When Raymond Eugene Brown was 14 years old, he murdered three members of his family.
He used a six-inch knife to stab and slash his 83-year-old great-grandmother, his 63-year-old grandmother and his 31-year-old aunt. These were the type of familial homicide a 14-year-old is expected to commit. One could argue they were inspired by the slasher flicks then in vogue: Brown’s aunt was sliced open from throat to pelvis and suffered more than 100 stab wounds.
Although he said he could not recall the incident, Brown confessed to the killings and was tried and convicted as an adult.
Despite being convicted of three incredibly violent murders, Brown, who acquired the nickname “Blade” while in the joint, was paroled in 1973 after serving 12 years. In 1980, he was sent back to prison for violating parole by trying to strangle his landlord in Montgomery, Alabama. Brown was released again by the state in 1986 on parole.
By 1989, Brown had taken up with Linda LeMonte, 32, a divorced mother of two children who lived on a quiet cul-de-sac in Montgomery. Just what their relationship was like no one really knows. LeMonte never complained to police that Brown was violent or cruel to her or her children.
In August 1989, however, the 41-year-old Brown demonstrated with a vengeance that he was as violent as he was when he was a teen.
On the morning of August 10, 1989, LeMonte’s boss called Beverly Evans, Linda LeMonte’s mother, and reported to her that Linda had not come to work. After Evans learned that her grandchildren were not at school, she and her husband went to Linda’s house. When no one answered the door, Evans went to her grandson’s bedroom and knocked on the window. The 6-year-old crawled from beneath his bed and opened the front door.
She found Linda lying dead in her living room and her granddaughter, 10-year-old Shelia Smoke, dead in her bedroom.
The medical examiner reported that a nine-inch long slice to her throat killed Linda and that Shelia was killed by multiple stab wounds to her chest, throat and abdomen. When Evans found her granddaughter, the handle of a knife was protruding from the girl’s navel. The blade of the knife was completely embedded in the girl’s body. The autopsy revealed that Shelia had been sexually assaulted.
There were also sexual elements to Linda’s murder. She had stab wounds to her breasts and genitalia. In addition a 27-inch cut from her throat to her pubic region completely exposed her abdominal cavity.
The killer also took a Polaroid photo of Linda’s body and left it atop the television set. Criminalists found a thumbprint from Brown on the photograph.
The killing frenzy may have been prompted by a dispute over a card game. A piece of paper with the names “Raymond,” “Shelia,” and “me” written on it was found beside Linda’s body near some playing cards.
Police quickly focused their attention on finding Brown. Executing a search of his apartment, they found traces of Linda’s blood. Brown, however, had disappeared.
The ultra-violent killings prompted authorities to go public with their search for their suspect. Describing the crimes as “ritualistic murder,” police warned the public that Brown was a “psychopathic killer who killed for the pleasure of it” and “extremely dangerous.”
“What we found was probably one of the most hideous crimes we’ve seen in this area in a long time,” said Montgomery police Chief John Wilson. “This is somebody who would kill somebody because it is in their nature to do it.”
Brown provided police with a strong lead to his whereabouts when at 6:15 a.m. on August 10 — before the bodies were discovered — he was involved in a traffic accident near Jordan Lake, about 20 miles north of Montgomery. He confessed to the state trooper that he had been drunk when he ran his car off the road. The trooper, however, let Brown walk away, but towed his vehicle.
Authorities launched a massive manhunt concentrated on the area where Brown was last seen. He managed to avoid capture for 48 hours, but was arrested after he walked into a gas station in rural Wallsboro and was recognized by the attendant.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles was subjected to intense criticism after the murders. The Victims of Crime and Leniency organization strongly protested the Board’s action in this matter and the group held several news conferences on the subject.
The attorney who represented Brown when he was tried for the murders of his relatives in 1960 told the press that his client should never have been let out of prison. He said he had believed then that Brown would kill again and that he would have told the Parole Board this fact if he had been asked. The district attorney’s office complained that it was never notified that Brown was living in Montgomery after he was paroled.
As a result of this case, a grand jury investigation was instigated to determine if the Parole Board was too lenient in granting parole to Brown.
One newspaper wrote:
By now everyone thinks he understands the mistake made with Raymond Eugene Brown. When an otherwise well-balanced 14-year-old boy carves up his 31-year-old aunt with 123 knife slashes leaving her laid open groin to throat, there’s a sexual screw loose somewhere.
Before his trial and in his appeal after he was convicted, Brown pointed out all of the publicity and argued that it had a negative effect on his case.
The Alabama Court of Appeals agreed that the trial judge erred, writing
The trial judge should have asked those jurors who had been exposed to the pretrial publicity in this case about the extent of their knowledge of the case. Then the trial judge could have independently determined whether any juror’s knowledge about this case had destroyed his or her ability to be fair and impartial.
That decision prompted a 12-year odyssey for Brown’s case that included a hearing before the United States Supreme Court.
However, when all was argued and done, Brown’s conviction and death sentence was upheld. He avoided the executioner, however; Brown died of natural causes in 2008.