Families of the victims of the Backpage.com killers were denied a chance to confront the loved ones’ killer Tuesday because he waived his right to appear at his sentencing hearing, an unusual move in such a high profile case, the Detroit Free Press reports.
James C. Brown, 26, was convicted in February in the 2011 murders of four Detroit women he had met through the Backpage.com online classified site. Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor said in her closing arguments that Brown “enjoyed” killing the women and “got some kind of thrill out of it.”
The Macomb County Circuit Court jury deliberated about four hours before returning verdicts on 10 charges against Brown, including first-degree murder, disinterment and mutilation of a dead body, and arson. Prosecutors said he killed the women by asphyxiation in his mother’s Sterling Heights home, loaded their bodies in the trunks of cars and drove them to his old blighted Detroit neighborhood, where he abandoned the cars. In two of the cases, set them on fire.
The crimes occurred in two separate incidents during the week before Christmas 2011.
When he declined to attend Tuesday’s court proceeding, where he was sentenced to life without parole, the still-grieving families of the victims told the Free Press they felt they had been deprived a final chance to tell him how his crimes had affected their families.
Judge James Biernat Jr. twice said that Brown is “nothing but a coward” and that “it’s almost like he’s getting a break” with a life sentence, the newspaper reported.
The families of the women said seeing Brown in court would have given them some closure.
The Rev. Wallace Murdock, whose niece Natasha Curtis was among the victims, said he wanted to “face the monster face-to-face,” but said he will pray for Brown and forgive him, in keeping with his faith.
The other women who were killed were Vernithea McCrary,Renisha Landers, Demesha Hunt.
Denise Higgins, McCrary’s mother, was the only family member to address the court. She said her daughter thought Brown was a friend she could trust. Now, Higgins said she struggles to explain to her 7-year-old granddaughter and now 3-year-old son why they will never see their mother again.
“No child should have to go through that,” Higgins said. “Someday, I’m gonna have to try to get them to understand.”
Higgins said her daughter and the others “weren’t his first” victims, but “they are his last.”