February 27, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Jury returns Friday in deaths of 4 women linked to escort ads

Mount Clemens — There is no quick verdict in the trial of a Sterling Heights man charged with killing four women who met him through online escort ads.

A Macomb County jury is returning to the courthouse Friday after about two hours of deliberations Thursday.

James Brown is accused of killing the four women in pairs at his home. Their bodies were discovered in cars in Detroit in 2011. He is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes.

Brown killed the four in his basement and then stuffed their bodies like “garbage” into car trunks, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday as she urged them to return a guilty verdict at the end of a three-week trial.

“He did it because he enjoyed it. He did it because he got some thrill out of it,” said Macomb County assistant prosecutor Therese Tobin in her closing remarks. “He went on with his life like nothing happened. He opened his presents on Christmas Day.”

The victims met Brown through Backpage.com, which carries personal ads for people looking for sex.

Brown admitted to police he got rid of the bodies but said he didn’t kill the women. Investigators found his DNA under the nails of two, as well as tiny blood samples from a victim on a pillow and a door.

“They came out of that house like they were garbage,” Tobin said.

Doctors who performed autopsies believe the women were asphyxiated by Brown, who is 6 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 340 pounds, but they couldn’t declare an exact cause of death. Defense attorney Jeff Cojocar repeatedly made that point to the jury.

“Nobody knows” what happened in the basement, Cojocar said. “Nobody has a clue.”

Cojocar has told jurors they can go ahead and convict Brown of arson and disinterment of bodies.

The victims were Renisha Landers, Demesha Hunt, Natasha Curtis and Vernithea McCrary, all in their 20s. The bodies of Curtis and McCrary were burned beyond recognition in a car that was set on fire in a run-down Detroit neighborhood early on Christmas 2011.

Cojocar said it doesn’t make much sense two women could be killed the previous night while Brown’s mother was making holiday meals in the home at the same time.

“She probably would have heard something,” he told jurors.