The Murder of Christopher Alan Brown

Quite often you hear of cases of deaths that were "unnatural" and untimely that have been ruled accidents or suicides and there is a family member somewhere that comes out fighting that ruling.  Most generally it is a parent doing the fighting.  I have a saying "No bad people die."  It seems that more often than not when someone dies everyone seems to forget any faults they had.  Maybe this is because we have been conditioned to "not speak ill about the dead."  I do not believe in making things up but I also believe in being honest.  I am not saying that in all the cases that I have heard where a family member is fighting a cause of death ruling they are wrong, but there have been many cases in which I have.  As the mother of now grown children I obviously hope I never feel the pain of losing a child but I also hope that I would be realistic if something were to happen. Obviously as parents we are supposed to always fight for our children. We tell them no matter how old they become they will always be our babies and things of the sort and in reality I suppose it absolutely should feel that way but sometimes I feel like that is taken too far. All of that thinking goes out the window however when the victim truly is a child such as the case of Christopher "Alan" Brown.

Alan, as he was called was an innocent 11 year old boy when he died in 1985 in Flint Michigan.  He had been on a week long visit with his father, Jestine and his stepmother, Rosalind and their children. Alan's mother, Brenda Simpson did not get along great with Rosalind and never felt that she treated Alan well, but nothing extreme.  As mothers we often feel that way and by all accounts despite her feelings she knew Alan loved his dad and she would not keep them from each other. Brenda seems to be the type of woman though that despite a court order if she thought Rosalind was really and truly harmful she would have done whatever it took to keep him safe.... is that not what mom's do? Jestine and Brenda had been divorced since Alan was little.  They both had remarried and had more children.  It seems everyone was making the best of a tense situation... you know the type that is all too typical between divorced parents and blended families.  Looking back on this time Brenda and her husband, Harvey Simpson, say that as Alan got older his tended to seem a bit strange about his visits with his father and upon his return he would be asked if anything was wrong and they would be told no.  Within a day or two he would be back to normal.  I think this too, is all too common.  As parents we initially want to believe something is wrong or something is going on but then you talk to friends that are in the same situation and you find that it seems to happen to all children when they are going from one house to another and your worry subsides. Brenda says she found it odd that Alan had not wanted to go on this visit to his dad's house but Jestine had promised to take him fishing and camping at some point and Alan seemed to like the idea.  Brenda said goodbye to her son on Monday not knowing it would be the last time she would see him alive.

On Friday evening, April 12th, a pregnant Brenda and Harvey returned home late to find family members at their door.  As a woman, but specifically a mother, Brenda knew something was wrong.  They were told that Alan was "missing" and could not be found.  Brenda immediately called Jestine to see what was going on.  He told her what his wife, Rosalind had told him.... She had gone to McDonald's and gotten the kids some lunch, called them all into eat and had left for a few hours for a job interview.  She had offhandedly mentioned that when she called the kids to go inside and eat Alan had not gone right away and she just assumed he went in after she left.  She said when she returned home he was not there and she could not find him.

Brenda was immediately suspicious but she was too consumed with finding her son to make too much of a fuss about her concerns.  First she found it odd that Rosalind had said Alan did not immediately go to eat because McDonald's was one of his favorite places.  Secondly, Brenda insisted that Alan was not the type of child that would have simply taken off or done things that he was not supposed to. Now... is this a mother who thinks her child was more of an angel than he really was? Eh... maybe a little, but it is not likely that she was totally off. This was the 1980's and he was not yet a teenager, things were different then.  

Days turned into weeks in the search for Alan. There was a significant search done for Alan but probably nothing like we see today. This did happen a few years after the infamous Adam Walsh case in which strides were made in the search of a missing child but compared to what they were before Adam's disappearance that does not have to mean anything. Flint police said they did call in the FBI on the chance that Alan had been kidnapped.  People were questioned from door to door and mentioned this or that suspicious car in the area and officers say those leads were followed.  Brenda held out hope of finding her oldest child but as the days went on she says she just simply hoped to find him and bury him.  She knew in her heart of hearts he was gone and on April 30, 1985, eight days after he disappeared, Alan's body was found in the Flint River three miles from his father's home, wearing the same clothes he was last seen in.  Brenda now had her son back.  A coroner determined his cause of death was drowning but there were still questions.  Blood tests were taken and it was fount that he had .15 blood alcohol level which is twice the adult legal limit. He also showed a .07 level for in essence rubbing alcohol. Brenda says she was asked if her son was a "drinker."  Her answer was a resounding no. So the coroner in his infinite wisdom decided that this 11 year old boy had found some liquor, decided to drink it, some how got three miles from his home and fell into the river and drowned.  The investigating officer says he attempted to get the cause of death changed but the coroner would not and with accident as the manner of death there was nothing more he could do. For the next several years, spanning nearly two decades, Brenda Simpson fought tooth and nail to have her son's case re-examined and she met wall after wall.

I first heard of this case several years ago on an episode of Dateline. The episode spoke a lot to Brenda as well as others involved. But I remember thinking then and remembering again as I did the research that there seemed to be a tension between Brenda and the original officer. Truthfully I did not even make note of his name when I did the research because despite how he made himself sound on the Dateline episode, he was in no way shape or form a hero in this story in my opinion, nor did I believe him when he indicated that he fought for justice for Alan. As often happens shows like those will slant things to make it more exciting or people integrate themselves into stories to make themselves seem more important and in this case I could feel that jumping out of my television set as he sat and spoke.  I do understand that when a coroner rules a particular way it does tie the hands of investigators but I truly felt like Brenda's feelings and questions were totally set aside.  And I honestly believe it took decades but someone somewhere figured out they were not going to shut her up until the case was re-examined. Brenda would call the police on a regular basis about this case and she was often ignored, sometimes lied to and other times just approached rudely.  I truly believe if someone cared enough to sit down with her and maybe empathize with her and give her some tools on where to take things, this could have been settled sooner.  Brenda continued those calls when she and her husband moved to California a few years later and after they moved back to Michigan again.

Finally, in 2004 someone decided to re-open the case.  Maybe they were tired of hearing from Brenda, but I think she will always be good with that.  They started interviewing people.  Some had been interviewed in 1985 and some had not.  One person interviewed was the ex wife of Montel Pettiford.  She had never been interviewed in 1985 and had never gone to the police out of fear, but they found her.  She told the officers that Montel and his sister, Rosalind Brown... yes... that Rosalind Brown... had poisoned Alan's food and drink and then took him to Flint River where while technically alive he would drown.  The ex-wife did not seem to be the most mentally stable person on the planet and of course witness statements almost always need to be backed up with evidence but it was enough to ask to have Alan's body exhumed.  Now, throughout my research everything I found stated that when his body was examined they found "a substance in system to incapacitate him" yet nothing I found would specify what this "substance" was.  

Armed with the new evidence in 2005 investigators went to the county prosecutor but they refused to file charges, not believing they could win. Two years later the State Attorney General's office relented and on May 24, 2007 Rosalind Brown and her brother Montel Pettiford were arrested in their respected homes.  Rosalind and Jestine were still married.  Prosecutors were hopeful about the case but they absolutely knew that a conviction was a long shot.  In August of 2008 they were both found guilty and the following month they were sentenced to life with out the possibility of parole.  Rosalind at least went down fighting claiming her innocence to the end but apparently by this time Jestine no longer believed her.  

Brenda Simpson knew from the beginning that the story that was being told about her son was not true and she fought 23 years to get the justice her son deserved!


  1. This woman is what ALL parents should use as a basis of how to care for their children. In my opinion, Brenda solved this case not the police.

  2. Parents, we know our children. Never believe just anything someone tells you about your child when you know that is out of character for your child. Always fight for your child. That is your job. This mother did right & it was what she was supposed to do. I know that I will go close enough to hell to get scorched and burnt by the fire for mines. That's my job. I am my child's protector & voice in this world full of crazy adults. I have always raised mine to respect adults, and when they feel they were wronged by an adult, stay in their place and immediately tell me. And I will fight all the adult battles. Regardless of who the adult is; teacher, doctor, bus driver or monitor, whomever just stay in a child's place & come & tell me. And that's how it has been. That's how I was raised and it worked for me. Their are some unruly adults in the world who feel they can talk to and mistreat the children. Not mine, and if they do, they will always have me to deal with. And no I'm not the type of parent that has unruly kids. My boys are very respectful, friendly, and helpful. The teachers love them and several have said how they wish they had more students like mine. And don't get me wrong, my boys are not perfect & they're no angels. I'm realistic about things I just know my boys. I have always raised them & I'm an involved parent. Therefore, I'm there for mine. I am the buffer between my boys & the world. And as that buffer I will always do what I can to protect them and be their advocate. In life and death. That's my job!

  3. Brenda, good job. You had so much to deal with back then; having a child murdered & having a child who had a serious genetic disease. You are a strong mother and I wish all mothers had some of you in them. I have no idea why Dad couldn't figure out his wife was crazy and that she was to blame. Good job for making the police do their job. As mothers we have to wear multiple hats at all times. Not all women are as strong as you. Thank you for being an example of how good mothers are supposed to be! I am so sorry for your loss.

  4. Sad thing about this story is that this child would have received strong media and law enforcement attention if he had only been white.


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