Brown murder trail growing colder 

Cops return to bar where Brown spent last hours

DeKalb County averages about 60 murder cases a year, but none has drawn as much coverage or manpower as the slaying of sheriff-elect Derwin Brown. At least 34 investigators -- from local, state and federal agencies -- are working to find out who shot Brown 11 times outside his home on the night of Dec. 15.

If police are zeroing in on a suspect, they're not saying. Even the autopsy has been sealed.

A 9mm was used in the killing, but police won't say whether they believe the shells came from one gun or two. The rain fell hard that night, hard enough to move the shell casings around in the driveway. But Morgan says police have a fairly good idea where the killer fired based on where the shells landed.

Last week, detectives returned to MVP's Interactive Video Cafe, where Brown attended a party the night he was slain. Police asked bar employees if they could recall certain faces at MVP's the night of the murder, says Aaron Buggs, the bar manager.

The case has every marking of being a difficult one to crack, according to former homicide detectives outside the region. First, the crime scene, which provides the most vital clues in a murder investigation, was altered by the heavy rain.

Technicians sometimes erect makeshift tents to preserve evidence at a crime scene. But that wasn't done in Brown's case, says J. Tom Morgan, DeKalb's district attorney. Technicians arrived at the scene about 1-1/2 hours after the shooting, he says, after the heavy rain had stopped. Evidence was marked with small flags until a thorough investigation could begin in the morning.

Danny Boone, a veteran homicide detective in Maryland, says the first 24 hours of a case are the most important. Every day after that, the trail grows colder. Memories start to fade. The killer has a chance to destroy evidence linking him to the crime and rehearse alibis.

Which brings up another difficult point for investigators -- suspects. After his election, Brown told 38 sheriff's department employees they would be fired once he took office. He also planned to bring in the GBI to conduct an investigation at the DeKalb County jail. In cases like Brown's, every suspect must be questioned, their alibis corroborated. "That uses up a lot of valuable time," Boone says. "And time is a factor."

Detectives continue to go through the corroboration process with suspects in Brown's case, Morgan says. "Most people are killed by someone they know, and most people don't know that many people," he says.

So far, police aren't talking about any end to the investigation. Still, Morgan says, "There's only so long you can work this many people so many hours. But nobody is willing to give up yet."


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