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Michael Brown appears in court for preliminary hearing

Ex-Marine accused of killing mother's boyfriend


2:00 p.m. Update

After an emotional preliminary hearing on Wednesday, a judge ruled the case against Michael Brown will now go before a grand jury on Monday, July 6.

1:45 p.m. Update

The defense argued Michael’s charges be downgraded to voluntary manslaughter. The judge decided to case will move forward to trial.

1:30 p.m. Update

Michael Brown’s mother, Vanessa Hanson, took the stand. She said she was in a long-term relationship with Rodney Brown. She spent the night with Rodney on Friday, Nov. 8, the night before he was killed. She had last communicated with Michael on Oct. 31.

On the morning of Rodney’s death, she said she and Rodney were watching TV when he went to put antifreeze in her car. He came back in and then went back outside again, which is when she said she heard a large crack, which she said sounded like a board breaking. She thought Rodney played a joke on her.

When she opened the kitchen door she saw Rodney on the ground. She thought he had fainted. She went to help him up when Michael came around to her.

“I looked at him and then I ran back inside,” said Hanson.

She grabbed her cell phone and called her mom. Michael came behind her and motioned for her to go into the kitchen. She said he put a gun to her head and asked who she was calling. She told Michael it was his grandmother.

Michael told Hanson to tell his grandmother that she and Rodney got in an argument, and she was going to go eat something and be back.

She said she didn’t see any blood on Michael and didn’t see any guns around Rodney. She said Michael had a long rifle-like gun with him strapped to his chest. She said he also had a handgun with some type of silencer on it.

She said Michael told her to get all the phones together and she put six to seven phones, including the house and cell phones, in a bag. Michael left and took the phones with him. He told her he would leave her cell down the driveway.

As soon as he left, she ran down and called her mom. She stayed on scene until officers arrived. She didn’t call 911, only her mom. She said she was too scared to call anyone else.

She originally told officers a different story, but later told them what happened.

She said Michael did not seem like himself, and that he was talking nonsense, had a crazy look in his eyes and his speech was different. He seemed different the last time she spoke with him on Oct. 31 as well.

Hanson said Michael said if Rodney beat her he would kick his butt, but he never threatened to kill Rodney.

The defense’s attorney put Hanson’s credibility into question. She has been in a mental hospital twice, both for eight years at a time. Michael and his brother lived with Rodney during one of those stints.

1:25 p.m. Update

Lt. Nolan with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office took the stand. He responded to the Hardy area on November 27, the day Michael Brown was arrested. He saw Michael Brown. He says there was no one else besides Brown or law enforcement there.

They retrieved a handgun on a desk in the bedroom.

A Virginia State Police Swat team saw Brown coming down from the attic with a .22 caliber handgun on him. They had a verbal exchange. Brown removed the gun.

Michael Brown was willing to surrender, but wanted to keep a book with him, and if not, he threatened to kill himself. State Police told him he could keep it, and he surrendered.

According to the Commonwealth Attorney, the .22 caliber gun matched the bullets found in Rodney Brown. The gun recovered in the RV matched the other bullets found in Rodney Brown.

1:20 p.m. Update

A Franklin County Sheriff’s Office investigator is the first of five witnesses to be called.

He was part of of the response to the RV in the church parking lot in the Grandin Village area of Roanoke. They found a long rifle next to the bedspread. They found Michael Brown’s drivers license in a cup holder. They found his passport on the ground along with other mixed debris. They also recovered checkbooks and credit cards with Rodney Brown’s name on them.

There were several firearms recovered along with a gas mask. They did not recover as .22 caliber pistol.

1:10 p.m. Update

According to the Commonwealth, Rodney Brown died of a gunshot wound to the head. He was shot six to eight times, three in the head and five in the chest. When deputies arrived on scene, they found Rodney Brown just outside the door to the home. There was also empty shell casings. There were no weapons around.

Investigators recovered a bullet on the kitchen stove as evidence.

A deputy on scene found a plastic bag with cellphones in the driveway.

Video from a nearby gas station shows a man matching Michael Brown’s description.

1 p.m. Update

Michael Brown has entered court. When he arrived he smiled and quietly said “Hello” to his family and friends.

His mother, Vanessa Hanson, and grandmother, along with Rodney Brown’s sister, are also in court.

Michael Brown, the ex-Marine accused of killing his mother’s boyfriend, is set to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Brown was on the run for 18 days, leading authorities on a nationwide manhunt that spanned from Franklin County to Clarendon County, S.C. to Roanoke. He was eventually arrested at his mother’s Franklin County home, where he allegedly shot and killed her boyfriend, Rodney Brown, on Nov. 9, 2019.

Brown is charged with second-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony in connection with the death of Rodney Brown. Prior to that, Brown deserted his post at Camp Lejeune in mid-October, where he served as a combat engineer with the Marines.

New search warrants released surrounding Michael Brown arrest, Rodney Brown murder

Several search warrants have been filed in the case.

According to one search warrant, investigators collected 70 items from the RV officials believe Michael Brown was using. It was found in a church parking lot in Roanoke on Nov. 14, 2019. According to his lawyer, Deborah Caldwell-Bono, Brown was in the RV the entire time as law enforcement agencies searched the vehicle before he escaped once the RV was in a tow lot.

Among the items collected from the RV were nine pistols and rifles, dozens of rounds of ammo, a gas mask, body armor, night-vision goggles, a chemical suit and an Army handbook on explosives.

GF Default - Hidden in plain sight? Attorney: Michael Brown was inside RV as authorities searched it

The search warrant also revealed the day before the RV was found, investigators talked to an “associate” who confirmed he had been with Michael Brown, but Brown left in an RV.

A second search warrant for a Roanoke credit union showed investigators searched a bank account for “any and all evidence of purchases made of elements of the crime.”

Another warrant looks at Rodney Brown’s bank statements from Jan. 1 to Nov. 21 last year.

About the Authors:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.