February 23, 2014 at 1:00 am

Family of slain Wayne State student trying to find closure

Brown (Wayne State University)

Detroit — Tiane Brown’s daughters enjoyed an evening of dancing at a recent family wedding reception — a rare happy occasion amid months of pain and trauma.

“The children are living with their grandmother and me, and they’re adjusting about as well as you could hope,” said Nate Jones, stepfather of the Wayne State University law student whose body was found Oct. 30, still strapped in the seat belt in her SUV.

Brown, the mother of girls ages 2, 8 and 15, had been shot once in the head, in what police believe was not a random killing.

As detectives continue poring over clues in the case, Brown’s family and friends try to carry on with their lives nearly four months after the 33-year-old Waterford Township resident’s slaying.

“One of my other daughters was married this weekend, and Tiane’s kids really had a good time at the reception,” Jones said. “It was wonderful to see them out there dancing, and doing something festive among all this grief.”

Jones said it’s been difficult to find closure because the killing hasn’t been solved.

“I watch ‘Law and Order,’ and they capture their suspects before the show is over, but this is real life,” Jones said. “We haven’t heard much from the police.”

Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody insisted detectives are working diligently to solve the case.

“We have not forgotten Tiane or her family,” Woody said. “We understand the sense of urgency to bring closure to this case, and are working hard to ensure we can facilitate that for the family.”

Wayne State Police Chief Tony Holt said investigators are awaiting the results of forensic evidence from the Michigan State Police Crime Lab, along with telephone records.

Brown’s parents reported her missing Oct. 29, the day before her body was found, when she failed to pick up her children at her parents’ West Bloomfield Township home.

Police said Brown was last seen taking an online test at a Wayne State library. The video camera in the library was broken, so it’s unknown if anyone spoke to her, or if she left alone.

The day after police discovered Brown’s body, they arrested two men, Michael Booker, 41, and Robert Windsor, 34, who were in possession of Brown’s cellphone, although investigators said they didn’t believe the two men were involved with her death.

Booker was charged with tampering with evidence, larceny from a motor vehicle, receiving and concealing stolen property under $1,000, breaking and entering a motor vehicle, and two counts of assault and battery. Windsor was charged with receiving and concealing stolen property under $1,000.

News of the slaying shocked those who knew Brown as a hardworking student with a bright future.

The graduate of Detroit’s Renaissance High School had two degrees from Wayne State — a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in bio-science. She also was the recipient of several scholarships, and chaired the board of a nonprofit after-school program, Developing K.I.D.S.

“I don’t know how she was able to do it all, being a single mother, too,” said classmate Robert Thomas, who entered Wayne State’s law school with Brown in 2010. “We called her ‘Superwoman.’

“Tiane’s presence here is definitely missed,” Thomas said. “She sat right next to me in class, and sometimes I look up and expect to see her, but she’s not there. It’s devastating.”

Court records show Brown had a rocky relationship with her ex-husband, obtaining personal protection orders against him in 2001 and in 2005. In both court filings, Brown said he assaulted her and threatened to kill her.

In one instance, Brown wrote her ex-husband left a voicemail message, “saying that he was going to kill me.”

Police officials told The News they investigated the ex-husband, along with an ex-boyfriend, the father of her youngest daughter, whom Brown took to court over parenting time and ownership of a car, although they didn’t say whether either man was considered a suspect in the slaying.

In November, Police Chief James Craig said investigators believed Brown likely knew her killer or killers. The following month, police released photos and videos taken from a gas station surveillance camera, showing two men, described as “persons of interest,” who had used Brown’s credit card shortly before midnight on Oct. 29, a few hours after she was last seen.

Jones said since then, there’s been no news about his stepdaughter’s death.

“My fantasy is to see that person who did it in handcuffs,” he said. “That is going to be a great day.”

ghunter@detroitnews.com
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