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Police identify skeleton as pastor
Wanted for assault: Henry County man disappeared on the way to
turn himself in.
BYLINE: R. Robin McDonald, Staff
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and
Little remained of
the body when DeKalb County police first saw it but a skeleton clad
in a black nylon jogging suit and black dress shoes. But this week,
DeKalb forensic investigators confirmed through dental records that
the skeleton was that of the Rev. Thomas Brown III, the former pastor of Bentley Hill United
Methodist Church in Stockbridge. Brown disappeared last November on
his way to turn himself in to Henry County police.
jumped from his wife's car last November, he was wanted for
aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, armed robbery and burglary in
an Oct. 24 attack on an 17-year-old female, said Henry police Lt.
Brown's skeletal remains were found behind an
abandoned barn at 5951 Covington Highway about 2 p.m. July 27 by a
man looking at the property for possible purchase, DeKalb police
DeKalb medical examiners have, so far, been unable to
determine the cause of Brown's death, said Jim Mabe, a medical
Nor have they been able to determine
whether Brown was killed, died accidentally or took his own life,
No bullets were found at the scene, and the skeleton
showed no overt sign of foul play, he said.
disappeared last November, he was suspended from his ministerial
post, said Alice Smith, a spokeswoman with the United Methodist
Center in Atlanta. Brown continued to receive both salary and
benefits until January, when the Methodist Board of Ordained
Ministry recommended his removal as a minister of the United
Methodist Church, she said.
That recommendation became final in
June at the annual meeting of the North Georgia United Methodists.
Neither church officials nor parishioners had any word from
Brown after his disappearance, Smith said.
Not only was Brown
wanted on felony charges, but he also had abandoned his church, she
A new pastor, the Rev. Robert Manley,
became Bentley Hill's minister last spring.
On Tuesday, North
Georgia Methodist Bishop Lindsey Davis issued a formal statement of
sympathy to Brown's family.
"We have tried to stand with the
family in their time of need and join with them in grief and loss
for this very tragic end to Dr. Brown's life," he said. "We've been
deeply concerned about him since he disappeared in November, and we
share our heartfelt sadness with his family."
The felony charges
that Brown faced before his death stemmed from an Oct. 24 attack on
an 18-year-old Stockbridge woman who recognized him as the pastor of Bentley Hill, Stubbs
said. Police would not release her name because the identity of sex
crime victims is confidential under Georgia law.
neither she nor Davis know whether the teen attended Bentley Hill
After the attack, the teenager told police that a man
she identified as "Pastor Brown" came to her house,
asked if her parents were home and forced his way inside when he
told that they were not, Stubbs said.
Then the teen's attacker
forced her down a hall and into a bedroom, Stubbs said. When she
fought with him, he pulled a knife on her and threatened to cut her,
The teenager broke away and grabbed her father's
gun from a bureau, Stubbs said. But her assailant wrestled it away
from her, then struck her several times in the back of the head with
it, Stubbs said.
The man then threw the teenager on the bed,
paused to smoke some crack cocaine, then cut her clothes from her
with the knife and began sexually assaulting her, Stubbs
The assailant stayed nearly two hours before he took the
teen's car keys and her car.
A month later, Henry police filed
charges against Brown in connection with the assault. As his wife
was taking him to surrender to police, Brown leaped from the car and
ran, leaving behind his credit card, his checkbook and his driver's
"We have not seen him since," Stubbs said. "We were
shocked. He just totally disappeared."
On Nov. 30, DeKalb police
--- acting on an anonymous tip --- found the 18-year-old victim's
stolen car at Winston Manor Apartments on Candler Road. Police arrested a woman in a nearby
apartment who said a man named "Red" had given her the teen's car.
She told police she was in the parking lot of a nearby liquor store
with Red when he acquired the teenager's car from a man she later
identified as Brown.
But Brown --- who eventually was placed on
the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's "Most Wanted" list ---
continued to elude authorities.
Brown was a student pastor in 1994 when he was
assigned to Bentley Hill United Methodist, which has 246 members. In
1996, he was ordained as a probationary minister of the church's
North Georgia Conference, Smith said. Brown was never fully ordained
as a minister, she said.
ILLUSTRATIONS/PHOTOS: Rev. Thomas