Tried and convicted in the court of public opinion

The mystery that surrounds CHS student Thomas Brown’s Thanksgiving 2016 disappearance still consumes this community over a year later. The search that immediately followed, and the investigation that continues today, has involved not only local and state law enforcement and private investigators, but also an ever-expanding network of volunteers, joining the search for the missing teenager, and conducting grid-searches for evidence.

The missing teenager, and the quest for answers to his fate, have been the subject of print and televised news reports, radio talk shows, and last week, a two-part report on Crime Watch Daily, a self-described syndicated investigative news series.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to live in the Texas Panhandle and be unaware of Tom’s disappearance. Fueled by the grim determination of his mother, Penny Meek, not to let the mystery remain unsolved, and fanned by the flames of social media, the Thomas Brown story has expanded well beyond the boundaries of this region and state.

What may have been missed, in the midst of all this attention, is the story of Tom’s friends—Christian Webb and Kaleb King—who were the last two known to have seen him. In the weeks and months that have followed, both have felt the anguish of loss and the guilt of feeling that perhaps there was something they could have done to save him. They have also suffered the poison of rumor and suspicion—a hand unfairly dealt them in the court of public opinion.

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