Wake County woman pleads guilty to second-degree murder of her ex-husband

ablythe@newsobserver.comFebruary 14, 2013 

— Camellia Brown said she only meant to send her ex-husband a warning when she fired one shot toward his spleen in March 2006 while they were at Pullen Park.

The tormented mother was upset that she had not been allowed to see their two children for 15 months and she had every intention of accompanying Thierry Brown to the hospital to get care.

"I did not intend to kill him," the 47-year-old former Fuquay-Varina resident and one-time Garner mayoral candidate told Judge Donald Stephens on Thursday. "I’m sorry that he died."

Camellia Brown has been in and out of mental hospitals for court-ordered treatment since her husband’s death on March 25, 2006. But on Thursday, she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of her ex-husband and was sentenced to at least 16 years in prison. Stephens gave her credit for the six and a half years she has served.

Brown, who was declared competent to stand trial for murder in October, told Stephens she was medicated on Thursday but that she was cognizant of what she was doing.

Her case dates back to March 24, 2006, when she called her ex-husband, Thierry Brown, a Knightdale resident and state Department of Revenue employee who had custody of their children.

Though her ex-husband had sought numerous protection orders against her during a five-year custody battle, Camellia Brown suggested that he and the children meet her in Raleigh’s popular Pullen Park.

It was 7 p.m. when they arrived in a parking lot in a remote part of the park. The children were in the car, fastened in by seatbelts, when she fired one shot toward their father’s torso.

Camellia Brown told Stephens that she avoided his kidney area because he had received a transplant. She said as much in a letter she wrote to the judge that became part of her court file.

"I shot my former husband in the spleen as a warning shot," Camellia Brown told Stephens in the letter.

Thierry Brown, who was 42, called emergency dispatchers from the park. A recording of the 911 call offered details.

"Just go away, please,” Thierry Brown can be heard telling his ex-wife before speaking to a dispatcher. "I’m at Pullen Park. I’ve been shot."

A few moments later, as Thierry Brown’s condition worsened, an agitated Camellia Brown is heard saying: "I killed you; I killed you."

She then spoke with the emergency dispatcher between screams and sobs. The dispatcher asked Camellia Brown whether she shot her ex-husband.

She responded that she had.

The couple’s two children can be heard in the background of the call. Camellia Brown tells them to pray.

The Browns married in 1996 and divorced five years later. Thierry Brown had been awarded sole custody of the couple’s children after a judge questioned Camellia Brown’s mental stability.

On several occasions, Camellia Brown donned a wig and tried to see the children in their school. Ten months before the shooting, Camellia Brown was arrested by Knightdale police for breaking into her former spouse’s home, demanding to see their children.

Raleigh police arrested Camellia Brown shortly after the shooting and charged her with murder, but the question of her mental fitness lingered.

In February 2008, Dr. James Bellard, a forensic psychiatrist, testified about Brown’s mental state. He wrote in an affidavit that she suffered from delusional disorder, a chronic mental illness characterized by false belief of a non-bizarre nature.

Bellard wrote in court documents that Brown’s delusions at the time included her belief that her former husband was alive.

Leon Stanback, the acting Durham district attorney, was a superior court judge in 2008 and presided over a hearing in which Brown’s competency to go before a jury was questioned.

Stanback asked Brown then whether she shot her husband.

"No, sir," she said, offering a different response from the answer given in March 2006.

Over the years, Camellia Brown’s diagnosis varied from doctor to doctor, but all pointed to her fragile mental state, Bellard’s 2008 affidavit said.

Her diagnoses included personality disorders, paranoid thinking and delusions, depressions and dissociative disorder.

Months before the shooting, a judge found that Camellia Brown tried to obtain protective orders by falsely claiming that her ex-husband physically abused her son and sexually abused her daughter. The judge found that Camellia Brown’s mental instability so traumatized the children that it constituted child abuse.

On Thursday, as she left the Wake County courtroom in the gray-and-white prison uniform, Camellia Brown asked the judge if he would give her permission to see her children in prison.

Stephens told her to write him a letter and make that request.

After bailiffs ushered their prisoner out, Stephens told the family in the courtroom who protested her request that she would not see the children unless they wanted to see her.

Blythe: 919-826-4948

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