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Charles Noel BROWN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies - Crime spree
Number of victims: 3
Date of murder: February 1961
Date of birth: June 1933
Victims profile: Men shot in robberies/abductions
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Minnesota/Iowa, USA
Status: Executed by hanging in Iowa on July 24, 1962

Born in June 1933, Charles Brown was the oldest of seven children in a Bedford, Indiana, family. He quit school after eighth grade, entering a "forced" marriage at age sixteen. 

The union produced four children, despite Brown's contention that he and his wife "never got along." Divorce was frequently discussed, but never pursued. Brown sought a temporary respite in the army, finding work upon discharge, but he was soon convicted of forging a check, sentenced to a prison term of two to fourteen years. 

In fact, he only served one year before parole, but soon violated the terms of his conditional release, "skipping from one state to another, dodging the law," until he wound up in Minneapolis, during February 1961. There, he met 20-year-old Charles Edwin Kelly, and the pair embarked upon a brief career in crime. 

On February 17, Brown committed his first armed robbery, looting a dairy store in North Minneapolis. He was "too drunk to remember" the robbery of a gas station on February 18, during which an attendant was shot, but police later found keys to the station in Brown's possession. 

On February 20, he robbed a bar in Minneapolis and shot the bartender dead when he tried to escape. 

That afternoon, Brown and Kelly took a cab to neighboring St. Paul, and there embarked by bus for Omaha. They met a female traveling companion in Nebraska, but immediately "got into a little trouble" and departed, on February 22, for Council Bluffs, Iowa. After supper that evening, Brown and Kelly went looking for cars to steal. 

Their first choice was parked in a nearby residential area, and Brown drew a pistol, shooting its owner dead at the wheel. Unable to start the engine, they walked on, accosting a shopper in the parking lot of a supermarket, a block from the last murder scene. Abducting their final victim, Brown drove him several blocks from the store, then shot him to death when the man tried to leap from the car. Swiftly arrested, Brown and Kelly confessed freely, the trigger man taking perverse pride in his "achievements." 

At his trial, in September 1961, Charles Brown was convicted of double homicide in Council Bluffs and sentenced to hang.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans


A Slow Death

The Mad Dog Killers claimed Jim Peterson's life 45 years ago. But he only recently got around to dying.

By Mike Mosedale -

June 20, 2007

By the time his body turned up in the steam room on May 3, Jim Peterson had already been dead for about three hours. No one witnessed his death, so that's just a guess. But an acquaintance reported seeing Peterson at about noon in Minneapolis's Stay Fit Athletic Club. He was alive then. Around 3:00 p.m., when another patron arrived, it was too late.

Within a few weeks, the office of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined that Peterson's death was caused by chronic seizure disorder and left hemiplegia, a medical term for a paralysis in one hemisphere of a person's body, from foot to trunk. The more intriguing finding was the manner of death: homicide. Peterson's seizures and hemiplegia, the coroner concluded, were the result of bullet fragments lodged in his brain.

The search for the killer, however, was a cursory exercise. Everyone knew who shot Jim Peterson. They knew, too, that his killer died nearly half a century ago.

Jim Peterson stuck around a lot longer. He never liked to talk much about what happened to him. When he did, he called it his "accident." But its legacy—mainly, suffering of Old Testament proportions—was always with him.

After the autopsy, Bob Peterson, Jim's younger brother, went to the basement of the funeral home to view the body. "He wasn't made up. He was just natural," Bob says. He pauses for a moment, searching out the words. "He looked the best he had in years. He looked like he was relieved."

Three big poster boards, adorned with photographs of Jim Peterson, stand next to the bar in the basement of Deb Olesen's Brooklyn Park home. Olesen, Peterson's younger sister, cobbled together the display for Jim's funeral at Brooklyn Park Lutheran Church, where Jim was a steady parishioner. There are the usual childhood pictures: a shot of Jim as a toddler soaking in a washtub, a formal high school portrait, a picture of Jim as a dapper 16-year-old with a pompadour, a bright smile, and white Bucks shoes. "That's what all the ladies' men wore," Olesen says with a laugh.

The second oldest of Ralph and Verna Peterson's four children, James Edward Peterson grew up in Brooklyn Park. When he was a small child, the family was so poor that Verna made her kids' shirts from old feed sacks. Eventually, Ralph quit farming—Brooklyn Park was still more country than suburb—and got into the residential construction business. When the family fortunes improved, they moved from a basement apartment into a modern split-level that Ralph built.

Of the three boys in the family, Jim was always the most studious and most ambitious. By the time he was a senior in high school, he had already settled on a career choice: accounting. He'd also landed steady work as an attendant at the Holiday-Erickson gas station on Highway 81 in Crystal. He loved Elvis and his 1958 Pontiac Catalina, which he kept spotless.

On February 18, 1961, a snowy, cold Saturday, the 17-year-old switched shifts with a co-worker named Shorty. According to family lore, Peterson wanted Shorty to cover his Sunday shift so he could attend a church service with his girlfriend, a minister's daughter. It proved to be a fateful decision.

Earlier in the week, Charles Edwin Kelley and Charles Noel Brown set out on a brief but grisly three-state crime spree. Kelley, a 20-year-old Minnesota native who still lived with his parents, and Brown, a 29-year-old carnie and ex-con from Indiana, had worked together as parking-lot attendants. The two became drinking buddies. After Kelley successfully robbed a gas station of $200 with a screwdriver, Brown took the proceeds to a pawnshop on Washington Avenue, where he purchased two handguns.

The next night, Kelley and Brown stormed into the Holiday station where Peterson was working. After emptying the till of $97, the bandits forced Peterson into the station bathroom.

"They shot him at least three times and they really beat the hell out of him," recalls Bob Peterson. One of the bullets likely would have penetrated his heart and killed him had it not been deflected by the silver button on his work uniform.

Still, with the bullet fragments in Jim's brain and his head swollen like a watermelon, no one expected him to survive. A few days later, he emerged from a coma long enough to talk to police, then lapsed back into unconsciousness.

Kelley and Brown, however, were only just getting started. Two days later, they hit the 19 Bar, the pioneering gay saloon a few blocks from Loring Park. After calmly smoking Pall Malls, the two men pulled out their guns and, without a word, began shooting. One customer, a 52-year-old sales manager from Milwaukee, died on the spot. According to an account in the Minneapolis Tribune, he was killed without provocation as he stood "quietly and obediently" in the back room.

The bartender was shot six times. Amazingly, all the slugs missed his vital organs. Although he lost three pints of blood, he was able to give police a description of the suspects, whom police quickly linked to the Peterson shooting. The newspapers dubbed the bandits "the Mad Dog Killers" and a nationwide alert went out.

Kelley and Brown, accompanied by Brown's mistress, fled the state. Over the next few days, they killed a liquor-store owner in Omaha and shot two other men—one fatally—while stealing cars in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The spree ended when Pottawattamie County sheriff's deputies caught Kelley and Brown at a roadblock outside of Council Bluffs.

In his confession, Brown said he and Kelley shot their victims because they didn't want to risk being identified. He claimed he was too drunk to recall precise details of the crimes. But Kelley told investigators he shot Peterson while Brown was in another room.

The following June, Brown was hanged at Fort Madison, Iowa, becoming the first person executed in that state in more than a decade. On September 6, 1962, Kelley followed him to the gallows. According to the Minneapolis Tribune, he faced death calmly and, as the hood was placed over his head, murmured, "I'm sorry for what I did."

As it turned out, Kelley was the last person executed by the state of Iowa, which abolished capital punishment in 1965.



MO: Men shot in robberies/abductions

DISPOSITION: Condemned in Iowa, Sept. 1961.



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