NEW CASTLE —
The broken-hearted father of Jordan Brown is rebuilding his life while remaining strong for his son.
Jordan is charged in the fatal shooting five years ago of his father’s pregnant fiancée, Kenzie Houk. She was killed in the New Beaver Borough farmhouse the couple shared with Jordan, then 11, and her daughters, who were 7 and 4.
“It was so shocking it is hard to describe,” Chris Brown said of the incident and the ordeal which continues to dominate his life.
“There is still a lot of disbelief, a lot of concern, mixed feelings and emotions,” he said. “Seeing the police come in, pull your son out of bed and take him to jail is pretty disturbing.”
Now 41, Brown said his concern is for his 16-year-old son, who has been locked up for five years.
“He’s missed his childhood. My concern is to help him to get over what he’s been through.”
Brown said he hopes to see some good come from his son’s experience.
“This case could change laws and the juvenile court system,” he noted. “Without a doubt, Jordan will make a difference in the lives of other children.”
Brown was at work on Feb. 20, 2009, when he was summoned home. He was questioned by the Pennsylvania state police. Then, in the wee hours of the next morning, Jordan was arrested.
“The news media was all over Lawrence County,” he said. “There was no place that I could go.”
He said he didn’t sleep for three days, then began to have nightmares.
Brown, who for the most part has shunned media contact since his son’s arrest, pointed out limited information on details from the courtroom has become public. He believes most of what is known has come from the Houk family, who have made themselves available to the media throughout the case.
“This has shaped public perception.”
It has also frustrated him. “I no longer read newspapers or watch television accounts, which labeled Jordan as an 11-year-old murderer.”
Brown said he is heart-broken when old friends approach, ask about him and Jordan then ask, “Did he say why he did it?”
He has spoken extensively to his son, Brown said, and is convinced beyond doubt of the boy’s innocence.
“Since the start I have said, if he did it he needs help. But I’ve also said I won’t walk away from him, turn him over to the state and make him a victim of the system. He is my son.”
He added he believes others are equally convinced of Jordan’s innocence.
“After the initial shock, when people saw the newspapers and stories on television, they might have believed it, but as information came out they began to think ‘No way could he have done this. No evidence links him to what was done.’”
Still guarded about what he says regarding Jordan, Brown is knowledgeable about and has strong opinions of both the criminal and juvenile court systems and what he has identified as shortcomings.
“That a judge denied decertifying Jordan to juvenile court because he would not admit his guilt — a clear violation of his Constitutional rights — just blows my mind.”
Brown also said he believes Jordan was found delinquent — the juvenile court equivalent of guilty — on circumstantial evidence that would not have been sufficient to convict an adult.
“When the judge announced the verdict, everyone in the courtroom was shocked,.” Brown said. “I saw court people with tears running down their faces. They knew it was the wrong decision. There had been nothing that linked Jordan to the crime. Nothing. An 11-year-old can’t plan his own birthday party let alone calculate a murder.”
Brown said evidence revealed there had been no fingerprints on the shotgun that police claim is the murder weapon. A blanket, said to have been used to muffle the sound of the gun, contained no gunshot residue, no fibers from that blanket were found on the gun and a burn hole found in the blanket was determined to have been made by a cigarette.
“The only link to Jordan was they all came from the same house.”
Evidence considered by the judge included a speck of gunshot residue found on Jordan’s shirt and pants. Had Jordan fired a gun that morning, his father said, “his clothes would have been polluted with gunshot residue. But he wasn’t.”
Brown said state police checked his hands and those of another “person of interest” for gunshot residue, but Jordan’s hands were never tested for gunshot residue, nor was his coat.
“And the pants checked were not the ones he wore to school that day but a pair he changed into that had been at his grandmother’s house. He’d worn those jeans the previous weekend when he and I went to an indoor turkey shoot.”