A murderer’s plea for an executive pardon to his life sentence is forcing family members of the victim to relive their nearly 21-year nightmare and dividing the family over whether the man should go free.
Jimmie Lee Brown Jr. was a 35-year-old guard in the Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center on March 30, 1998, when he found his girlfriend, LaTonya Anderson, 29, driving into Greenwood on U.S. 49 with her 8-year-old son and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter in the car.
Anderson had told him just days before that she was ending their long-term relationship and moved out of their apartment on Browning Road to her mother’s home, according to prosecutors. Brown wouldn’t accept her decision, friends told the Commonwealth at the time.
Brown fired on the car with a .22-caliber rifle, and the car left the road and rolled multiple times. When Anderson got out of the car, Brown shot her in the stomach. As her son, Jeffery, pleaded with him not to shoot his mother, Brown shot her in the head.
She died later at Greenwood Leflore Hospital.
“Him being the person that he was, I never expected nothing like that to happen,” Jeffery Anderson said Thursday. “For him to do that, it did put a burden on my life. It traumatized me in a way, even to this day. It’s just hard to live a life without somebody that’s going to show you unconditional love, like your mom.”
After a short trial, Brown was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for Anderson’s murder and two 10-year terms for two charges of aggravated assault against the children.
Now, Brown resides in Dorm C at the Marshall County Correctional Center, a for-profit prison in Holly Springs that is run by Management and Training Corporation. He has filed the application and begun procedures to ask Gov. Phil Bryant to set him free.
Brown wrote a letter to the Commonwealth in May 2001, more than three years after the murder, apologizing to the family for the “grief, pain, heartaches and suffering.” But while Brown said he’d asked God for forgiveness and had found “peace within,” his letter stressed the impact his crime had on him rather than others,
“It’s not easy to accept that you have killed someone,” the letter said. “Not only that, to accept that you have taken away two kids’ mother from them is hard to deal with. ... One thing I can tell you, it wasn’t easy getting over this.”
Starting in December and through Jan. 18, the Commonwealth ran a $228.76 legal ad from Brown, stating his intention to apply for executive pardon and giving notice to anyone desiring input to contact the Mississippi Parole Board.
Jeffery Anderson, now 28, has submitted a letter to the Parole Board, but he was hesitant to share a copy. He did explain what he had written.
“I have talked with (Brown), and he asked me for forgiveness, which I don’t believe will ever happen,” he said. “I really can’t explain it. Talking about it just brings more hatred to my heart, which I don’t want. A lot of people don’t understand what I went through and what I’m continuing to go through. I really don’t care what anybody thinks or what anybody says because they didn’t have to live my life.”
Anderson said numerous people tried to help him deal with the trauma, through a childhood of counseling and church, but he’s still suffering.
“Just to find the forgiveness to say, ‘I forgive you for murdering my mother right before my eyes’ — how can anybody look the person in the eye and really mean it from the heart? That’s crazy. I’m a firm believer in God, who’s the head of my life, but it’s just hard to accept that forgiveness.
“It’s a journey that I had to live with. There’s nothing I can do to bring her back, but it’s just heartbreaking. That’s the only way I can explain that.”
Jeffrey Anderson lives in Holmes County but works an offshore job in the Gulf that gives him 28 days on and 28 days off, a shift that many have found difficult to manage. Witnessing his mother’s brutal murder at such a young age appears to have made him introspective. He said he’s used that experience as a way to guide him through life and keep him on the right path.
“It’s something that I learn to deal with,” he said. “I kind of held it in the way that I know she won’t want me to feel like this or do anything stupid to jeopardize my life. In so many ways, I’m just different through her. It’s the only thing that keeps me going and gives me a positive mindset on life itself.
“Trouble is so easy to get into and so hard to get out of. So, I’m trying to keep a positive, productive mindset and to just live through her and do positive things I know I’d be doing if she was here with us, just living through her.”
LaTonya Anderson was from Cruger, where her mother lived until her death in 2017, and some brothers and sisters still reside there.
“I don’t feel that he has the right to be released,” said Lisa Anderson Ollie. “He took my sister’s life. He took my sister’s life, and he did it in front of the children.”
One brother, Antwon Anderson, moved from Cruger to Atlanta in 1990, so he wasn’t in Leflore County when the murder occurred. He said he’d leave the decision on whether to oppose Brown’s release to what he thinks his mother would have wanted.
“I spoke with my family, and I told them the same thing. This is what my mother would say: ‘I’m going to let my granddaughter and my grandson be the judge of that.’ That’s what she would say. She would put it in their hands.”
If that sounds like diverting the question, Antwon Anderson admits he’s undecided.
“If I had a vote on it, I’d have to vote no, but if I see him, I think it wouldn’t bother me, either. ... If you ask me, I wouldn’t approve of that. At this point, though, it wouldn’t bother me none. Either way you look at it, (LaTonya’s) not coming back.”
Any agreement between the siblings appears doubtful. Attempts to reach LaTonya’s daughter, Ja Kiaya Anderson, at first appeared likely before she stopped answering messages through Facebook. As the daughter of LaTonya Anderson and Brown, Ja Kiaya Anderson has a different relationship than other family members with her father. She was only 4 years old when the murder occurred, and her memory of that day may not be as precise as her brother’s.
Jeffery Anderson admitted his relationship with his sister is “kind of rocky” and has deteriorated as she’s reached out to Brown.
“She’s been writing letters to the (Parole Board) because she’s trying to have him back in her life,” he said. “I just don’t think she really knows the magnitude of her doing that. ... She’s my sister. I love her and understand that I can’t stop her from being part of his life, but I’d rather they have the relationship with him in there than out here.
“I really think that’s the best place for him, to be locked up. I hope they make the right decision to continue justice for our family.”
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or email@example.com.