Thursday, April 21, 2011

THRILLER THURSDAY - Brown Murder Mystery (Part One)

One of Brown Counties UNSOLVED MYSTERIES:
Lee and Lourena Brown Murder Mystery (written by Rhonda Dunn)
Part One:

     Marion Lee Brown was the son of Michael T. Brown and Mary Veach and was born in Marion Co., West Virginia. His parents had moved to Indiana when he was three. On April 21, 1889 he married Lourena Baughman, the daughter of Jacob Baughman and Elizabeth J. Snider. Lee and Lourena had children: Rolland, Olive, Mary, Maudelle, Mark, Beryl, Glenn, and Paul Brown. Mark died as an infant. Glenn lost his life in France during World War I. For 40 years the couple worked to make their home and orchard on Lanam Ridge the best in the county. Their children had the best opportunities for education and advanced well in their lives. Lee was even featured in the “Biographical Record of Bartholomew and Brown Counties” 1904 as a highly esteemed citizen in his community.

     The day of Dec. 15, 1930 ended all that. Chester Bunge was working for Lee helping to cut wood. Somehow the day turned to a bad end when their son, Paul went in a rage and shot both his parents and shot Chester. Chester was able to get away from Paul and ran into Frank Crews. With help they returned to the Brown home and found it all in flames.

     In the rubble of the burned out home 2 bodies were found. Two doctors, were called to examine the remains, Dr. M. T. VanDement and Dr. Pat Murphy who had been Lourena’s physician. Of the two examined one was ascertained to be Lee Brown. The other was a little harder to tell the identity but was believed to be a female and Lourena upon careful examination of the remains.

     Paul was nowhere to be found. It was thought that Paul had left the area and had headed north toward the railroad to jump a train because the family dog was seen coming from that direction 3 hours later by a neighbor, Mrs. O. E. Hammer.

     Another thought had occurred that Paul might have gone out in the country and committed suicide so a search was conducted by Sheriff Fremont Weddle to look for him. Paul’s brother, Rolland accompanied them hoping to find his brother. He or his body was nowhere to be found.

     Lee and Lourena’s bodies were so badly burned they were buried together in a double casket in a single grave. It was decided in March of the following year to have the bodies exhumed to have further testing done and were taken to Indianapolis. At the second autopsy it was determined that the 2 bodies were male and thought that it was Lee and Paul that had burned up in the fire. If that is so then what had happened to Lourena? This fueled all sorts of theories of what had really happened. With the mystery still open 80 years later it is doubtful it will ever be solved.

A single stone in Lanam Ridge Cemetery lists all three:
Marion Lee Brown
1862 - 1930
Lourena Brown
1864 - 1930
Paul Brown
1901 - 1930

SEE PART 2 of this story for the report of the Coroner's Inquest.

 (Article written by Rhonda Dunn, and appeared in the Brown County Genealogical Society Newsletter, Fall 2010.  Rhonda has written several local articles that have been later published by Indiana Genealogical Society publications.)

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