Dozens of search warrants related to last year’s manhunt for Michael Alexander Brown provide few new details about the homicide he’s charged with, but they give a detailed overview of both the technological methods used to search for him during his 18 days at large and the steps he took to elude capture.
Those 57 documents, which together stood several inches thick, had been previously sealed by a judge but were opened to the public Wednesday in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Brown, 22, is being held on a charge of second-degree murder in the Nov. 9 shooting of Rodney Wilfred Brown, 54, who was his mother’s boyfriend. Authorities said Michael Brown left the couple’s home in Hardy and remained at large until Nov. 27, when he was found at the same house where the shooting occurred.
Between those two points, an extensive search unfolded that spanned three states, shut down parts of Roanoke after a suspected sighting, and ultimately came to involve local, state and federal agencies.
During that time, the warrants show, investigators were requesting all manner of records for the electronic devices Brown owned or had access to, including phones, tablets, storage devices and video game systems.
They also sought bank account information, his credit history, social media profiles, email addresses, security videos, details of retail transactions, even activity related to Netflix and Hulu accounts that had been opened in Brown’s name.
“Netflix and Hulu maintain stored electronic records which may provide indicia of the devices or usage by the fugitive,” the warrant said.
Brown also provided them copious material to sort through: According to the search warrants, he had access to numerous phone numbers and, while at large, employed multiple email accounts, some of whose addresses bore either aliases or other people’s names.
During the manhunt, police searched a trailer and two vehicles Brown had used and reportedly abandoned. They found a computer that “revealed that Mr. Brown held an extensive number of accounts” and contact numbers, as well as empty packages for prepaid “burner” cellphones and an internet hotspot.
Another warrant, served Nov. 18, mentioned multiple devices as well as “a damaged home security camera,” but it did not specify where that item was located.
A separate warrant, seeking information from Rodney Brown’s financial accounts, said that on Nov. 8, the day before the shooting, “the victim withdrew a significant amount of cash from the bank,” but it did not say whether the money was ever recovered. Police recovered some of Rodney Brown’s financial paperwork in an RV that Michael Brown had been using, the warrants said, but it was unclear what those were.
A search targeting Michael Brown’s credit union account sought his banking activity for the entire year. Other search warrants mentioned transactions he had conducted, including at a Taco Bell while on the run, and at a Citgo station in Hardy the morning of the shooting.
Brown is also charged with using a firearm to commit a felony. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 19 in Franklin County General District Court.