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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One thought on “Tried and convicted in the court of public opinion

  • February 6, 2018 at 11:26 am
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    Please do not try anyone in the court of public opinion. Too many times things are not what they seem. 54 years ago, I was almost sent to prison for a crime against someone I never knew, someone I never laid eyes on (to my knowledge). At the time, a conviction would have meant at least 20 years in the pen. All the authorities had was circumstantial evidence. All had been planted by the actual perp. In addition, the local authorities were hard pressed to find/arrest/convict someone for this “crime”. His family was a well thought of family of the community. I was fortunate. Local authorities had my name all wrong along with several other problems. I was not well known in the area. I was in town to take a graduate class in histology that was not available at the time at Texas A&M, my university. That gave me the needed time to get high level state authorities involved. Another factor in my favor was that the perp also hinted at another suspect. The other suspect, a secondary suspect, was a full time student at the school. He, well known, left school concerned for his own safety. The perp was the “victim” himself. Even though he confessed, my nightmares would have continued had I been a member of the community. I may have been cleared by authorities but to many in the area, to the gossip spreaders, I was still guilty. I was shocked to find that so much information would remain in ones file or that they even kept a file on people who were totally innocent. Thankfully, a major law firm helped get my record expunged free of charge. That allowed me to live a normal productive life.
    In this case, a crime may have been committed. If so, the perp(s) will likely trip up and be brought to justice. Justice may be slow in this case, but let us hope that it is certain.

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