The unsolved mystery of Jack Brown’s 1984 murder in Ypsilanti

    Every once in a while, my OCD gets the best of me, and I find myself going off on a tangent, obsessed by some little thing that, if I were anyone else, I’d probably just disregard. Recently, as you might recall, I got a little fixated, for whatever reason, by a large bell that figured prominently in a short film shot by Orson Welles at the age of 19. I have news to report on that front, by the way, but it’ll have to wait for another day. For the time being, I want to discuss an old episode of the television program Unsolved Mysteries, that was shot in Ypsilanti, following the 1984 murder of local real estate agent Jack Brown.

    When I was young, I was a huge fan of In Search Of, and, when it went off the air, Unsolved Mysteries was the next best thing that I could find to fill the void. So, I watched it pretty regularly, daydreaming about the day when I’d grow up, leave home, and find work playing the part of a criminal in one of their reenactments. Anyway, it was though Unsolved Mysteries that, as a young kid in New Jersey, I first became acquainted with the city of Ypsilanti. The episode in question centered around the unsolved murder of an Ypsilanti real estate agent by the name of Jack Brown. Well, lately, for whatever reason, I’ve found myself wondering about the case, and, more specifically, the building where the murder took place. And, it was this insatiable curiosity of mine that led me to YouTube today, in search of the episode, which I haven’t seen in over 25 years. Fortunately, I was able to find it… Here it is, in two parts.

    I’m not sure exactly why this specific episode has stuck in my head all of these years, when I can’t remember things that are truly important to me, like the names of my friends’ kids, and my computer password, but I guess that’s how my mind works. Maybe it was the conspiracy angle, as articulated by Jack’s wife, who mentioned that Jack claimed to have been in possession of evidence that would send powerful people to prison. Or, more likely, I just liked the smart-ass response that Jack, in the reenactment, directed toward the gunman, who had burst into his office, asking, “You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?” Jack’s reply, according to witnesses, was, “Well… maybe.” (He was the immediately shot in the neck.) For whatever reason, though, the episode was burned into my young mind.

    The case is a weird one. People seem think that the men who murdered Jack Brown, given the way the conducted themselves, were hired killers, but no one seems to know why the seemingly mild-mannered real estate agent was targeted for death on Jan. 11, 1984. Ed Hall, the Ypsilanti Police Department detective interviewed in the piece, suggests that Brown may have been “leading a secret life”, unbeknownst to friends and family. There’s scant information available online, but, given some comments left in response to a post on the EMUtalk site in 2009 about cronyism involved in the hiring of EMU’s Chief Government Relations Officer, I think it’s safe to say that some believe that Jack was killed by high-powered individuals in Ypsilanti. Following are a few of these comments.

    Alum:
    I’m betting none of you will touch this one with a 10 foot pole! If you know the history, you know that it is, or that it borders on being criminal based on some of the things done in the past. How many of you know what the “Eagle Brief” is, or was, and the story behind Ehman and Greenstreet Real Estate and the T.V. show Unsolved Mysteries?

    EMULifer:
    I don’t disagree with you Alum. Just saying the good ol’ boys were never directly linked to the killing of Jack Brown.

    FullOfQuestions
    Jack Brown is my grandfather. I am tied in with both the Brown’s and the Stumbo’s. I promise you that these rumors aren’t just rumors. Ypsilanti is a shady place and it makes me happy knowing that other people are aware of it too. I would just be cautious when dealing with certain people around here.

    I should add, before anyone targets me for elimination, that have no information relative to this case, and no burning desire to see it solved. My interest is strictly in the identification of the building in which the murder took place, which you can see in the initial few frames of the first video above. Ehman & Greestreet still exists as a firm, with offices at 1947 Whitaker Road, but, judging from the footage, I’m thinking that the building where this took place was on Michigan Avenue. At any rate, if any of you cyber sleuths could help me out, I’d appreciate it.

    Additional reading on the death of Jack Brown can be found at The Michigan Daily, Unsolved Mysteries, and, for some reason, Sitcoms Online. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think it would make a very good sitcom.)

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      22 Comments

      1. Kerri
        Posted March 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        Wow, crazy story. It looks like that building is the one next door to Dos Hermanos.

      2. anonymous
        Posted March 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Does the “Eagle Brief” have anything to do with the Eagle Crest Marriott?

      3. pot stirrer
        Posted March 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        Eagle Crest was built in 1989. It’s conceivable that the land deal was going down around the time of Brown’s murder. As all of this predates my arrival in the city, I don’t know the specifics as to how the deal came together. My guess is that EMU owned the land, or acquired it, and then someone brought Marriott to the table to build the facility. Money must have changed hands though, and a person in the real estate business, like Brown, could have been privy to something. Of course, he could have also just slept with the wrong man’s wife.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eagle_Crest_Resort_%28Ypsilanti,_Michigan%29

      4. Taco Tom
        Posted March 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        Kerri is right. The office was located in the site adjacent to Dos Hermanos. If I recall, there was a grocery store there then too, an IGA maybe. It was robbed around the same time and the owners gave up and closed. Ypsi’s downtown definitely.

      5. Taco Tom
        Posted March 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        Ypsi’s downtown definitely declined then.

      6. Edward
        Posted March 18, 2012 at 12:11 am | Permalink

        How can I not have known about this?

      7. dragon
        Posted March 18, 2012 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        When I talk to the police I get nervous.

      8. Posted March 18, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink

        We all knew it was a paid hit at the time. Follow the money, and the power and it leads to the clique that has run the township since for ever. The only other paid hit in Ypsi (that I am aware of ) is also unsolved. It involved the murder of a recent immigrant to Ypsi in the parking lot of Brandies party store on Michigan and Summit. That murder was evidently over loan sharking issues the Chaldians who owned the store had deep gambling debts. After the murder of their cousin as a warning to pay up, they sold the store to Sam and Brandi (the current owners).
        The Ehman & Greestreet offices were on Michigan in the free standing building next to Dos Hermanos that is currently a temporary service agency. After the murder they moved out to the township.

      9. Posted March 18, 2012 at 4:57 am | Permalink

        This has gotten me thinking about how organized crime works. Organized crime moved into concrete and waste removal decades ago. Huge long term contracts, politicians who can be corrupted, layers of denial ability and corporate entities to protect individual principles. Organized crime utilizes the same techniques as the Republican Party ie. fear and greed.
        What makes these types of crimes almost impossible to solve are 1) the victim is an entirely innocent party who has no connection to the perpetrators, and is chosen because of a family connection (but not too close–don’t want to start a vendetta) to those whom a message is being sent. In the case of the Summit St. party store murder–it was a cousin who had recently immigrated, and the message, pay your gambling bills. In the case of Brown, a message to the Stumbo folks to play along? I see an indirect connection between Brown’s murder and the fact that we have a solid waste incinerator instead of the more environmentally friendly way to handle our solid waste. Waste Management made out like bandits on an unnecessary incinerator project (one that required the Stumbo crowd to engage is some of the most despicable political maneuvering to achieve, an action that had little if any local political support). You look at the corruption in Detroit and much of it was achieved through the control of the water and sewer system. I wonder if there is a preferred concrete company (or companies) that are utilized by contractors with the township? No longer having a media that engages in investigative journalism, and law enforcement that is geared towards street crimes rather than organized crime, all we can do is speculate.
        In any event Mark, your post stroked my anti-township anti-Stumbo clique biases. Thanks

      10. Anonymatt
        Posted March 18, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        Young kid? Unsolved Mysteries debuted when we were in college.

      11. Watching Laughing
        Posted March 18, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        Heard a lot of things over the years on this.
        Don’t want to even touch it.

        WL.

      12. anonymous
        Posted March 18, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

        As it’s been 25 years, would the police files be open to the public? I wonder if anyone in the press ever tried to FOIA their files.

      13. Eel
        Posted March 19, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        I’m always hearing about the police reopening old cases. Why not request that Ypsilanti reopen this one?

      14. John Galt
        Posted March 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        See, the free market has an answer to any problem.

      15. joe
        Posted March 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        I maybe wrong, it has been years since I read it, but wasn’t the Eagle Brief referring to the property where the COB is now?

      16. Edward
        Posted March 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

        By COB do you mean College of Business?

      17. Watching Laughing
        Posted March 20, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        The College of Business in 1984 was a gas station.

        WL.

      18. Anonymous Mike
        Posted March 20, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Who made money on the College of Business property sale?

        Also, I’d be interested to talk with the cop that offered the “secret double life” scenario to explain Brown’s death. Did his bank account see an increase? Was he connected in any way to these shady characters from the Township?

        I can’t believe that this wasn’t, and isn’t, bigger news.

      19. Steve Taylor
        Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        The address where the murder took place, is the single family style house right next to the Washtenaw 100 memorial park near the intersection of Michigan/Congress and Ballard. Was/is a legal office now to my recollection. An old elementary school friend of mine, his dad was an Officer Hall in the Unsolved Mystery broadcast. The college of business building used to be the old cleary mansion (cleary college) before it got moved to where the walgreens is at Washtenaw and Hewitt (then bulldozed the school for the EMU presidents residence.) I’m pretty sure that’s the sequence of events for the buildings and some of the changes downtown in the last 20 years.

      20. barb jenkins
        Posted April 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Having grown up in ypsi, i heard it was probably a case of mistaken identity and the killers were really after his son.

      21. Bonnie
        Posted February 27, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink

        I grew up in Ypsi also and heard it was also directed at his son for other reasons. So sad to lose any one that way.

      22. Carol
        Posted May 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        Bonnie, wasn’t his son a very young man?

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