years ago, loved to cook and share her leftovers and magazines with her neighbors and Thomas Brown was always tinkering with home improvements inside and outside their condo, according to Bacon.
The former neighbor, who has been in contact with authorites in Palm Spring and Branson, says she believes she would have noticed if there had been any discord between the couple, as they often left their front door open. "There was zero (yelling)...and I never heard a single cross word between them," Bacon said. "I can't in a million years believe it; they were two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They were happy the day they were moving...they weren't fighting or anything like that."
The couple, who kept mostly to themselves, didn't have much interaction with neighbors but a lot of people in the gated community knew Thomas Brown from seeing him walking the couple's chubby cocker spaniel, Shiloh, who sometimes wore tiny boots. "I invited them to a lot of different functions and fundraisers in the community but they never attended any of them. One day Marilyn said we don't drink and socialize that much...and I never asked them again," said Bacon.
Riverside County, California court records do not show any criminal record for either of the Browns, according to the Desert Sun newspaper.
It appears that the Browns also have ties to El Dorado, Arkansas and Hampton, Arkansas.
The last three homicides in Branson occurred at hotels/motels in the tourist town.
Terry Lynn Huey was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to twenty years in prison for the 2007 stabbing death of Dewayne Anthony Lynn at the Crescent Court Motel.
Michael Doyel was convicted of federal kidnapping and murder. In 2008, he transported the dead body of his estranged girlfriend Deborah Jones in a plastic storage container across several state lines before he ended up at the 76 Inn Motel in Branson. He is serving a thirty year federal sentence for the kidnapping, and if he is still alive after that sentence is served, he will begin serving a life sentence in state prison for Jones' murder.
In September of 2012, Stewart Hopkins was convicted of first degree murder for the stabbing death of his estranged wife Stacy Birmingham at the Bunkhouse Motel in 2010. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Detective Sean Barnwell at (417) 337-8593.
Brown was ordered to stand trial for his wife's murder after he waived his preliminary hearing.