Born March 19, 1976
Currently serving a life sentence at San Quentin State Prison
Michael Charles Brown was born into a big family in the small central Mississippi town of Grenada. Little about Brown’s childhood is known. While we know Brown has a juvenile record, those records are sealed. With family in Mississippi and Bakersfield, Brown visited Kern County frequently in his youth. He even spent his junior year at Highland High School. Partially what makes Brown so interesting is the amount of family, friends, and acquaintances he had-though no one was willing to speak with us for our investigation.
The only two people interviewed in our story who knew Brown only agreed to speak with us because they also knew victims mentioned in the piece.
The few people willing to speak with me anonymously and off camera told me Brown was really the last person you’d ever suspect would hurt another human being. To be clear, Brown wasn’t a prominent member of the community. He never went to college, he never owned his own home, and he’d been in and out jail for most of his life. But the idea of him being capable of rape and murder was and still is unbelievable to many who knew him. Everyone we spoke with who knew Brown said he was shy, quiet, and charming. Many spoke of his manners. Several people brought up how Brown had a diverse group of friends. He could make himself fit in with several different crowds. Despite his charm, friends said he wasn’t exactly a ladies’ man. They recall him spending most of his time out at bars playing pool, often keeping to himself.
Brown’s criminal record show he seemed to struggle with drinking, or at least drinking and driving. In addition to killing a pedestrian while driving drunk, Brown got several DUIs over the years. However, friends told us off camera he never experimented with drugs.
One reason for friends not seeing Brown pick up on women could be that it seems he always had a serious girlfriend he lived with. He had children with multiple women, but he never married. At the time of his arrest for the four sexual assaults and the murder of Ruby Merriweather, he was in a serious relationship with a live-in girlfriend.
Brown has also experienced tragedy in his own family. While Brown was incarcerated for vehicular manslaughter in 2003, his brother was murdered. The case remains unsolved.
Throughout the years, Brown has kept quiet. He didn’t testify in his own self defense. When the jury convicted him of the sexual assaults and Ruby Merriweather’s murder, he had the opportunity to have dozens of people testify on his behalf and beg the jury to have mercy on him and give him life without parole instead of the death penalty. But Brown declined. He didn’t try to fight it. He’s also never agreed to an on-camera interview or any kind of interview with a reporter. As of the airdate of our investigation, no detective has ever met with Brown in prison.
Bakersfield Police would not confirm to KGET that Brown is a suspect in any unsolved homicides. Only retired law enforcement were willing to speak about the potential of Brown being a serial killer.
The Murder Victims
44 years old
Found December 30, 1996 at 1128 Derrel Ave.
Mary Ann Perkins was born and raised in Bakersfield. Mary was a 44-year-old single mother of three when she vanished from her neighborhood. Family members recall her walking towards her South Owens Street home, wearing a green family reunion shirt, when they saw her for the last time. Mary’s family recalls how she was always humble, grateful, and very family oriented. She’d overcome a lot in her life, as she was a sickly child who suffered from seizures caused by epilepsy.
Family remembers Mary for being amazing with children and very humble. Mary had 11 siblings, but despite the size, the family was very close knit. According to original news reports, Family last saw Mary alive on December 21 1996. When she didn’t show up for Christmas, her family says they knew she was dead. Mary’s body was discovered a day before New Years Eve in the backyard of a vacant home just a few blocks from where she lived.
39 years old
Found June 30, 1998 in the 2200 block of Madison Street
Leslie was born and raised in Bakersfield to a family with 11 children. Despite having so many siblings, Leslie had just one child herself, a daughter named Shannon. Shannon says the pair were very close, saw each other regularly, and spoke several times a day. She says she knew instantly something was wrong when she couldn’t get ahold of her mother one late June afternoon in 1998. Several days later, Leslie’s nude body was found in a field off Madison Street. That same week, newspaper reports from 1998 reveal her vehicle was found abandoned nearby.
Tragically, one of Leslie’s brothers was also murdered a few years before her. The homicide took place in Germany and is still unsolved. Family remembers Leslie as being very outgoing and more than anything, very kind. She was overjoyed to become a grandmother and was very close with her young grandson. Family recalls how much Leslie loved to read. It was how she spent most of her free time. Leslie also worked as a caregiver.
50 years old
Found July 1, 1998 at 2016 Raymond A Spruance Ct.
Our investigation into Michael Charles Brown and the unsolved homicides he is linked to was largely sparked by our in-depth look into the murder of Kathleen Heisey. In 2016, we interviewed dozens of people who knew Kathleen and had any involvement in her homicide investigation. It was immediately clear that her murder made headlines for two reasons: 1. She was by all accounts an unlikely target of violence. She was a hardworking, respected woman who was brutally murdered in her own home, and 2. She was so incredibly loved by an immense amount of people in the community.
It became nearly impossible to track the amount of people who wanted to tell us about Kathleen and how they remembered her. As a long-time educator in Kern County, former students, faculty, and parents all wanted to share a reason why Kathleen was so special.
Kathleen was born into a prominent Kern County family with lots of history in the community, but friends say her background never had an effect on her vivacious and down to earth personality. She was known to be fiercely protective of her students. She was kind but tough. Her creativity is just one of her traits that make her so memorable.
Kathleen was a single mother who taught her children independence and perseverance. Her extended family admits her death was tough that it changed the entire structure of the Heisey family for good.
Kathleen’s murder was horrific and very violent. It made a lasting impression on everyone who worked the case, from first responders, to the detectives and the coroner. It was the kind of crime that scared the entire community, as it planted that dreaded though, “if it happened to her, it could happen to anybody.”
40 years old
Found June 19, 2000 at 521 Grace Street
Ruby Lee Jackson Merriweather was a single mother to four children at the time of her murder. Some of the first things Ruby’s family recalls about her is the love she had for cooking, music, and dancing. Ruby was very close with her children and siblings. Her death had a deep effect on her family, especially Mahalia Jackson, her daughter who discovered her body.
To this day, family says Mahalia is unable to discuss her mother’s death and struggles to hear her name brought up. Finding her mother’s body was extremely traumatic. Having someone finally brought to justice for the heinous crime did little to get the image of the crime scene out her mind.
Ruby’s sister, Zelma Jackson, says she long suspected Ruby was murdered by a serial killer. She believes there are other victims of Michael Charles Brown, and she welcomes those families to reach out to her. Though he’s only been convicted of Ruby’s murder, Zelma says she feels connected to the families of the other women he may have killed.
27 years old
Found December 14, 2000 in the 4600 block of McKee Road
Catrina Pink was born in Oklahoma and moved to Bakersfield with her parents as a child. Catrina’s grandmother who is her last living relative in Kern County says Catrina was an only child. Her grandmother remembers Catrina being intelligent and willing to stand up for others even if they were strangers. She recalled being at the grocery store with Catrina when Catrina noticed an elderly couple in the line in front of them was over-charged the cashier. Her grandmother said Catrina confronted the cashier and made him return the money to the couple.
At the time of her murder, 27-year-old Catrina Pink had prior arrests for prostitution and drug use. It’s a part of her life her grandmother said she was not privy to. Catrina had a son under the age of ten at the time of her death. Catrina was last seen at the Tropicana Motel on Union Avenue on December 12, 2000. Her partially nude body was discovered splayed out in a field near Rigdeview Highschool on December 14.
42 years old
Found January 13, 2001 in the 2700 block of O Street
Billie Jean Bear was born Billie Jean Johnson. Her two sisters, Beverly and Barbara all shared the middle name Jean. Billie was the youngest of the three girls. Billie’s sister, Beverly says they grew up in the icy town of Fairbanks, Alaska to a troubled mother and father. Their mother left the family when Billie was three years old, leaving them with their father who Beverly calls “an abusive alcoholic”. Beverly says Billie was intelligent and dreamed of being a doctor, but her difficult family life made it difficult for her to strive. Billie graduated High School and from there worked as a bartender at a local saloon. Eventually she married, taking the last name Bear. Family says during her marriage she began using drugs with her husband. At some point the two became estranged and Billie’s mother who abandoned her all those years ago, welcomed Billie to come live with her. Her sister says her mother eventually kicked Billie out and put her on a bus to Bakersfield with $10 in her pocket. Her mother told Billie to leave frustrated she hadn’t found a job yet. Her sister says after her murder, employers called her mother’s home ready to offer Billie a job.
Billie wasn’t in Bakersfield long before her murder. Her sister says she was working as a hostess and living at the Bakersfield Homeless Shelter. Court records show Billie had also recently been arrested for prostitution. Billie was stabbed upwards of 13 times and left partially nude, thrown in some bushes on O Street.
29 years old
Found April 25, 2001 in the 1200 block of East 21st Street
Patricia Bessie Martin was born and raised in Kern County to a close-knit family. Her mother and sister say Patricia loved reading and always got As and Bs in school, a trait they say her children take after. Family recalls Patricia’s humor and playful nature. She and her sister were known to prank call their mother, a memory her sister still laughs about today. At 29-years-old, Patricia was a single mother to four young children. Her family says she was a loving mother and a good person, but at times she hung out with the wrong crowd. Court records show she had been arrested for prostitution a few months before she was killed.
Her murder was an incredibly stressful time, as her family had to deal with her death while also taking in her children to raise as their own. Patricia’s sister says the murder has had a huge ripple effect on the entire family. She says it’s deeply affected both of her parents’ health and changed birthdays and holidays forever. “I’ve needed her. The kids have had graduations and babies, and I’ve needed her. I think that’s when I get the angriest.”
29 years old
Found April 25, 2001 in the 1200 block of East 21st Street
Wendy Jeanne Kyle was born on her mother’s birthday and died on her sister’s birthday. Wendy’s mother says it’s been impossible for her or her living daughter to celebrate since Wendy’s murder. Wendy was born in Sierra Madre, California but spent much of her life in Kennewick, Washington. From a young age, Wendy displayed her passion for art and animals, often combing the two. She was known for being creative, quiet, and sweet. In Washington, she volunteered at animal shelters and when she died, her family told attendees that in lieu of flowers a donation could be made to a local animal shelter in Wendy’s name.
Wendy moved to Bakersfield about a year or two before her death to be closer to her paternal grandmother. Wendy’s friends in Bakersfield remember Wendy was being very shy but kind, someone who appeared to want to fit in. Some friends said the group Wendy often hung out with at the Mint Bar and the VIP Lounge was rougher around the edges than Wendy. Some said it appeared Wendy was much more innocent than her friends, but just wanted to fit in.