Skip to Navigation Skip to Main Content

Second charge lingers

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Man could still face trial on murder after judge lifts digital monitoring

By all accounts, he’s been living a quiet life in a Carrollton suburb since he was released from prison last spring.

About 10 days ago, a district judge said James Richard Brown, 42, no longer needs electronic monitoring, instead requiring him to check in each month with pre-trial services.

But whether he will go to trial on a 20-year-old murder case remains to be seen. Officials in the Denton County District Attorney’s office said they have been reviewing the old case for a while.

Brown was 21 years old when Jesus Garza, 16, and Catherine “Cari” Crews, 17, were brutally murdered June 7, 1993, at a popular fishing hole along Clear Creek north of Denton. Both Brown and James Lee Clark, then 26, had been released from prison less than two weeks before.

In taped confessions, Brown told police that the guns used in the double murder were stolen to sell. He confessed to being at the creek that night with Clark, saying they were looking for someone to rob to help pay the bills at the Aubrey mobile home park where they lived. But he denied having anything to do with the murders. He had been shot by the same 12-gauge shotgun that night, and in statements, he insisted that he was shot because he wouldn’t participate.

No DNA tests had tied him to the sexual assaults of Crews.

In reconstructing the crime scene during Clark’s murder trial, prosecutors said the two teens were terrorized for about three hours before both were shot and their bodies thrown in the creek.

Clark was convicted for the rape and murder of Crews and the jury sentenced him to death.

The state executed him in April 2007.

Brown was eventually convicted on a lesser charge, aggravated robbery, in connection with Garza’s death and sentenced to 20 years. State records showed he served his entire sentence from April 11, 1995, to June 8, 2013.

But Brown was never tried on the second capital murder charge, the one linking him to Crews’ death, and there is no statute of limitations for murder.

As Brown’s prison release date neared, a Denton district judge issued a warrant for his arrest last April. Court records showed that District Judge Margaret Barnes reduced a $500,000 surety bond, originally ordered in June 2013, to $100,000, or $25,000 cash in October 2013.

That October order also required Brown to surrender any passport and forbade him from leaving the state without court approval. It also forbade him from owning or possessing a firearm or from having any contact with the victim or the victim’s family.

The order included electronic monitoring, but Barnes removed that condition March 19.

Earl Crews, Cari Crews’ father, is being cautious about commenting on the case. He said they met with representatives from the district attorney’s office this week, but as they understood it, not much was happening with the case.

Court records show that then-District Attorney Bruce Isaacks was before a grand jury three times before receiving the capital murder indictment that Brown currently faces.

Michael Moore, chief of the felony trial division in the district attorney’s office, said the office had been reviewing the case for some time, but there were no immediate plans to bring the case to court.

Brown’s attorney, Ricky Blaine Perritt, did not return calls for comment.

Whether Perritt can claim the decades-long delay violates Brown’s right to a speedy trial remains to be seen.

Nationally renowned victim rights advocate Andy Kahan of Houston, who works with the parents of murdered children, said he has seen the impact when justice takes decades to unfold.

“We tell families to never give up and to hold out hope,” Kahan said. “But grief is intensified when justice is lacking.”

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.