More than a month after Major Brown, 29, was gunned down in his front lawn after answering a knock at the door, his mother, Alma Brown, locks the door securely and is afraid to go outside.
In the weeks after her son’s death on July 9, she has been harassed by an intruder and fallen into debt, and now faces eviction from her Cate Avenue home early next month. She and her grandson are unable to sleep until around 5 a.m. when the sun rises.
But some relief came on Thursday, when Baton Rouge police charged Demond Bessie, 23, with first-degree murder in Brown’s death.
Police say this is not Bessie’s first killing. Elbert Marshall was shot dead on May 1, and Bessie was arrested July 31 in that shooting. He has since remained in Parish Prison.
Police also say another suspect, Steaphon Harris, 24, arranged to have Marshall killed. Harris was arrested in late May and was still in jail on Thursday.
“I was relieved to know some justice was served behind the killing of my son,” Alma Brown said.
On July 9, two men came to Major Brown’s door as he was getting ready for bed along with his mother, sister and 6-year-old nephew. When Brown answered the door, someone asked Brown for a cigarette lighter.
Brown ran upstairs, got the lighter and came back down, and that’s when his family said about five shots rang out.
“He didn’t go out looking for trouble,” Alma Brown said. “Trouble came home looking for him.”
The motive appears to have been robbery, and a second assailant has not been arrested, said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman.
Police found a cellphone in Brown’s front yard and traced DNA on the phone back to Bessie, of 5822 N. Sunset Hills Ave., according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Two days after her son’s death, Alma Brown came downstairs to find her daughter and granddaughter sitting at the living room table with an irate man with no shirt on who looked to be about 50 years old and who demanded to know what Alma Brown and her family had told police.
The man claimed to be a friend of Major Brown’s, but Alma Brown had never seen the man before. She said she ordered him out of the house, but in the following days, he tried and failed to force his way into the chain-locked door three more times.
Then, at Major Brown’s service at Winnfield Funeral Home, family members saw the man sitting in one of the back rows. He was wearing a tank top, jeans and tennis shoes, while everyone else was dressed in church clothes.
Alma Brown said she is sure that man was not Demond Bessie.
“It’s all a lot of stuff going on, and I don’t have the answers,” she said.
In the meantime, Alma Brown and her 6-year-old grandson, Kenny Brown, have trouble sleeping. Kenny Brown saw the two men come to the door through the front window, but he went upstairs before the shooting started, Alma Brown said.
She has found herself shaking and can’t fall asleep until the sun rises at about 5 a.m., because she figures by then people are out and about in the street. She won’t even walk nearby for groceries. Her grandson jolts awake at the slightest noise and has been sick to his stomach from the stress, she said.
Meanwhile, the cost of the funeral and the loss of Major Brown’s disability checks — Brown suffered from schizophrenia — have driven the family close to bankruptcy. Alma Brown said she took out money from a loan company to pay her bills, and she said she has no idea where she’ll go next when she faces eviction on Sept. 3.
“I’m just praying the Lord will take me somewhere safe,” Brown said. “I don’t know what the future holds.”
But most of all, Alma Brown still misses her son’s near-constant presence in the home. During the day, he would often sit outside on a plastic crate by the front door, talking on the phone with a friend or watching people pass by. When he went out with a friend, he would call two or three times through the night and let his mom know where he was, she said.
“When I go outside, I could still picture him laying there like he was trying to open up to holler or cry out but he just couldn’t,” Brown said. “If I’d got out there a little faster, I could have had a chance to hear what he was trying to say.”
Major Brown’s white Oldsmobile Cutlass was still parked in the driveway. Brown never got to drive the car — he planned to register for a driver’s license when he was killed. At least one bullet left a mark in the car’s side.
Follow Daniel Bethencourt on Twitter, @_dbethencourt.