Fort Worth murder suspects left trail of clues for police

Posted Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A woman accused of killing Tommy Brown earlier this month was a girlfriend of the victim who, with the help of another boyfriend, ambushed Brown when he arrived at his east Fort Worth home, then used his credit card to make purchases as they fled the state, court documents show.

When his body was discovered by his sister two days later, Brown’s hands were tied behind his back and he had a white bag over his bloodied face.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office later ruled that Brown, 51, died of asphyxia and beating injuries.

Homicide investigators believe Eunice “Christina” Rodriguez, 37, and her new boyfriend, 25-year-old Braylon Ellis, were waiting inside for Brown when he returned to his east Fort Worth home on the night of Sept. 5, then robbed and killed him.

“It appears that Brown was ambushed as soon as he got to his front door,” said homicide Sgt. Cheryl Johnson,

The couple were arrested in Gwinnett County, Ga., on Sept. 10 and remained jailed there Thursday.

According to arrest warrant affidavits obtained by the Star-Telegram, Rodriguez had been involved with Brown and often visited his house in the 2400 block of Rattikin Road. Although Brown’s sister had believed Rodriguez was pregnant with Brown’s baby, Johnson said there is no indication at this time that Rodriguez is pregnant.

In July, Brown filed a report with Fort Worth police, accusing Rodriguez of stealing his wallet. He told police that when he called Rodriguez to ask her about it, she threatened to send a male friend over to his house to beat him up and also referenced killing him. A man could be heard laughing in the background during the phone call, Brown told police.

Police suspect Rodriguez and her friend carried through with that threat on Sept. 5.

‘Light went on for a second’

Neighbors told police that on that night, they saw Brown’s girlfriend and an unknown man walk into Brown’s house although he was not home.

One neighbor told police “it looked weird because the lights were off when they went inside,” the affidavit states.

A few minutes later, Brown arrived at the house.

“When Tommy got to the front door, he observed someone pull Tommy inside the house,” the affidavit states.

The neighbor “said that the light went on for a second and then immediately went back off.”

The neighbor never saw Brown again and noticed his pickup was missing the next morning..

Neighbors later contacted Brown’s sister, concerned that they hadn’t seen or heard from Brown. The sister tried unsuccessfully to reach her brother by phone, even texting him the morning of Sept. 7 but getting no reply.

At 3 p.m. that day, she went to her brother’s house, finding him dead inside.

An hour later, her earlier text to her brother was finally answered, police believe by the suspects posing as Brown.

“Im driving to El Paso what u want?” it read.

Tracking the suspects

When found, Brown’s body was face down in a hallway bathroom. Discolored clothing indicated his body had been doused with bleach.

Blood stained the hallway walls outside the bathroom and two sets of bloody shoe prints marred the kitchen floor.

Brown’s television, wallet, and Toyota pickup were missing.

Investigators would learn that the pickup had been located a day earlier, abandoned with the keys in the ignition in a convenience store parking lot a mile and a half away from his house. It had been there since at least midnight, witnesses told police.

Investigators discovered that Brown’s credit card had been used between Sept. 6 and 7 to purchase gas, medications, and other items at businesses stretching from Fort Worth to Mississippi. The card was eventually declined at a business in Mississippi after its credit limit was exceeded, one of the affidavits states.

Surveillance video obtained from the some of the businesses show a woman and man matching the descriptions of Rodriguez and Ellis buying items. In some of the videos, a boy, about age 6, later identified as Ellis’ son, accompanies the couple.

In the video, a bandage is visible on the man’s right hand. One clerk told police the man had told her that he had almost cut his thumb off.

Johnson said it remains under investigation whether Ellis may have suffered the injury in a struggle with Brown.

A co-worker of Brown’s later told police that she had received numerous text messages from Brown’s cellphone after he was found dead. In one of the messages, received on Sept. 9, someone posing as Brown asked her to send money to a man named Braylon Ellis, the affidavit states.

The next day, authorities arrested Rodriguez and Ellis on capital murder warrants without incident at a relative’s home in Georgia. Ellis’s son was left in the care of relatives, Johnson said.

Johnson and homicide Detective Tom O’Brien traveled to Georgia to interview the suspects. Johnson declined to comment on whether the suspects provided statements.

According to state records, Rodriguez was convicted of aggravated robbery in 2003 in El Paso County and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Ellis had previous convictions for possession of marijuana and criminal trespass out of Dallas and Collin counties, records show.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd

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