Neighbors of Frank Brown on tucked-away Pinewood Lane, a stone's throw from Vint Hill in Broad Run, say he could be a hard man to find. According to authorities, Brown, a transient laborer, fled after firing the shotgun blast Sunday that killed his sister's boyfriend.
Brown "can survive in the woods or anywhere else," said neighbor Jack Stidham, 71. "He told me that that was his life, living out-of-doors. They're going to have a problem catching him."
Thomas Marquart, 37, was shot to death as he sat down to supper with Sharon Talley and her three young children. Brown has been charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.
Fauquier County Sheriff Joe Higgs said Brown, 43, had left Talley's home a short time before the shooting, returning about 5:30 p.m. and firing a shotgun at close range into the kitchenette window, killing Marquart instantly. Brown then ran away, Higgs said.
"I heard the gunshot but didn't think much of it," said neighbor Bill Coles, adding that Brown has stayed at Talley's house from time to time. "But we didn't think nothing of it. People are always shooting around here."
Within an hour, dozens of law enforcement officers descended on the lane and then the neighborhood, searching for Brown on foot with the help of K-9 units and a Virginia State Police helicopter.
Higgs said he didn't know the motive in the killing. Jack Stidham and his wife, Jerlene, said they were friends of Talley's and Marquart's and, to a lesser extent, of Brown's.
The burly Marquart was hired recently as a baker at the Food Lion in Marshall, according to neighbors, who said he had relatives in the region and acted as father to Talley's children. The Stidhams said the neighborhood often was filled with sounds of Brown and Marquart arguing loudly, usually after bouts of drinking.
"They would heave and set, just like everybody else, when they were drinking," said Jerlene Stidham.
"Frank wasn't a nice guy when he was drinking," Jack Stidham said.
He said Talley and her children, who range in ages from 11 to 15, came over to his house shortly after the shooting, where they were interviewed by police.
"Sharon told me that it was right out of a horror movie," Jerlene Stidham said, describing her weeping friend and the woman's distraught children. Jack Stidham said he spoke with Brown about 30 minutes before the shooting about hauling a load of garbage Tuesday.
"I says, 'You sure you going to be there?' He says, 'You can take that to the bank,' " Jack Stidham said. "He had been drinking."
At a news conference Monday, Higgs said Brown should be considered "armed and extremely dangerous." Sheriff's Capt. Fred Pfeiff said Tuesday that police in Fairfax County were on the lookout for Brown, who lived in the woods of Fairfax County for a while.
"He told me he lived in a cardboard box, underneath a bridge," Stidham said.
Brown has had eight public drunkenness convictions in Fairfax County since 1989, according to court records. He has several other convictions on charges that include petty larceny, obstruction of justice and malicious wounding, the records show. He served time in prison after a 1984 burglary conviction. In August, he pleaded no contest to a charge of obstruction of justice, according to court records, and was sentenced to three months in the Fairfax County jail.
Another neighbor, Jim Coles, said Brown returned to his sister's house, where he had stayed for extended periods over the past few years, shortly after got out of jail.
It was the county's third slaying of the year.