10 NEWS EXCLUSIVE: AWOL Marine who killed his stepfather in Franklin County speaks out

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – On Thursday, 10 News sat down with Michael Brown, the AWOL Marine who killed his stepfather in Franklin County and sparked a nationwide manhunt, for an exclusive interview.

In our exclusive interview, you can get a glimpse of what Rolling Stone magazine will be reporting in their February issue.

Marine Michael Brown began capturing national headlines after he went AWOL in 2019 for two weeks, following the Franklin County shooting death of his stepfather, Rodney Brown.

Eventually, police arrested him at the same Franklin County home where the shooting happened. Brown had been hiding in the attic.

At trial in 2022, the court found him not guilty by reason of insanity, but the details of that have been hard to find – until now.

On Thursday in an exclusive interview with 10 News, Michael told us about some of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather.

“He was very very physically, abusive emotionally and mentally abusive,” Brown said.

Pictures from his home show holes in the wall from Michael’s head being smashed against the drywall.

“My stepfather was if he thought we were lying he would, you know, use that tactic of smashing our head, the wall repeatedly to try and get us to tell what he thought was the truth, even if we were telling the truth,” Brown said.

And it got worse.

He described strangling and being denied food for days at a time, along with this: “He had several times grabbed me by the genitals and squeezed until we would shout out, whatever he wanted to say, that was a satisfactory answer.”

All of this and more will be coming out in the February edition of Rolling Stone magazine.

Writer Molly Langmuir has family connections in Roanoke – the family who lived in Raleigh Court the day after police found Brown’s RV at Saint Elizabeth’s Church.

“I really tried to figure out everything about what happened,” said Molly Langmuir, a freelance writer. “I feel like I just followed the case and it took so many surprising twists, and that already was interesting to me, but it was really the mental health component, and then the not guilty of insanity defense that got me interested in thinking that it might have some broader national relevance.”

Langmuir said the case was unusual enough that Rolling Stone is devoting more than five pages to it.

“It really is it’s just such an unusual story, I think kind of hearing about the details of it. It’s a lot of inherent kind of surprising aspects,” she said.

Perhaps the most surprising was the revelation that while police searched Raleigh Court, Brown was hidden in the RV they had ripped apart.

“Ok, if you look at a picture of the RV in a very small square on the upper level that was not torn off ... like if the whole thing is cut open ... but a very, very small square rectangle that is still available and that was actually a large cabinet,” Brown said.

And that’s where he was.

Brown’s lawyer, Debra Caldwell-Bono, saw the hiding place for herself and told police there would be a gas mask he had worn to escape the stench from the sashed toilet.

“So I said, ‘I’m gonna go see the RV, anybody wanna go?’ So immediately the four of us, so we just came over here to Fatboy Towing and walked into the RV, which isn’t hard to do, the whole side’s gone, and they all looked at each other, said he was in here. The gas mask was right there I told him there would be,” Caldwell-Bono said.

There are so many details that came out in 10 News’ exclusive interview today:

  • How did he get from the RV in the impound lot back to Franklin County?
  • Why did he go AWOL from the Marines?
  • How did the killing of a dog indicate to him that his mental health was failing?
  • What did he hear the police say about him while he was hiding?

Answers to the above and more will be coming out in our future reports.

When does the Rolling Stone story come out? It will be on newsstands on Saturday, and online on Sunday. Click here to see more.

About the Author

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.

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