Convicted killer up for parole

Special
Nathan Brown is in prison for kidnapping and killing two people in 1976.

The mother of a murdered child isn't alone this week in her efforts to stop the parole of one of the convicted killers.

In addition to letters from her family, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles will hear from prosecutors from two judicial circuits and family members of people killed in Augusta three decades ago.

Nathan Brown, 50, was initially convicted and sentenced to death in Taliaferro County along with Jose High and Judson Ruffin.

The three men robbed a Crawfordville gas station July 26, 1976; kidnapped Henry Phillips and his 11-year-old stepson, Bonnie Bulloch; and shot both in the head on a deserted country road.

Mr. Brown's and Mr. Ruffin's death sentences were reversed on appeal, and each was resentenced to life in prison.

Mr. High was executed Nov. 6, 2001, for Bonnie's murder.

Before the three killers were caught for the Taliaferro County crimes, detectives contend they and a fourth man were involved in a violent crime spree of murder, rape and robbery in Augusta.

Toombs Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders, who prosecuted Bonnie's killers and wrote to the parole board this week, said it took so long to connect the crimes because they seemed so random.

There wasn't any motive; the men just wanted to experience how it felt to murder people, Mr. Sanders said.

In Augusta on Aug. 20, 1976, Willean Hall, 36, and Leroy Linwood, 30, were attacked near Bush Field. Mr. Brown told investigators the group killed Mr. Linwood before raping Ms. Hall and killing her.

On Aug. 22, 1976, according to another member of the group, Alphonso Morgan, the men were coming back from a beer run across the Savannah River when they spotted John C. Gray, 54. He was taken to a spot near the airport and shot to death.

All four men were indicted in Richmond County in those murders, said District Attorney Danny Craig, who wrote to the parole board in opposition to Mr. Brown's possible parole.

Mr. Morgan was the only defendant tried for the Augusta crimes. He was convicted and is serving a life sentence.

In a letter to parole officials, Mr. Brown wrote that he is no longer the same person.

"I have never tried to evade my wrong, nor responsibility in this crime. I would simply like to appeal for a second chance," Mr. Brown wrote in May.

He wrote that he has a clean disciplinary record in prison and that he earned his GED and took about two years worth of college classes. He trained to be an audio technician and is a chaplain aide.

Mr. Brown also wrote that he was in the first graduating class of a faith and character-based program and now mentors others in the program.

Bonnie's mother, Hazel Phillips, said her desire to see Mr. Brown spend the rest of his life in prison isn't driven by hatred or revenge, but by fear. She believes he is a serial killer who will kill again if given the chance.

According to the statements the killers gave, they laughed after shooting Bonnie and his stepfather, Mrs. Phillips noted. Mr. Brown was relaxed enough to fall asleep on the drive back to Augusta.

Mr. Craig dug through old files last week and found copies of the confessions. He attached Mr. Brown's to the letter he wrote to the parole board.

"The irrefutable evidence of the inhumanity of Nathan Brown toward his many victims is mind-boggling. His criminality is that of a vicious psychopath who clearly has forfeited any right to live among innocent, productive people," Mr. Craig wrote.

In Mr. Brown's May 17 letter, he asked for reconsideration for parole or possible long-term placement in a prison halfway house.

"If given the chance," he wrote, "I can assure I won't be involved in any activities that will bring me back to prison."

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

WRITING LETTERS

The parole board will accept letters and e-mails about Nathan Brown's possible parole until Tuesday. Write to Victim Services Office, State Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 458, East Tower, Atlanta, GA 30334, or send e-mails from the board's Web site: www.pap.state.ga.us