A 39-year old journeyman carpenter was found guilty by a D.C. Superior court jury yesterday of charges that he bludgeoned his wife to death with a club then sealed her body behind a pantry wall in their house.
The jury of six men and six women returned after deliberating for less than two hours and announced to Judge Carlisle E. Pratt that they found Juni M. Brown guilty of first degree murder while armed.
Brown, who showed no emotion when the verdict was announced, testified during the four-day trial that he "loved his wife too much to kill her."
But a assistant U.S. attorney John Hume, in the government's case, contended that Brown beat his 24-year-old wife, Francine, to death with a wooden club sometime on May 11 or 12, 1978, as a result of a "premeditated, deliberate and diabolical plan" to commit murder.
Marian, Brown's 17-year-old daughter, testifying for the government, said she saw her father strike her mother over the head three times with a wooden club while her mother was asleep in their home, a public housing unit in the sprawling Highland Dwellings public housing complex in Southeast Washington.
A second daughter, Eleanor, 16, testified that both girls were forced by their father to help drag their mother's body down a flight of stairs to a pantry where they watched their father stuff the body into a hole in the wall and then seal the hole with plaster and wallboard.
Police and housing officials discovered the body on June 2, 1978, when they responded to the complaints of neighbors who said they had smelled a putrid ordor coming from the apartment for several days.
Francine Brown's badly decomposed body was in a walk-in pantry wall beneath a stairwell, according to testimony. She was wrapped in a blue and brown blanket, according to witnesses.
Dr. Leroy Riddick, an assistant D.C. medical examiner, testified that the woman's skull has been crushed by a series of blows from a blunt instrument.
Brown testified that he and his wife were having marital difficulties in May 1978 and that he decided early that month to leave her and return to his native Virgin Islands. He testified that his wife was alive when he left Washington on May 12 with his two daughters and a son, Nathan, to travel to Puerto Rico and then to the Virgin Islands.