The so-called “Backpage.com killer” was convicted Friday of first-degree murder in the December 2011 killings of four women he met on an online escort site.
A Macomb County Circuit Court jury returned the verdicts against James C. Brown, 25, of Sterling Heights Friday morning after deliberating for about four hours, the Detroit Free Press reports.Brown was tried on 10 charges, including first-degree murder, disinterment and mutilation of a dead body, and arson.
According to testimony during the three-week trial in Mount Clemens, Brown lured the woman in pairs to his mother’s Sterling Heights home, where he killed them, then loaded their bodies in cars that he left in his old blighted neighborhood in Detroit. The bodies of two of the women had been set on fire.
Assistant Prosecutor Therese Tobin said in closing remarks Thursday that Brown killed the women “because he enjoyed it,” the Detroit News reports.
“He did it because he got some thrill out of it,” Tobin said.
Defense attorney Jeff Cojocar said the state didn’t conclusively prove that his client killed the women – Vernithea McCrary, Natasha Curtis, Demesha Hunt and Renisha Landers, all in their 20s, who he met in the online classified service that features ads placed by people looking for sex.
Doctors who performed autopsies believe the women were asphyxiated, but couldn’t pinpoint an exact cause of death. “Nobody knows” what happened in the Mount Sterling home, Cojocar told the jury.
Prosecutors used blood from one of the victims found at the murder scene, DNA evidence under the nails of two of the victims and cell phone records to tie Brown to the crime.
Brown admitted to police that he smoked marijuana with his victims and had sex with some of them before passing out. When he awoke, he said, they were dead.
He also admitted that he loaded their bodies into cars and drove them to Detroit, where he poured gasoline on two of the bodies in the trunk and set the vehicle on fire.
Brown faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.