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Remains Found In Trunk of Car; Father, Son Missing

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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006

Fairfax County detectives investigating the disappearance of a marine biologist and his son pried open the trunk of one of the family's vehicles and found human remains inside, police said last night.

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Investigators could not say whether the remains were those of Dail W. Brown, 64, a former top official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or of his son Dail W. Brown Jr., 35, who both lived in a brick rambler on Carrhill Road. Earlier yesterday, police had declared both men missing under suspicious circumstances after Patti R. Brown discovered that her husband and son were gone from the house Wednesday afternoon.

Large amounts of blood and signs of a struggle led her to summon police about 10 p.m. Wednesday, Officer Rich Henry said. The family's 2002 Ford Escape was also missing last night.

Homicide detectives obtained a search warrant yesterday for the home and family vehicles, police said. About 5:15 p.m., after summoning a firetruck for a tool to pry open the trunk, crime scene investigators and homicide detectives made the discovery.

Police would not say why they described remains rather than a body, but crime scene investigators carried three long body bags from the vehicle.

Since the cause of death could not be immediately determined, Henry said the case was classified a suspicious death pending an autopsy, likely to be performed this morning.

An adult daughter who also lived in the home, Bonnie R. Brown, 30, was not harmed, police said.

The senior Dail Brown is a widely respected marine biologist who retired last month as head of the National Marine Fisheries Service's ecosystem assistance division, part of NOAA. A longtime colleague, Tom Hourigan, said Brown worked for the government for 38 years, first at the Smithsonian, then with NOAA.

Hourigan said Brown has a doctorate in biological oceanography and has published and spoken widely on coastal conservation and coral reef preservation. More recently, Brown had worked with the Canadian government on managing invasive marine species, Hourigan said.

"During his long time in government," Hourigan said, "he's really been a mentor to a large number of people spread throughout the government," including Hourigan, who is acting chief of Brown's former division.

Hourigan said NOAA was interested in having Brown return as a consultant "because we want to have access to his expertise."

Friends and neighbors did not know how Dail Brown Jr. was employed. A large, brown bus was parked on an unused tennis court behind the family's home, which one neighbor said had once served as a home for the son.

Real estate records show that the Browns have lived in the Carriage Hill neighborhood for 34 years. Donna Nelson, who lives across the street, called the Browns "the best neighbors and the nicest people I know."

The Browns and the Nelsons used to play bridge together and have neighborhood parties, Nelson said.

Those functions grew less frequent as the neighborhood aged, Nelson said.

Police were looking for the Browns' silver Ford Escape, with Virginia license plates YCT-4771. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Solvers at 866-411-8477.

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