The case of Thomas Brown: Attorney General’s Office and private investigator give conflicting updates

Local News

The full Klein Investigations & Consulting briefing, as well as the full Office of the Attorney General Investigation Summary, can be viewed through this article.

CANADIAN, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Both a newly released investigation summary from the Attorney General’s Office and the hours-long Wednesday presentation from Private Investigator Phillip Klein left a glut of allegations and evidence to sort through in the case of Thomas Brown.

Thomas Brown, a teenager in Canadian, went missing the night before Thanksgiving in 2016. In early 2019, according to Klein’s company, his remains were found near Lake Marvin about 19 miles east of Canadian.

The official investigation into his death was a joint effort between the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Attorney General’s Criminal Investigations Division, Texas Rangers, and the FBI. However, this case spurred the AG’s Office to establish a Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit, announced in the last week, that is now the base for the AG’s side of the investigation.

Klein Investigations & Consulting, a group of private investigators hired by Brown’s family and led by Phillip Klein, has released multiple updates regarding its own investigation. From timeline details to whether or not to view Brown’s death as a suicide or the result of foul play, Klein’s proposed narrative of the case has conflicted with the AG’s Office.

Klein said that he would go through his alleged narrative of the case including a timeline during the Oct. 20 meeting, as well as that he would address some of the new AG investigation summary report.

During the presentation, Klein did propose his version of the case’s timeline – though notably there were inconsistencies with the Attorney General’s report, and the meeting was dotted with heated exchanges between himself and others from the community. MyHighPlains.com checked in with attending reporter Judd Baker live during the event, as well as took a full recording.

The Attorney General’s Office noted in its introduction to the published report that “this investigation has reached an impasse,” and would be suspended until additional reliable evidence may be added to the case.

“Because of the amount of public interest in this case, the amount of time that has elapsed, and the amount of erroneous information that has circulated around the investigation, we believe it is necessary to be open and transparent about the facts in this case. While it is not common practice to disclose evidence in a pending investigation, we believe providing a general synopsis of the known facts in the case will dispel conjecture and provide a thorough explanation for the inevitable, but frustrating, conclusion that this investigation has reached an impasse and should be suspended until such time as additional reliable evidence may be discovered.”

Attorney general ken paxton, 31st judicial district attorney franklin mcdonough

The overview of the Thomas Brown case and evidence reported by the AG’s Office included the following, noted as verified through multiple sources of forensic data:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, 6:04 p.m. – Thomas Brown leaves his house.
  • 9:11 p.m. – Internet search for a suicide hotline on Thomas Brown’s phone.
  • 11:26 p.m. – Thomas Brown’s Dodge Durango observed headed towards town.
  • 11:28 p.m. – 11:36 p.m. – Last known credit card transaction by Thomas Brown at Fronk’s Oil and Gas, pumping gas into his car.
  • Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, 12:23 a.m. – Thomas Brown’s iPhone loses power (the phone dies, it is not shut off.)
  • 1:10 a.m. – Dodge Durango seen headed in the direction of Thomas Brown’s house.
  • 1:11 a.m. – Dodge Durango seen headed back in the direction of town, away from Thomas Brown’s house.
  • 5:28 a.m. – Dodge Durango seen headed in the direction of Thomas Brown’s house.
  • 5:30 a.m. – Dodge Durango seen headed into town, away from Thomas Brown’s house.
  • 5:56 a.m. – Dodge Durango presumably seen driving into the water treatment facility, never seen exiting.
  • 8:30 a.m. – Dodge Durango located at the water treatment facility.

Items of Interest –

  • Dodge Durango belonging to Thomas Brown
    • Soil sample taken from apparent wet spot near driver’s side of the vehicle
      • Testing by the University of North Texas yielded no results
  • .25 caliber casing found on floorboard of front passenger side
    • No forensic evidence provided by the casing – No latent prints could be identified and casing could not be tested further for DNA per DPS lab
  • Jan. 27, 2017 – Backpack belonging to Thomas Brown found containing his school-issued laptop
    • Nothing of forensic value found on laptop
  • Oct. 14, 2017 – iPhone belonging to Thomas Brown found on
  • Oct. 14, 2017 – Gun case
    • Forensic testing by DPS – no profile could be obtained from hair samples in the case
  • Records from Apple, Inc. indicate Thomas Brown’s iCloud account did not contain data commonly backed up, such as iMessages and photographs. It is of interest because IP logs and data access logs were blank
  • Records from Facebook indicate Thomas Brown’s Facebook page had been removed. Per a representative from Facebook, removing a Facebook account can only be done with the account owner’s password
  • January to February, 2019 – Skeletal remains identified as Thomas Brown located
    • Jan. 9, 2019 – Partial skeletal remains were discovered by Pyne Gregory, former Hemphill County Deputy, while on duty at around 9:45 a.m.
    • Feb. 12, 2019 – Other remains, though not all remains, discovered in Office of Attorney General search

Thomas Brown’s iPhone

  • Phone was analyzed by the FBI, OAG Digital Forensics, and an independent digital forensics expert
  • The phone contains Thomas Brown’s data. This data cannot be transferred from phone to phone because it contains internal applications that are connected to the IMEI of the device purchased from Verizon Wireless
  • The search for a suicide hotline occured at 9:11 p.m. This entry cannot be altered on the phone because all activity is timestamped
  • The phone died at 12:23 a.m. on Nov. 24, 2016. It was not shut off, and did not have power again until it was powered on by the FBI once discovered in October 2017
    • The phone was in almost perfect condition – no scratches, nicks, etc. FBI confirmed the moisture indicators had not been activated on the phone. Although it is not impossible the phone had been outside since November 2016, it is not probable. The area where the phone was found had been recently mowed and had been mowed several times over the summer. Hemphill County received around 26 inches of rain from Nov. 24, 2016 to Oct. 14, 2017.
  • Penny Meek texted a witness in January 2017 asking if their child knew the passcode to Thomas Brown’s phone and clarified it was a four-digit number. The child began asking friends if they had the passcode. The circumstances surrounding the passcode created misinformation that HCSO had asked for the passcode in 2017. The investigative team has confirmed that HCSO did not ask the family for the passcode in 2017.
  • Digital forensic evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the battery case was on Thomas Brown’s phone the night of his disappearance. Phone records show a “plug in”/charging event earlier in the evening while Thomas Brown was at his house. There is never an “unplug” event the rest of the evening suggesting that the event was the result of a built-in battery charging case attached to the phone and not another type of charging source that would require an “unplug” event before the phone could be moved. Further supporting evidence are that Thomas Brown’s friends stated he was religious about keeping his phone charged and that he almost always had his battery charging case on his phone.

Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO)

  • Penny Meek and Phillip Klein stated that they were shown a photo of Thomas Brown at the gas pumps at Fronk’s Oil and Gas on the night of his disappearance by Nathan Lewis.
    • The Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office was shut down for over 24 hours while investigators of the OAG physically searched the office and forensically downloaded and analyzed target computers and the server. All in-car camera data was obtained. No evidence was found to support that the photo existed on any HCSO equipment at any time.
    • It is the opinion of the investigative team that the Fronk’s Oil and Gas Video was mishandled, and that Sheriff Nathan Lewis failed to document the collection and loss of this evidence. His report about the video was not written until January 2018. Criminal intent for Tampering with Evidence cannot be established. Several other witnesses claimed to have seen the video or had credible information about the video, however, the video would not have provided any footage of Thomas Brown getting gas – the camera that would capture that view was facing the ground.
    • Pyne Gregory found Thomas Brown’s skull at around 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2019, not in the middle of the night as some have stated.
    • No evidence was established that any HCSO employee was involved in Thomas Brown’s disappearance or death.

Partial skeletal remains found in January and February 2019

  • The remains do not support any finding in the cause or manner of death.

Evidence supporting cause or manner of death

  • Criminal Act / Homicide
    • Physical Evidence
      • .25 caliber casing found in the Dodge Durango – however, no forensic evidence was found from the casing.
      • Trace amount of blood located in the Durango that was Thomas Brown’s blood.
      • Blunt force trauma to the skull, but not determined whether this happened before or after death.
      • Items belonging to Thomas Brown located in various places miles away from where his vehicle and skeletal remains were found.
    • Circumstantial Evidence
      • No known motives or threats.
  • Accidental Death
    • No evidence other than blunt force trauma found on the skeletal remains, but unconclusive without further evidence to support the trauma happened before death.
  • Suicide
    • Physical Evidence
      • Search on Nov. 23, 2016 at 9:11 p.m. for a suicide hotline.
      • Blunt force trauma to the skull, but it is undetermined whether this happened before or after death.
    • Circumstantial Evidence
      • Multiple witnesses stated Thomas Brown struggled with his mental health surrounding issues concerning his family history and his faith.
      • Evidence from Thomas Brown’s phone showed he frequently joked about suicide or dying to his friends.
      • One witness told investigators that a few months before his disappearance, Thomas Brown was seeking help with mental health issues. Thomas Brown declined, according to the witness, their offer to help him get therapy and drive him to Amarillo for confidentiality because he did not want to tell his mother and he was still a minor.
      • Thomas Brown had recently been told that his grandfather committed suicide off Lake Marvin Road and not that he died from a heart attack, as he previously believed.
      • Recent incidents including quitting football, a break-up, and where to attend college considered sources of stress in Thomas Brown’s life.
      • When Penny Meek was first interviewed by HSCO, she stated that she believed her son had committed sucide by playing the “choking game.”
      • Instagram post by Thomas Brown highlighting both Kirk Cobain and Judy Garland, who both committed suicide.

Unexplained and Contradicting Evidence

  • Thomas Brown’s Dodge Durango
  • Tucker Brown, Thomas Brown’s brother, rode with former HCSO Deputy Pyne Gregory from around 4 a.m. until 6 a.m. on the evening of Thomas Brown’s disappearance.
  • Thomas Brown’s belongings found in various places miles apart along Lake Marvin Road and not found together with the Dodge Durango or the skeletal remains as one would expect in an apparent suicide. No items found near the skeletal remains or the Durango that could be attributed to the method of committing suicide.
  • Various witnesses indicated deception on polygraph tests. Some of the same witnesses have given contradictory statements about seemingly irrelevant facts over the course of the investigation.
  • Evidence indicates that Thomas Brown turned on his phone’s charging case and left the house with the phone while it was still charging. The phone was later found without a case, and Brown’s mother stated that it has been in her possession since Brown’s disappearance – the case has not been produced to investigators.
  • From a warranted search to Apple, Inc., Thomas Brown’s iCloud account had very little data while Tucker Brown’s account had thousands of photographs, messages, and other data. The brothers shared an iCloud account. Thomas Brown’s facebook account was deleted – no information could be obtained when the account was deleted. During the investigation, Penny Meek told law enforcement that Phillip Klein had taken down the Facebook account. Klein later told law enforcement that he did not, and that he thought Penny Meek had taken down the account.

Points from the Attorney General’s conclusion in the case summary included that a suspended case is still considered open, and no other documents outside the published summary would be released at this time. The summary was also noted to not contain all the evidence investigated or known by the OAG, and should not be viewed as a document reflecting all of the evidence.

“This document is meant to inform the public of the significant and contentious issues surrounding the investigation into the death of Thomas Brown. This Office is releasing this investigative summary because it believes it is in the best interest of the public, witnesses in the investigation and, most importantly of Thomas Brown, to disseminate factual and credible information that has been gathered after a thorough and exhaustive investigation over the past several years.”

the office of attorney general ken paxton

This story is developing. Check with MyHighPlains.com for updates.

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