Marine deserter suspect in death of his mother’s boyfriend in Virginia

Marine deserter suspect in death of his mother’s boyfriend in Virginia
Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office via CNN
Michael Brown, 22, is wanted in connection with the killing of his mother's boyfriend, authorities say.

A Marine who deserted his post at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina last month is a suspect in the killing of his mother’s boyfriend, authorities said Monday.

According to a news release from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, Michael Alexander Brown is known to frequent national parks and forests, and he may be living in the woods.

The 22-year-old is believed to be “armed with a high-powered rifle and may have access to other weapons,” the sheriff’s office said. He is considered dangerous, authorities said.

The sheriff’s office obtained an arrest warrant Monday, charging Brown with second-degree murder and with using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Second-degree murder, according to Virginia law, is a catch-all that includes any killings that aren’t categorized as first-degree, premeditated murder or capital murder.

Around noon Saturday, the sheriff’s office responded to a shooting call in the Hardy community, about 9 miles east of Roanoke, where they found Rodney Brown, 54, dead in his home, authorities said. Rodney Brown’s girlfriend — who is Michael Brown’s mother — called police after finding Rodney’s body in the house, Capt. Phillip Young with the sheriff’s office said.

Michael Brown was initially labeled a person of interest, and the sheriff’s office said he was driving a white 1976 Cadillac. By early Sunday afternoon, authorities were calling Michael Brown a suspect in the killing.

He’d ditched the Cadillac, they said Sunday, and is now believed to be driving a black 2008 Lincoln Town Car, possibly displaying the North Carolina license tag EHP 4877.

Young declined to say what led the sheriff’s office to name Michael Brown as a suspect.

“He could be anywhere,” Young said, adding that while Monday’s search efforts are limited to Virginia and North Carolina, “that could change.”

The motive in the killing is unclear, police said.

Michael Brown is the son of Rodney Brown’s girlfriend, who lived with Rodney Brown in the rural community of Hardy. Michael Brown was not living with the couple at the time of the killing, Young said.

One of Rodney Brown’s neighbors, Kenneth Meador, told CNN affiliate WFXR that he heard the responding officers’ sirens but didn’t think much of it at first.

“Then when I heard there’d been a shooting, didn’t even think about Rodney because I’ve known Rodney. He grew up here. I did, too. We were friends, neighbors,” Meador told the station. “Rodney was a super nice guy. He was really polite, worked hard. Just a great guy.”

Michael Brown had been stationed at Camp Lejeune, almost 300 miles southeast of Hardy, until October 18, when he abandoned his post, the sheriff’s office said.

Though he’s been seen around Franklin County since leaving Lejeune, it wasn’t clear where he’d been living, authorities said.

CNN’s calls to Camp Lejeune were not immediately returned. Commonwealth Attorney A.J. Dudley, the prosecutor for Franklin County, said he would reserve comment until the matter evolved and the timing was appropriate.

Michael Brown’s mother, Vanessa Hanson Brown, declined to comment when reached by phone.

Anyone who encounters Michael Brown should use caution and call the police immediately, the sheriff’s office said. He is about 6 feet tall, weights 154 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes.