Last Modified: Sunday, May 27, 2012 7:29 PM
OBERLIN — A jury on Friday deliberated for nearly an hour before finding Jeremy Lee Brown guilty of the slayings of his mother, 67-year-old Gretta Ellzey, and her husband, Benjamin Ellzey, 79.
The Ellzeys’ battered bodies were found in their home on June 20, 2008.
Brown, 40, of Oakdale, faced two counts of first-degree murder. He was also found guilty of theft of a vehicle and obstruction of justice. He faces life in prison.
Sentencing will be at a later date.
Brown did not testify during the trial.
The victims’ daughter-in-law, Darlene Mattocks, who found the bodies along with her late husband, Joey, cried as the verdict was read.
“I have been waiting forever for this day to come and to see justice finally done,” Mattocks said. “It has been a long hard road, and so emotional. I pray now that they and Joey can finally rest in peace.”
Defense attorney Chad Guidry said he plans to appeal the conviction because of racial comments made during the state’s closing arguments.
The state called 28 witnesses over four days; the defense did not call any.
During closing arguments, District Attorney Todd Nesom described the couples’ deaths as a “heinous crime,” saying Brown went into Benjamin Ellzey’s room to get his wallet for money to buy crack cocaine and a fight broke out.
“He beat Pops, and Mom comes in trying to help and he beats her, too,” Nesom said. “He killed them both.”
Nesom put the timeline of the couple’s death at around June 18, 2008 (a Wednesday), saying they were seen alive the day before.
“We know on Wednesday that Pops didn’t take his medicine,” he said. “Something happened between Tuesday night (June 17) when Darlene Mattocks talked to them and Wednesday morning when Benjamin didn’t take his medicine.”
Nesom noted that Tuesday was the last day Brown went to work and he was seen driving the couples’ car, which many witnesses said was unusual. He later sold the car to Eric George for $400.
Brown had blunt force injuries to his hands when he was arrested for the murders, but did not have the injuries when the family gathered for Father’s Day four days earlier, Nesom said. A surveillance video of Brown at an Oakdale grocery store showed him walking with a limp early Wednesday morning, he said.
Despite more than 70 pieces of evidence taken from the crime scene, Guidry said in his closing arguments that no direct evidence linked Brown to the murders. He contends the vast majority of evidence, including blood-soaked clothing belonging to Brown and items taken from the home, were found in the possession of Kevin Melbert and Eric George, who police never considered to be suspects.
“Melbert and George had everything to do with this crime and weren’t held responsible for any of it when there was a mountain of evidence pointing in that direction,” he said.
He accused investigators of having the case “wrapped up in their mind in the first 10 seconds” of the investigation.
“To them there was no other evidence than Jeremy, and that’s who they pinned it on,” Guidry said. “They didn’t look at any other evidence.”
Guidry also accused police of mishandling the crime scene and ignoring evidence that included two shoe prints found in the home and the fact that Brown had no blood on his shoes.
“His shirt and pants were saturated with blood, but not one drop of blood on his shoes,” he said. “Those items were used to mop up the crime scene. They were not on the back of Jeremy Brown.”
Assistant District Attorney Joe Green said Melbert and George were not considered suspects because they came forward with information on items taken from the home. The two also cooperated with investigators and had no injuries to their hands, he said.
Jeremy Dubois, a forensic DNA analyst with the state police crime lab, told the court a pair of shorts found in a trash bag in the couple’s vehicle contained the blood of both victims. Their blood was also found on a blood-soaked T-shirt in the bag.
Gretta Ellzey’s DNA was on a bloody telephone found in the trash bag and her blood was found on pieces of wood found in both the home and trash bag, Dubois said.
No blood was found on the tennis shoes Brown was wearing at the time of his arrest, he said.
Patrick Lane, who works in the physical evidence unit at the state police crime lab, testified that two shoe prints in the residence, including a suspected bloody partial shoe print, were similar to the shape of Brown’s tennis shoes, but “lacked individual detail to determine if the shoes did or did not match.”
Nesom said there was no blood or DNA found on the shoes because Brown had worn the same shoes for days and had walked from one side of Oakdale to the other.
Jurors also heard about Brown’s criminal history.
He was convicted in 1993 of manslaughter and simple arson in connection with the August 1990 shooting death of his father, Lee Earl Brown, and fire at the senior Brown’s home. Brown was living with his father at the time, according to Chief Deputy Grant Willis.
Brown was initially charged with second-degree murder in the case, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter.
“In both cases, it appears the victims were murdered at close range and both were committed in the bedroom of the victims,” Willis said in comparing the cases.
Brown was also charged with simple battery and theft after taking Benjamin’s Ellzey’s wallet and credit cards from a nursing home in 2005. Police recovered the credit cards from Brown, but the wallet and cash were never recovered, according to former Oakdale police Officer Jimmy Holmes.
Brown was also arrested on charges of possession of crack cocaine, running a stop sign and obstruction of justice in 2000.