Most Wanted: Jason Derek Brown
For more than a decade, this fugitive has eluded the feds. Will he finally be caught?
Some criminals are begging to get caught. The robber who commits his crime right in front of the store cameras, come on now. Some felons make it challenging to find them or solve the mystery, the Natalie Wood mystery comes to mind. And then there are the fugitives like Jason Derek Brown, who are a combination of both. Brown made it evident that killed an Arizona man and stole the money that the victim was transporting but for more than a decade has eluded capture, despite being on the FBI's most wanted list.
Let's go back to the event that sparked all of this. It was November 29, 2004, and Keith Palomares, an armored car guard, had just collected receipts for the Ahwatukee AMC Theatre. There was more money than usual in the deposit because, during Thanksgiving weekend, some of the bigger movies are released. Brown would have known this and decided that the money wouldn't be missed by a large theatre chain.
He bought a .45 caliber gun to carry out his dastardly plan. This was confirmed by police who responded to the crime scene. Brown pumped six bullets into Palomares and took the $56,000 that he had been carrying. One of the weirdest parts of this story is that Brown did all of this on a mountain bike. He had to have known that there would be fingerprints on it that would lead the police straight to him.
Why would Brown commit this crime? That was more a mystery than who did it, thanks to the carelessness of the suspect leaving his getaway vehicle (for lack of a better word) for the police to find and dust for prints. FBI Special Agent Lance Leising says that Brown did it all for the Benjamins;
"This isn’t his first time -- not his first rodeo -- he’s going to have done this before. Maybe progressed from small-time crimes to this homicide robbery he committed. Wasn’t like that for Jason. Jason did have a lot of previous crimes, wasn’t arrested for them all, but most of them were con- or fraud-related. So, that’s what his life was. And he graduated right to this robbery homicide, I believe, for greed."
All of the research on Jason Derek Brown does indicate that the man was bad with money. Yet, if he were a good con or good at fraud, one would think he would be a much smarter criminal. Or did he want to get caught? There is a chance he wanted the cops to know that he was the one who committed the murder and robbery. Maybe he wanted to play a real-life version of cops and robbers with them. Leising, for his part hangs his hat on the greed theory. The FBI agent continued, "And what is Jason like? What do I believe him to be? Greedy is a good example. Vain might be another good word to explain him. Put himself in front of everyone else." Here is where the story takes an intriguing turn.
It is widely believed that for a very long time, Brown was hiding in plain sight. Many people have claimed to see him, tips poured into the FBI like a bartender making drinks at the end of the night hoping for bigger tips. Every tip seemed to lead nowhere, and the investigation stalled. Jason Derek Brown was nowhere to be found, at least as far as the FBI was concerned. But like Elvis, there were many sightings of him throughout California and Utah.
In fact, one of the last verified tips was from an acquaintance of Brown's, who saw him near Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. After making eye contact with the person, Brown blew a stop sign and disappeared once again. A minor traffic violation is nothing compared to murder but come on, that could have ended this game of hide and seek. Maybe that's what he wanted to play instead of cops and robbers.
Whatever Brown is hoping to accomplish with his near perfect ghosting of the FBI, he has roped other people into this crime spree. His brother, David James Brown II was arrested and charged with Obstruction of Justice in San Diego, after James Derek Brown sent him a package that contained clothes and golf equipment in 2005. Police allege that the package came from Portland and they were not informed of its arrival by the family. The indictment also said that Brown II tampered with evidence when he cleaned out his brother's BMW. At least a case could be made against them.
One of the people that was arrested in connection with this case was a body double for actor Sean Penn. The unnamed actor was detained because they were confident that it was Jason Derek Brown. Fortunately, the actor was released after authorities realized their mistake.
Brown was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List in 2007, and the manhunt continues for him to this day. While the FBI believes that Brown is living in a Mormon community, credible sources have placed him in Mexico as recently as 2017. Perhaps he came into some more money and was on vacation. Or more likely, he is always on the move, hoping to avoid arrest.