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Rosalind Laurice BROWN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 12, 1985
Date of arrest: May 24, 2007 (22 years after)
Date of birth: January 16, 1957
Victim profile: Christopher Alan Brown, 11 (her stepson)
Method of murder: Poisoning
Location: Genesee County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on September 22, 2008

photo gallery


After 23 years, justice for Christopher Brown

By Bryn Mickle -

September 23, 2008

FLINT, Michigan -- Tears of anger, sadness and relief streamed from Brenda Simpson's eyes Monday afternoon.

Anger at her son's defiant killers who refused to meet her eyes.

Sadness because nothing will ever bring back 11-year-old Christopher Alan Brown.

And relief that her 23-year quest for justice is finally finished.

"I know that according to God's law, one day, I will have to find forgiveness in my heart for these people," said Simpson. "Today is not that day."

Minutes later, Rosalind L. Brown and her brother Montel Pettiford were sentenced to spend the rest of the lives in prison for the 1985 slaying of Christopher, who was Brown's stepson.

"I trusted her with my child and all the time she hated my little bright-eyed boy," said Simpson.

Christopher was reported missing in April 1985 from his father and stepmother's home in Genesee Township.

The boy's death was first ruled accidental when his body was found April 30, 1985, but Simpson refused to accept the notion and spent years urging police to reopen the case.

When police took a fresh look at the case in 2004 and exhumed the body, investigators found evidence that the boy had been poisoned.

After the Genesee County Prosecutor's office declined to pursue criminal charges in 2005, the state attorney general's office agreed two years later to charge Brown and Pettiford with murder.

State prosecutors argued that Brown and Pettiford poisoned Christopher then dumped his body in the Flint River to make his death appear to be a drowning.

Given the decades-long gap between the killing and the trial, the case was considered a longshot by some.

Oronde Patterson, an assistant attorney general, said the state knew it had a difficult case to prove since it had to rely on witness memories but said the case was too important not to pursue.

"We had to do it," said Patterson.

Even Genesee Circuit Judge Richard B. Yuille admitted he was skeptical when the case began but said eventually "it all made sense."

Pettiford and Brown still maintain their innocence and defense attorneys had argued the death was accidental.

Emotional statements from Simpson; her husband, Willie; and Christopher's father, Jestine Brown, had little noticeable impact on the pair.

"What terrible thing could my child have done to the two of you for you to take his life? What gave you the right?" said Brenda Simpson, who had to read part of her husband's statement after he became overwhelmed with emotion.

Jestine Brown asked his wife how she could lay in bed next to him for 20 years after killing his son.

"You took away the most precious thing in my life," said Jestine Brown, who was still living with Brown near Grand Rapids when she was arrested last year.

Pettiford and Rosalind Brown denied killing the boy before they were sentenced.

"You're blaming the wrong one," said Pettiford.

Rosalind Brown vowed to fight the case on appeal.

"I'll be back soon," she said, before being led away in chains.

Carrying a framed photo of her son -- still stained with the water that dripped from the flowers on his casket 23 years ago -- Simpson expressed relief.

"I'm glad it's over," she said.


Rosalind Brown, Montel Pettiford sentenced to life in prison for slaying of Christopher Brown

By Bryn Mickle -

September 22, 2008

FLINT, Michigan -- Rosalind L. Brown and her brother Montel Pettiford will spend the rest of the lives in prison for the 1985 slaying of Brown's 11-year-old stepson.

Genesee Circuit Judge Richard B. Yuille handed down the mandatory sentences Monday, a month after a jury found the pair guilty of first-degree murder in Christopher Alan Brown's death.

"I know that according to God's law, one day, I will have to find forgiveness in my heart for these people," said the boy's mother, Brenda Simpson. "Today is not that day."

The boy's death was first ruled accidental when his body was found in the Flint River, but the case was reopened in 2004 at Simpson's urging.

Both Pettiford and Brown maintained their innocence at sentencing.


Second guilty verdict comes down in 23-year-old murder of 11-year-old Christopher Brown

By Bryn Mickle -

August 26, 2008

FLINT, Michigan -- Brenda Simpson waited 23 years and three months for the news that came Tuesday.

Someone would finally pay for her son's death.

Two separate juries took two days to find Rosalind L. Brown and her brother Montel Pettiford guilty of first-degree murder in the 1985 slaying of 11-year-old Christopher Alan Brown.

"I'm elated and blessed," said Simpson.

Rosalind Brown, Christopher's step-mother, and Pettiford are accused of spiking the boy's food and drink with poison then tossing his body in the Flint River.

His death was ruled an accidental drowning when his body was found, but the murder charges were brought by the state Attorney General's office after the case was reopened in 2004.

Investigators exhumed his body and found he had ingested an incapacitating substance.

"Today's case is the final chapter of a sad story -- but it is a reminder that justice never rests, and will always prevail," Attorney General Mike Cox said in a release.

Pettiford's defense attorney, Stephen Lazzio, had argued the boy's death was accidental.

Lazzio said he plans to appeal the verdict.

Pettiford faces a mandatory life sentence at a Sept. 22 sentencing.

Simpson, who has been at the courthouse for every day of the trial, said she never doubted that a guilty verdict would come.

"Not a minute," she said.

Although she said her son is always with her, Simpson will deliver the news of the verdict to his grave Wednesday.

"I'll do that tomorrow," she said.


In Flint, a mother agonizes as murder trial approaches in her son's 1985 killing

By John Foren - Flint Journal

March 3, 2008

FLINT -- The two small anklets she held in her hand were decorated with a string of block letters, one spelling out her first name, the other her former last name, Brown.

And as she examined them both, Brenda Simpson pondered out loud how something so tiny could fit a human.

Both anklets were ID's placed on her son, Christopher Alan Brown, when he was born more than 35 years ago at St. Joseph Hospital.

Simpson holds up a a third item, a watch face which was a gift given to her son by Brenda and husband Willie Simpson when Alan turned 11. That would be his last birthday.

The keepsakes are reminders that she may take into court next week during the trial for the pair accused of Alan's murder. Rosalind L. Brown, of Wyoming, and her brother, Montel J. Pettiford, of Flint, have been held in the Genesee County jail since May on charges stemming from the April 12 disappearance of the boy.

Alan's body was pulled from the Flint River on April 30, 1985, weeks after he was last seen at the Genesee Township home of his father and stepmother Jestine and Rosalind Brown.

On Feb. 20, the Simpson's received a knock on the door of the west Flint home, and were presented with two subpoenas summoning them to appear in court the morning of March 11.

Brenda and Willie Simpson rarely leave the house without wearing a button with Alan's face on it, but Brenda said they'll be forbidden to wear them in court.

So the bracelets and maybe the watch face, will accompany her when she makes her testimony before Genesee County Circuit Judge Richard Yuille.

"I might not take the watch, but I'm going to take the bracelets in my hand to remind me of the day he was born and what a happy day it was," she said.

A week after receiving the subpoenas, Simpson spent one afternoon dusting her collection of ashtrays, in an attempt to keep her mind off the upcoming proceedings.

The days have grown longer since she was recently laid off from her job at a truck parts plant in Flint Township

Household chores, bubble baths in a darken bathroom and playing Ms. Pac-Man - a favorite pasttime of Alan's - is what she does to ease her nerves.

"I sit and I play that and I think about him," she said.

When the television isn't being used as a gaming system, the Simpsons often has the channel turned to TruTv, which televises court proceedings from across the nation. The couple empathize with the plight of the victim's families depicted on the cable channel.

"I watch it all the time, I got to know how this system works," she said.

As the trial date nears, Brenda acknowledges conflicting feelings of elation and anxiety. But she remains steadfast in her belief that justice will prevail.

"I have come this far, my heart can take it," she asserts.


Cox Brings Murder Charges in 22-Year-Old Flint Case

May 24, 2007

LANSING - Attorney General Mike Cox today announced the arrest of two persons on first-degree murder charges relating to the 1985 murder of a child, Christopher Alan Brown, 11 years of age at the time of his death, from Flint.  The defendants in these cases are Wyoming, Michigan, resident Rosalind Laurice Brown, 50 (stepmother to the victim), and Flint, Michigan, resident Montel Joseph Pettiford, 43 (brother of defendant, Rosalind Brown).

"One of the worst tragedies in life is losing a child," said Cox.  "For 22 years, Christopher's family has waited for justice.  Today's first-degree murder charges are the start of bringing justice for Christopher and closure for his family."   

On April 12, 1985, Christopher Brown disappeared while residing at his stepmother's residence located at 1066 Harvard Street, Flint, over the Easter break holiday.  He was last seen standing in front of the residence playing with a basketball.  The clothing description given to police described Christopher Brown wearing blue jeans, a maroon jacket, shirt, and white shoes.  A search of the area revealed no answers and no suspects.  On April 30, 1985, Christopher Brown's body was recovered from the Flint River, wearing the same clothing described above.  The original death certificate determined that the drowning was accidental, and the case was closed.

Today's charges arise from the re-opening of the case in November 2004 starting with the interview of witnesses who had not been interviewed back in 1985.  Those interviews led to the exhumation of the victim's body in February 2005 by Genesee Township Police Department which turned over the results of their investigation to the Attorney General's office.  

A major break in the case occurred recently when it was determined through toxicology reports that Brown had a substance in his system that was strong enough to incapacitate him and that this substance could have only gotten there through ingestion.

It is alleged that the suspects, Rosalind Brown and Montel Pettiford, both living in Flint at the time, fed Brown a substance that incapacitated him.  It is further alleged that defendants then placed Christopher's body in the Flint River causing him to drown.

The suspects were charged with first-degree murder and, if convicted, face mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  The Christopher Alan Brown case is being handled by the Attorney General's Office of Special Investigations, formed by Cox in 2003 to investigate and prosecute both cold case homicides and public corruption cases. 

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.



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