48 Hours NCIS Premiered ‘Ruthless’ on CBS: The True Crime Story of Serial Rapist & Camp Lejeune Janitor Willie Abner Brown (May 26, 2018)


When a serial rapist targets military spouses, NCIS agents race against time before he strikes again. -48 Hours 

It is believed that Willie Abner Brown committed 12 sexual assaults in the Jacksonville, North Carolina area, five of them were Marine spouses. After the similarities in reports were observed, the Jacksonville Police Department created a Task Force with Camp Lejeune and Naval Criminal Investigation Services (NCIS) because they felt the cases were connected. The Marine Corps leadership at Camp Lejeune were very concerned that there was a serial rapist on the loose because five different military spouses reported being attacked, four were attacked while their husband’s were deployed. The attacker also stole money and debit and credit cards from his victims. Investigators were able to identify Willie Brown via video surveillance while he was using one of the victim’s credit cards at a local convenience store. They learned Brown was a janitor at Camp Lejeune.

The police picked Brown up for a traffic violation and brought him to the station for fraudulent use of one of the victim’s credit cards. The Jacksonville Police Department knew exactly who Willie Brown was because of his long rap sheet. They could prove the theft but they wanted to prove the multiple rapes so they set up a war room to gather and collect information that would help them substantiate that Willie Brown was involved in the sexual assaults as well. They interviewed every victim they could to get a better understanding of the modus operandi of the serial attacker. Investigators also searched Brown’s house and his girlfriend’s house and found items that connected Willie to the victims and the weapon they believe was used in one of the attacks. The victim’s were relieved Willie was finally caught and couldn’t harm anyone else.

Willie Abner Brown

Willie Abner Brown

The prosecutor was only able to prove that Willie was connected to four of the twelve sexual assaults. DNA evidence specifically connected Willie Brown to some of the victims. During trial, Willie Brown took the stand to defend himself and he maintained his innocence. He admitted to the robbery but not the sexual assaults. And he told the jury he was sexually assaulted as a child and couldn’t physically carry out the attacks. After a day of deliberation, the jury found Willie Brown guilty on March 13, 2014 of multiple felony charges including rape. He was also convicted of assaulting one of the victims with a deadly weapon. Willie Brown was sentenced to prison for 410 years. “You have to fight for your story, you have to fight for your word.” One of the victims said even if they can’t do anything with your case, you should still report it because someday someone else will report and the cases will be connected.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to watch the full episode of ‘Ruthless,’ please visit the CBS All Access website, visit the 48 Hours website, or download the 48 Hours app on your iPad. The most recent episodes are unlocked on the 48 Hours website and app. If you would like to watch past episodes on the 48 Hours app, it cost’s $4.99 a year. There’s programming dating back to 2005 on the 48 Hours app, including some classics, to feed your true crime addiction.  

Related Links:
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“48 Hours: NCIS:” Can brokers cease a ruthless attacker preying on Marine wives?
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“48 Hours: NCIS” sneak peek: Ruthless (msn.com)
“48 Hours: NCIS” sneak peek: Ruthless (website)
“48 Hours: NCIS” sneak peek: Ruthless (YouTube)
“48 Hours: NCIS”: Ruthless | CBS News
“48 Hours: NCIS”: Ruthless | CBS All Access
48 Hours: NCIS: Ruthless | 48 Hours (podcast)
North Carolina Prison (DOC) Arrest Records for Inmate WILLIE A BROWN

Army Soldiers Johnny Herrera and Benjamin Cardwell, Army Veteran Todd Crow, and Daniel Francis Charged With Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Government Property (2015)

US Army Seal

Sgt. Johnny Herrera, US Army, SSgt. Benjamin Cardwell, US Army, and Todd Crow, US Army Veteran

Two Fort Carson Army soldiers, Sgt. Johnny Herrera, 29, and SSgt. Benjamin Cardwell, 41, and a former Army soldier Todd Crow, 34, were among four people charged in connection with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of military weapons, gear and robots, then selling them to a middle man Daniel Francis, 50, who sold them on eBay for a fraction of their worth. Sgt. Johnny Herrera, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Cardwell, Todd Crow, and Daniel Francis were all charged with conspiracy to commit theft of government property. If convicted of this crime, each defendant faces not more than five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine. All four defendants were scheduled to appear before the U.S. Magistrate Judge on April 21, 2015 for detention hearings.

Retired military leaders say the string of theft allegations raises serious concerns over how the post keeps track of weapons, including items deemed too sensitive to leave military control. “If that stuff wound up in the wrong hands, it could really hurt us,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Anderson, who heads the National Homeland Defense Foundation in Colorado Springs. –Colorado Gazette

Related Links:
Men stole, sold military robots and armor on eBay: FBI
4 arrested in scheme involving stolen Army property
Four Men Arrested in Scheme to Sell Stolen Material from Fort Carson
Inside Job: Military Equipment Allegedly Stolen By Soldiers Sold On eBay
Four Men Arrested In Scheme To Sell Stolen Material From Fort Carson
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Army says keeping equipment on post a priority, will investigate Fort Carson thefts
Violent Crime, Suicide and Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado (US Army)

A Stranger in My Home Premiered ‘Buried Secrets’ on Investigation Discovery: Allan Kowalski (October 27, 2013)


Al Kowalski is new to Hill Country, Texas. He plans to spend his early retirement hunting and fixing his vintage vehicles. Al welcomes meth-addicted mechanic Charlie Tidwell into his home to help with the cars, but Charlie has a different plan. -A Stranger in My Home, Investigation Discovery

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

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About the Show | A Stranger in My Home | Investigation Discovery
A Stranger in My Home | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
A Stranger in My Home | Investigation Discovery (website)
‘Buried Secrets’ | A Stranger in My Home | Investigation Discovery (website)
‘Buried Secrets’ | A Stranger in My Home | Investigation Discovery (YouTube)

Army Veteran Kirby Archer Commits String of Crimes After Dishonorable Discharge Including Four Murders in an Attempt to Flee to Cuba (2007)

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-7-19-38-pm

Kirby Archer, US Army Veteran

Army veteran Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo offered to pay a Miami, Florida based charter company $4000 to take them to Bimini to meet up with their girlfriends. The Joe Cool agreed and the two headed out with Jake Branam, Kelley Branam, Scott Gamble, and Samuel Kairy. When they didn’t return home on Sunday, their families began to worry. They eventually contacted the United States Coast Guard for assistance with locating them. The USCG found the boat off the coast of Cuba, 140 miles off course. They also found two survivors: Archer and Zarabozo. The two claimed to be victims of crimes. They said the boat had been hijacked and the other four were shot. They claimed their lives were spared because they knew Spanish and were asked to drive the boat until it ran out of gas. Both the USCG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation got involved with this case. They learned that Kirby Archer was dishonorably discharged from the Army after he went Absent Without Leave (AWOL).

He was arrested for child sexual abuse and was on the run after stealing money from his place of employment. It is believed that he met Zarabozo at Guantanamo Bay where Archer was once assigned; Zarabozo was a child refugee. They made plans to flee to Cuba and used the Joe Cool to execute the plan. Both of them were arrested for lying to federal agents. After Zarabozo’s home was searched, they found shell casings that matched those found on the boat. They also observed that Zarabozo’s 9 mm was not in the case and unaccounted for. Both Archer and Zarabozo were charged with sixteen counts including four murders. There was no body and no murder weapons so it was considered a circumstantial case. The defendants turned on each other but the prosecutors were able to show how it took both men to commit the crimes against the four individuals on the boat. There were two guns used in the commission of the crimes, therefore both were involved. Archer and Zarabozo were sentenced to five consecutive life terms. The Joe Cool slip is empty to this day. Jake and Kelley Branam’s children are living with her sister in Washington.

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Murder on the High Seas
U.S. Coast Guard Seeks Four Missing Boaters Headed for Bimini Islands
FBI Questions Wal-Mart Robbery Fugitive, Rescued Boater About Missing Crew
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Guillermo Zarabozo Criminal Complant
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Wikipedia: Kirby Logan Archer
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Charley Project: Jake Branam
Charley Project: Scott Gamble
Murder in Paradise: Hook, Line and Murder (YouTube)
Fatal Encounters: Fatal Voyage (YouTube)
Murder on the High Seas: The True Story of the Joe Cool’s Tragic Final Voyage


The crew of a luxury charter yacht falls prey to a fugitive’s cold-blooded escape plan en route to Bimini, a remote Bahamian paradise in the Bermuda Triangle. -Discovery ID

Estevan Maestas Tragically Killed After He Detonated Live Hand Grenade Found in Rental Garage; Colorado Springs PD Believes Explosive Device Stolen from the Fort Carson Army Post (1978)


When a mysterious explosion rocks a sleepy suburb, it’s up to Kenda to ID a pile of charred remains and find the killer who triggered the blast. -Investigation Discovery

Homicide Hunter is an Investigation Discovery show featuring retired police Detective Lt. Joe Kenda (1973-1996). Lt. Kenda worked for the Colorado Springs Police Department for years and investigated and solved hundreds of cases during his employment. Now in his retirement, he outlines the cases that he encountered on the job and explains how he eventually solved the case. Colorado Springs is home of Fort Carson, an Army base with about 30,000 soldiers. This show is especially interesting given the fact that Lt. Kenda worked in a city with a close proximity to a large base. We have learned over time just how intertwined his job was with a military base known for an active role in fighting wars overseas over the years.

Exercises and deployments continually hone the skills of the Fort Carson Soldiers. When not deployed, Soldiers train annually at Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site and the National Training Center in California. Additionally, units participate in joint exercises around the world, including Central and South Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia. In 2003, most Fort Carson units were deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. ~Fort Carson History

Last night, Lt Joe Kenda discussed an explosives case that had been assigned to him. A powerful explosion occurred in a suburban neighborhood of Colorado Springs.  He was actually working on paperwork on a Sunday when he received a call from police on the scene. They think they found human remains in the remnants of a detached garage near a single dwelling home.  Joe was asked to investigate because this could be an intentional act of murder.  Joe shared that the scenes he has investigated over the years have been horrific and quite shocking to include this one.  As a result, he admitted that he has a hard time eating and sleeping, which are both signs of Post Traumatic Stress of which he admitted he has. This is a normal response for anyone who witnesses these acts of horror, especially over a long period of time.

After Joe arrived on the scene, he deduced that the damage looked like shrapnel damage. But his immediate thought was that it was most likely a gas explosion. He notices in the garage what looks like a large pile of human remains. Based on the remains, he assumed that it was most likely an adult male who was killed. If it’s not a gas explosion, what is it? A couple theories began to emerge including maybe the man lit a cigarette in an area with gas cans and exposed fuel or the victim was booby trapped with hidden wire. This could have been a murder.

Based on his fears of more explosives on scene, he decided to call the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) Bomb Squad to investigate further to determine whether there were any more active munitions. He explained how explosive technicians truly understand explosives and other various devices. As soon as the Bomb Squad arrived at the scene, they immediately recognized the explosive had the smell of a military explosive. Fort Carson had this kind of ammunition on their base since before World War II. The Bomb Squad theorized that somebody from the base most likely smuggled it from Fort Carson and brought it to the current location.  A CSPD detective explained how now we have robots to investigate bomb scares but back then we didn’t have that. Explosive technicians put their lives on the line everyday but more so before the advent of robots and other technologies to help minimize the danger of their jobs.

The CSPD Bomb Squad found another hand grenade in the garage that appeared to be live. An ordinance specialist entered the garage and not only found another grenade but he also found evidence of the dead man who was blown up by the first grenade. The second grenade appeared to be untampered with and there were no other explosives found at that location. Police suspected that the victim could have been in the building when someone threw the grenade in. They needed to learn more about the victim to determine if he had any enemies that would do something like this. They learned that the house is a rental and the current tenants only moved in a couple of months ago. The neighbor shared that a man named Estevan had recently retired and moved into this location. While on scene, a police officer found a human index finger quite a distance from the remnants of the garage. This discovery changed the whole direction of the case because the finger was found with a wire around it and this was the pin ring from the hand grenade. The victim may have pulled the pin and detonated the explosive. This could have been an accident.

Joe needed to identify the victim so he started with taking the victim’s finger to the lab so they could attempt to identify him by finger print. The lab technicians told him that without a name, it could take months before they get a match. In the meantime, Estevan’s wife showed up at the police station after learning what happened at her residence. Joe had to tell her that her husband was dead. She shared that his name was Estevan Maestas and he was a custodian at the school with finger prints on file. Estevan was simply going to clean out the garage because the people who lived their before left a bunch of junk in there. She left the house after he went out to the garage. Because his past did not indicate that this could have been a suicide attempt, it was theorized that this was in fact a tragic accident. Estevan most likely found the grenade, had no idea that it was live and maybe he thought it was a toy. He pulled the pin and he never felt a thing, he never knew what hit him.

The CSPD speculated that the grenades had been stolen from Fort Carson and brought into this rental home by a soldier. They assumed that most likely this guy didn’t want to deal with having to dispose of the grenades so he just left them there to become the next person’s problem. This was a hard pill to swallow given a man lost his life over this reckless act. Why was it not followed up on? Given how the military has strict regulations and is supposed to have strict chain of custody records to help them track all explosives, it should be easy to determine whether or not this grenade came from this base. It could have been brought home as a souvenir from World War II, Vietnam, or the Gulf War era. Were they able to cross reference the rental records at the location of the explosion with Fort Carson soldiers? This case revealed more mystery then resolve. If a soldier did smuggle the grenades from the base, why was there no investigation for theft, and now maybe even manslaughter? It is assumed that this person intentionally left them behind because they didn’t want to properly dispose of them.

In theory, no soldier should have been able to get these grenades on a plane or off the base without a search or a documentation trail given how the military usually conducts business. Much like communications security equipment (COMSEC), ammunition is inventoried and kept under lock and key in an effort to prevent compromises with dangerous repercussions.  In most circumstances, if Fort Carson recognized that ammunition was missing, they would shut down the base until they found it. If someone dropped the ball at Fort Carson, a man lost his life because of careless documentation and security practices. And the Colorado bomb squad and Lt. Joe Kenda risked their lives in an effort to prevent anyone else from getting hurt or killed. Hopefully, soldiers learn a valuable lesson from this circumstance given it could have been a harmless act that went terribly wrong. Whoever left the grenades behind may not have intended for Estevan Maestas to die but he did. If a military member was responsible, it would be nice to know that the military has implemented safety and security procedures that can help prevent this kind of a tragedy from ever happening in our communities again.

Related Links:
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