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The entire family disappeared on July 25, 1985. Carolyn's mother called police in August, worried because she had not heard from her daughter or her daughter's husband or children since July 4. Investigators did go to the Brown home but were unitially unconcerned, as there were no obvious indications of foul play inside the residence. Carolyn's purse was located in a corner of the garage; inside it, every piece of her identification had been cut up. An uneaten meal was spread out on the dining room table. One of the rooms in the house had been freshly painted; a closer look revealed that the paint had covered up bloodstains on the walls, but this was not noticed until later.
The family was officially listed as missing after the next school year began and neither Carolyn nor James reported to teach. Later, James called Carolyn's sister and told her she could have everything inside his home. Carolyn's sister asked where the rest of the family was and James replied, "Out there."
James resurfaced in Savannah, Georgia several weeks after his family's disappearances. He checked into the hospital under the name Demetrius Jones and stated someone had robbed him and shot him in the head. James's true identity was discovered and he admitted he had murdered his wife and children and tried to commit suicide. He told authorities that he shot Carolyn while she slept inside their home during the night of their disappearances. James said that Brandon was sleeping beside his mother; he claimed that he smothered the child with a pillow, then disposed of both of their bodies in Palm Beach County, Florida. He told investigators that he drove Sheketah and Barry to Brunswick, Georgia along Interstate 95 on July 17, three days after Carolyn and Brandon were murdered. James said he shot Barry in the head and his daughter in the face, then disposed of their remains along the highway.
A jury acquitted James in Carolyn and Sheketah's deaths in late 1985. He was never charged with Brandon and Barry's homicides, as authorities were not certain of the location of the presumed murders. Extensive searches of the areas produced no evidence as to the family's whereabouts, and some investigators believe James lied about where he disposed of the bodies.
Florida Department Of Law Enforcement