Jeffrey T. Brown was never officially arrested, charged or indicted in the shooting death of David Brown in 2016. Even so, he stood before an Erie County judge Tuesday morning and pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for killing Brown at a family party more than two years ago.
The two men were not related but had been involved with the same woman. Jeffrey Brown, 44, was a suspect early on, but the case was going cold when he was arrested in November 2016 on federal drug charges. According to U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr., Brown admitted to the unrelated homicide shortly after his arrest, and since then his attorney, U.S. attorneys and the District Attorney's Office have been working on a joint resolution of the two cases.
The July 3, 2016, shooting happened near the home of Jeffrey Brown's mother on Marne Road, when his family was having a holiday cookout, according to defense attorney Anthony Lana. Brown's estranged wife arrived at the party with her new boyfriend, David Brown, which reportedly led to a confrontation between the two men.
The dispute culminated with David Brown, 46, being shot several times while he was in his car. He died the next morning.
District Attorney John J. Flynn said that, even though Jeffrey Brown was a suspect, the investigation ran into a wall because the shooting happened at his family's house.
"No one – none of the witnesses – was willing to cooperate," Flynn said.
The DA credited the leverage gained by the federal arrest with obtaining Brown's guilty plea and providing David Brown's family with closure.
Kennedy pointed out that Brown admitted to the homicide after his arrest before any deal was offered, and "at that point it was a matter of cutting his losses."
At the time of the shooting, Jeffrey Brown was on parole from a prior felony conviction on drug charges and he could have faced an indeterminate sentence of eight to 25 years in prison on the manslaughter plea. As part of the plea agreement, however, Judge Michael Pietruszka committed to ordering a determinate sentence of 17 years when Brown returns before him on April 23.
Although Lana said that he expects Brown to receive an identical term of 17 years when he is sentenced in federal court April 19, Kennedy said no commitment has been made regarding sentencing.