Investigators believe they may have uncovered the site where a Fort Worth executive was killed — and whose remains were found last weekend in Smith County and Shreveport, La.
Officials did not disclose the exact location of the suspected crime scene but a witness told the Star-Telegram that several officers swarmed the Enclave at Cityview apartments in the 5400 block of Overton Ridge Blvd. in southwest Fort Worth on Thursday night.
The witness said SWAT officers raided an apartment and that officers were later seen taking pictures inside a Dumpster at the complex and removing some carpet from it.
“It looked like they were about to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound,” the witness said. “… They were all gearing up. I’m like, they need that much fire power just to go in a small apartment?”
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Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said investigators identified two potential suspects in the case and a possible address of the crime scene Thursday through the “voluminous evidence” collected in Smith County and Shreveport following the identification of Marion Lee Brown.
That information was forwarded to Fort Worth homicide detectives, who obtained a search warrant for a Fort Worth residence.
In executing that warrant, Fort Worth homicide detectives and crime scene officers were able to find a crime scene “that is potentially the original homicide scene,” Smith said.
As of Friday morning, Smith said that no arrests had been made in the case, which has now been turned over to Fort Worth homicide investigators.
Last seen on May 22
In a press release issued Friday afternoon, Fort Worth police said warrants executed by Fort Worth homicide and robbery detectives at the Enclave apartment complex “were in reference to an ongoing robbery investigation that detectives believe may be related to the investigation into the death of Marion Brown.”
The releases states that several items were seized, “but at this time we are unable to say if this is in fact the location of any offense related to a homicide.”
Fort Worth police Homicide Sgt. Joe Loughman said Friday that the searched apartment was unoccupied.
“It did not appear that there was anybody living at that location as of last night,” he said.
He said items collected by police from a complex Dumpster “are potentially related to the apartment that was searched.”
Brown was an executive with Hill Phoenix, a manufacturer of display cases and refrigeration systems that had offices in Fort Worth.
He was last seen alive in the early afternoon of May 22 at his job in Fort Worth, according to Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.
An investigation began May 23 when a burning piece of carpet with partial human remains inside was found on County Road 371 in Smith County, about 130 miles southeast of Fort Worth. Evidence at the scene gave detectives a lead that Brown was the possible victim.
A caller later told deputies that she saw a white, older model SUV near the scene of the burning carpet which Smith County authorities say was cut from a floor.
That afternoon, a 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser belonging to Brown was found burning in some woods in Smith County.
“There is almost a 12-hour span from when the carpet was found and the vehicle was burned,” Smith said Thursday. “The time between those two incidents taking place indicated that the vehicle was being driven in the meantime.”
On May 24, the case moved to Louisiana, when a body with significant head trauma was recovered in Cross Lake at Shreveport. On Wednesday, the remains were identified through fingerprint analysis as Brown’s.
Loughman said Friday that investigators believe Brown was fatally beaten with an unknown object.
Stay away from the trash
The witness and his girlfriend at the apartment complex in Fort Worth at first suspected officers were preparing for a drug raid when they noted a man wearing a bullet-proof vest in a van as they walked to a nearby pond with bread to feed the ducks late Thursday afternoon.
The witness asked to only be identified by his first name, Dale, for fear of retribution against his girlfriend by the apartment complex.
“I said, ‘They must be doing another drug bust,’ ” Dale said. “They did a drug bust a couple weeks ago here.”
Dale said the couple had walked back to the complex and his girlfriend was about to throw the bread bag away in the Dumpster, when a man in a white truck parked nearby told her, “Please don’t thrown your trash in this Dumpster.”
“My girlfriend said ‘Why?’ and he like flashed his badge,” Dale said.
Dale said he later went to Hulen Mall and when looking back at the complex, he saw a SWAT vehicle, several other Fort Worth police trucks and officers with large guns.
Dale said by the time he had returned to the complex, dozens of officers, their badges hanging from their necks, were everywhere. He said he never saw anyone under arrest but that officers remained at the scene into the early morning hours Friday.
Dale said when he spotted the officers taking pictures inside a Dumpster and removing carpet from it, he suspected a homicide may have occurred at the complex.
“I wouldn’t think standard operating procedure would be to take pictures in a Dumpster for drugs,” he said.