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Brown faces first degree murder charge in wife’s death / June 11, 2018

A murder charge against 80-year-old John Frederick “Jack” Brown — who stands accused of killing his 74-year-old wife, Jeanette — has been upgraded to first degree in grand jury indictments presented this week in Halifax County Circuit Court.

Brown, jailed since the Jan. 22 shooting death of Mrs. Brown at their 1171 Hendricks Road home in Halifax, was initially charged with second degree murder and use of a firearm in the slaying. To prove first degree murder, the prosecution must show premeditation by Mr. Brown as he took a .22 caliber pistol and fatally shot his wife twice in the head.

“It’s based on the facts of the case,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin said of the first degree murder indictment, which is not a finding of guilt but rather a determination by the grand jury that sufficient evidence exists to bring the case to trial. Martin declined further comment.

The charge comes after Brown confessed to killing his wife — to end her misery, he told police. In an interview with Sheriff’s Office Investigator Sam Edmunds, Brown said he thought about shooting his wife two days before actually doing so. “I began to think about what I could do for her … what I could do to help her,” Brown told Edmunds.

In the interview, which was played aloud at a General District Court hearing in May to certify the murder charge against the defendant, Brown said his wife increasingly suffered from manic depression and “bipolar” behavior, along with fluctuating blood pressure and epileptic-type seizures. Brown told police that his wife’s manic depression was tied to medications and that she had experienced the problem since 1991.

“To live with someone like that is very sad,” Brown told Edmunds in the audio recording, which was played aloud in court.

Brown also told police that he had not discussed his plans with his wife before shooting her. Following a sleepless night, Brown described the shooting on the morning of Jan. 22: on his first try, the gun malfunctioned, so he fired the second shot to the head. Brown said he wanted to make sure his wife wouldn’t live and “be like scrambled eggs.”

When deputies arrived at the home, they found a suicide note that Brown had handwritten for himself and Jeanette Brown. Brown told Edmunds that he was “guilty” and “heartbroken” after his wife’s death.

With the charge of second degree murder, it is not necessary to prove premeditation — only that the killing was done impulsively, or with the intention of causing serious bodily harm, or with depraved indifference to human life. However, to gain a conviction for first degree murder, the prosecution must show that the killing was willful and deliberate — with malice aforethought. A Class 2 felony, first degree murder carries a punishment of 20 years to life in prison.

Brown is being represented by Sandra Saseen-Smith with the Halifax County public defenders’ office. In his interview with police, Brown noted his clean record — no crimes committed, trouble, or time in jail.

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