New in 2021: Marine deserter faces murder trial in shooting death of mother’s boyfriend


A Marine veteran who prosecutors allege deserted his North Carolina base to return to his Virginia home and kill his mother’s boyfriend then fled police, evading capture for 18-days, now faces a trial in March.

Michael Alexander Brown, 22, a former corporal with 8th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has pleaded not guilty to charges he faces, which include first-degree murder, larceny, burglary and use of a firearm in a felony offense.

Brown had been scheduled for trial in December 2020, but COVID-19 restrictions had limited jury trials in Franklin County, Virginia, where the alleged crimes took place.

The 22-year-old Marine veteran was listed as a deserter when he failed to report for duty on Oct. 24, 2019. Witnesses later told police they saw Brown staying in an RV at Elliott’s Landing Campground in South Carolina, 250 miles from his base.

A few days later he visited his mother, Vanessa Hanson, in Franklin County, Virginia. They spoke on Halloween and she later testified that he spoke with a “pressured,” “deep” and “urgent” voice “he wasn’t Michael anymore” and appeared to be “losing his mind.”

By Nov. 9, 2019 he was back at the home near Roanoke, Virginia, of his mother and her boyfriend, Rodney Wilfred Brown, 54.

Hanson later testified she was inside the house watching TV while Rodney worked on his car. She heard a loud, cracking sound. When she went outside she found her husband on the ground and saw her son standing nearby holding a rifle and a pistol with an attached suppressor.

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Brown’s mother testified at the June 2020 hearing that her son previously had said he would hurt Rodney if the man beat her again, but not that he would kill the 54-year-old man.

Evidence presented by prosecutors show that Brown died from three gunshot wounds to the head and five to the torso. Further examinations showed that .22-caliber round retrieved from the body showed both a pistol and rifle had been used in the killing.

Brown fled the scene and evaded police, including the U.S. Marshals, state agencies and the FBI, for 18 days. Hiding out in the attic of the home where he shot Rodney for multiple days before being discovered by local police at the site.

The manhunt resulted in multiple claimed sightings, which shut down local schools and wound up getting Brown put on the FBI’s Most Wanted List before his capture.

Brown faces between 20 years and life in prison on charges he faces in the pending trial.

This is an excerpt from “21 Things Marines Need To Know For 2021,” in the January print edition of Marine Corps Times.


Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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