The shooting of a real estate agent may have been a contract killing.
Composite of the man who shot Jack
Composite of the killer’s accomplice
On January 11, 1984, at 11:10 A.M., two men entered the real estate office of Jack Brown in the Detroit, Michigan, suburb of Ypsilanti. The men were familiar with the layout of the building. As one stood guard, the other headed towards Jack’s office, entered and shot Jack once in the neck. The intruders then locked the three other employees in the bathroom and walked away. Jack Brown never regained consciousness and died twelve hours later.
The murder of Jack Brown appeared to be a cold-blooded contract killing, planned and executed by professionals. But police had no motive. Who would order a hit on a small town realtor, and why?
Police conducted a drug bust in the area
Jack’s real estate brokering business put him in contact with many members of the community. No one could imagine why he would be targeted by a killer, including Jack Brown’s co-worker, Dutch Jordan:
“There was absolutely nothing in Jack’s background that I was aware of, that would warrant any kind of problem. And surely not the tragedy that happened here. My opinion of the gunmen is that they came here to challenge Jack in some way.”
Dutch was outside of Jack’s office that fateful morning:
“I heard the gunman say, ‘You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?’ And I heard Jack say, in kind of a halting voice, ‘Well, well maybe.’ At that point the gun went off and I really figured that they were going to get rid of us, the three eyewitnesses to a murder. But looking back on it, it seemed that whatever problem they had was with Jack and not the rest of us that happened to be there.”
Ypsilanti Police Department Detective Sergeant Ed Hall investigated the case:
“No one seems to know anything shady about Jack or anything that he might have been involved with, which leads us to believe that maybe he was living a double life and was involved in something that no one knew about.”
The night before Jack was killed, his brother, Norm Brown, saw him on the phone. The conversation seemed to leave Jack extremely agitated:
“I could tell that in this conversation he was getting upset. So when he finally hung the phone up, I asked if there was a problem. He said, ‘It was nothing.’ I honestly feel in my own heart that something about that phone call was involved with what happened the following day.”
Ann Brown has no explanation for Jack’s death
Jack’s widow, Ann Brown, has no explanation her husband’s death:
“It’s really strange when someone is murdered or taken from you suddenly. You look back and search your mind for clues. You remember things that someone said that didn’t fit. That night, Jack and I had been to a Christmas party and I was just a little irritated with him because he’d had a bit much to drink and was kind of rambling.”
During the drive home, Jack told his wife that he thought it would be a good idea to make of list of some very powerful people who he knew were involved in illegal activity and put it in a safe deposit box. At the time, Ann thought nothing of it:
“When I tell you these things that my husband said to me, I’m almost embarrassed; it just sounds so unreal. I’m an intelligent person, so why didn’t I find out more about it? I don’t know. I look back and really wished I had, but he told me that it was not something I should not know. And it may sound silly, but I believed him.”
The same day that Jack was murdered, the police conducted a major drug bust in the area. The raid had been triggered by an unknown informant. Det. Sgt. Hall wondered if there might be a connection to Jack:
“It was very possible. There were people in the community that knew more about what happened. But for some reason, either they were afraid to say or he knew something about someone else.”
The gunman was approximately six feet tall and wore a beige jacket and light colored pants. He was armed with a .38 caliber revolver. His accomplice was about 5’10” and was wearing coveralls and a blue knit stocking cap. He was armed with an automatic handgun.