BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – It’s the end of an era in Bedford County as longtime Sheriff Mike Brown will step down Tuesday after more than two decades on the job.
10 News reporter Tommy Lopez sat down with him to get his thoughts on leading the department through change and through multiple high-profile cases.
Brown spent time in the military and worked in various roles for multiple federal agencies, serving in war zones around the world. He then spent six terms as the top cop in Bedford County starting in 1996.
“24 years is a long time. It was time to retire,” Brown said. “I'm going to miss the personnel the most. I've had a great group supporting me for the last 24 years.”
Bedford County covers more than 700 square miles and Brown has watched as it’s grown, becoming far less rural, more residential and more tourism-based.
“A lot has changed. A lot has changed,” Brown said.
He said his biggest accomplishment is the formation of ICAC, the Internet Crimes against Children task force.
“If I have a legacy, I hope it’s protecting kids,” he said.
Starting in 1998, the investigations have put away hundreds of criminals.
“I don't think the general population, citizens, and a lot of law enforcement, realize what is happening to children,” he said.
He described some of the images he's seen, which are too graphic to repeat.
“I've never seen anything like it,” Brown said. “It's horrific, and it's not getting better. We have to run to keep up.”
In a campaign nearly 15 years ago aimed at raising awareness of the dangers that many still remember, basketball star Shaquille O'Neal and actor Erik Estrada came to Bedford County, acting as spokespeople for keeping kids safe online.
“The spotlight was shown on Bedford County in a very positive way,” Brown said.
Teresa Silsbee, an administrative office manager who has worked with Brown all 24 years, said he set the tone for the department's success, looked for the best practices and made sure every deputy was well-prepared.
“It’s been wonderful. He has an open-door policy. He’s fair. He’s just a great sheriff. He’s done a lot for this department. He’s done a lot for these employees,” Silsbee said.
Brown said if he has one regret it’s not getting more school resource officers for the county. He hopes that can happen in the future.
There are three cases that put the county in the spotlight that Brown said he’ll never forget.
One is the 2017 murder of Raymond Wood, a Lynchburg teen who was brutally killed by MS-13 gang members.
“It’s a horrendous group, one of the most violent gangs around,” Brown said.
He said the case stands out because of the brutality of the crime and the complexities in the prosecution. He said he’s proud of the quick response from deputies.
Another is the case of Jens Soering, who was recently released after being convicted of murdering his then-girlfriend’s parents in 1985. Brown praised the department’s work on putting the case together.
And the case of the Lyon sisters is stuck in his mind. A local man accepted a long sentence in 2017 after evidence showed the remains of the Maryland children, ages 10 and 12 may have ended up on Taylor’s Mountain 42 years prior.
Brown said he will still live in Forest, but he’s starting a new job beginning later in the week.
He’ll be the Vice President of International Strategic Initiatives for the National White Collar Crime Center, a nonprofit that supports other law enforcement agencies with economic and high-tech crime.
He’ll be working on building relationships with international agencies, still serving and protecting the communities and the country he loves.
Longtime deputy Mike Miller won the November election to become the next Sheriff. He’s already been sworn in and will take over Wednesday, Brown said.