Where is Brandon Sims? The four-year-old had not been seen since July 3, 1992, when he attended a birthday party with his twenty-year-old mother, Michelle Jones. Jones was employed, confident, talented, smart, assertive and involved in many community activities in Indianapolis, Indiana. In contrast, when he was last seen, Brandon Sims, an only child, was a serious, quiet, thin boy who rarely maintained eye contact with his mother. After that night, he was never seen again. His body has never been found.
For years Jones lied to her friends about Brandon, telling some that he was living with his father and others that he was staying with his grandmother in another state. When Brandon’s father, who had been in jail, came looking for Brandon, Michelle’s shocked friends confronted her. She confessed that Brandon was dead. She repeated her story of how Brandon died to a detective, after she admitted herself to the local psych unit. Days later she checked out of the unit and refused to reveal where he had hidden Brandon’s body. She was sure she had gotten away with murder.
And she would have except the detective didn’t believe her story. He enlisted the help of a novice prosecutor because no experienced prosecutor would take the case. In Indiana, no one had ever been convicted of murder without a body.
That prosecutor has written a book that reads like a mystery novel instead of the real murder prosecution. Truth is stranger than fiction where Santeria curses, the law and politics are only a few of obstacles to justice.
From The Book:
We learned that, for a while, Michelle had brought Brandon with her to rehearsals for shows that Michelle produced, danced in or was otherwise involved in making happen. Several of these maternal seeming women described Brandon as very thin and shy. A child who kept to himself. The description was in stark contrast to the photographs and stories that Arlene Blevins had shared of a fun loving, plump, curious little boy who had lived with her for most of his life.
Crooke obtained Brandon’s medical records and determined that the toddler suffered from a disease with a lengthy medical diagnosis but commonly called “precocious puberty.” As a result, although Brandon was only four years old at the time of his death, he was much taller than his stated age. Brandon was the height of an average seven-year-old. He also had hair under his arms and in his genital area and his sexual organ and testes were more developed. We asked Arlene Blevins, a substantial source of information about Brandon, how Michelle reacted to Brandon’s diagnosis. Arlene said that Michelle told her once, “I ain’t gonna raise no freak.”
One of Michelle’s friends had hinted that Michelle had struck and killed her son, but she wouldn’t come straight out and say it. So, the charges remained: Neglect of a Dependent, two counts. Michelle showed up for her court appearances and never said a word in court (at least not so the court or anyone in the courtroom, except perhaps for Mark Earnest, could hear her). I kept expecting her lawyer to discuss a plea, but he never said a word.
Because we only charged Michelle with neglect, if she had pled guilty to the neglect charge the prosecutor’s office could not have charged her with murder later, even if Brandon’s body was found, other witnesses contacted us or were identified, not for any reason at all. That is because of Double Jeopardy. This constitutional prohibition against subjecting a person to jeopardy twice for the same crime would have barred a subsequent prosecution. The neglect charge included serious bodily injury to Brandon. For that reason, if Michelle Jones had pled guilty to the neglect charge, the most serious one, a B felony, she could not have been charged with murder. She probably would have received a probated sentence.
Michelle brazenly pled not guilty to neglecting Brandon. Instead she insisted, as was her right, on a jury trial.