MISSING: HCSO still awaits report on forensic investigation of Thomas Brown’s laptop

While a concerned and curious public awaits any news of Thomas Brown, the Canadian High School student who disappeared early Thanksgiving morning, Hemphill County Sheriff’s officials say there is little news to report.

Over a month has passed since the backpack Brown was believed to have with him was found near Lake Marvin Road and reported to Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office in late January. The school-issued laptop found inside the backpack has been turned over to the DPS crime lab in Lubbock, whose investigators—along with the help of Texas Tech University’s forensic science team—are still working to recover and extract any information on that computer, hoping that it might answer some of the questions about his disappearance.

Hemphill County Sheriff Nathan Lewis has been in communication with those investigators, and said their work was delayed while the computer, which was exposed to moisture and cold during the time it was outside, was restored. Chief Deputy Brent Clapp told The Record Tuesday they are still waiting for results of the forensic examination. Clapp said he spoke to the lab on Friday and was told they were close to issuing a final report.

“We are still receiving tips, and still investigating each one,” Clapp said. “We are cooperating with the private investigators and sharing information with them.”

The backpack was spotted by a passerby, in an area visible from Lake Marvin Road and located about 3.8 miles due east of the spot where Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) tracking dogs lost Brown’s scent the day after his disappearance. The dogs lost the trail in a marshy area east of the spot where Brown’s vehicle was abandoned, just north of the Canadian River.

After locating the backpack, and receiving positive identification that it was Brown’s, an extensive ground search of the area was conducted, in tandem with an aerial search by Flap-Air Helicopter pilot Trey Webb. Other than a single set of footprints near where the backpack was left, Lewis said, no other evidence was found.

“We are hoping something on that computer will give us some direction to go, some understanding of what he was doing,” Sheriff Lewis said, adding, “The only key piece of evidence we are missing right now is his cellphone, which is still at large.”

Thomas Brown has not been seen since early Thanksgiving morning. Brown left friends with whom he had spent the evening at 11:22 pm Wednesday evening; climbed into his Dodge Durango, which had been parked at the Canadian Middle School parking lot; and drove away.

A timeline released to The Record by Sheriff Lewis shows what he said were confirmed sightings recorded by surveillance cameras of Brown’s vehicle that night and early the next morning. The last confirmed sighting of the vehicle with Brown driving was recorded on Wednesday, Nov. 23, from 11:12 to 11:22 pm, when he left CMS after being dropped off by friends. At 11:36 pm, the vehicle was filled with gas at Fronk Oil on 2nd Street.

Brown’s cellphone was turned off at 12:22 am on Thanksgiving morning. The next confirmed sighting of the vehicle was at 5:24 am that same morning, when it traveled north on 2nd Street and turned east on Main. At 5:28:20 am, it was seen again heading south on 2nd before it turned east on Birch.

Just over a minute later, the vehicle traveled west on Birch before turning back onto 2nd. At 5:42 am, Brown’s vehicle was seen heading north on 2nd, and at 5:56 am, turned east on Complex Road where it entered the municipal wastewater treatment area.

When Brown did not return home by his midnight curfew, his family attempted to find him before reporting him missing. The abandoned vehicle was discovered the next morning parked beneath some trees near the sewer ponds. A team of tracking dogs picked up Brown’s scent and followed it about 3/4 of a mile east and southeast before losing it.

Sheriff Lewis said there were other surveillance videos in what was about a five-hour gap during the early hours of Thanksgiving morning that showed a white SUV driving through town, but that none of those images was clear enough to be certain it was Brown’s vehicle.

Brown has not been seen or heard from since. Searches on the ground, in the air and along the river have revealed little in the way of clues to his whereabouts. Local, area and state law enforcement authorities, as well as a private investigative team hired by Brown’s family, have all been involved in the investigation into his disappearance.

A $12,500 reward is being offered to anyone with information that may help locate Thomas Brown. Please contact the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office at 806.323.5324.

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