Adam Brasseel made a fateful decision — to go back up that mountain — on that particular weekend no less. A visit to an old friend and enemy from the past, his enemy being his own story, his friend being Josh – he wanted to “ride.” To fly high again in the cold dark skies, like they did in high-school after his father died. He had not been up there that way for years, but now after the break up with Tiffany, nothing much mattered, God perhaps had let him down, so up he went to fight off some demons. Through the upper mountain passes he and Josh careened the drop-offs – with no rails to save them, lights out, by night, the Lords of Grundy sliced the icy mountain stars, leaving their wretched lives behind them – lost in the power of the highlands, where they are saved.
Sunday afternoon came though, and reality strikes — it’s time to pick up an go home, back to work at UPS. Back to the valley where Adam prepares himself to face his failed relationship and all the self questioning dredged up inside – when he is hit with the stunning news; he is wanted for murder. A man from nearby Tracy City is dead. He is told this by Lila Seagroves, the mother of Josh, when the two Grundy warriors came bouncing through the kitchen door – the returning heroes of the night.
“You better call your mother, their looking for you,” said Lila – “Malcoms dead.” Adam was breathless, he called his mother Imojene. She tells Adam to “stay put,” and “go nowhere.” She will come get him and take him to the Sheriff to clear things up. Imojene was born up there and knows what being accused means – quite sure the Sheriff ‘s men could leave her son beaten to death on the side of the road, closing the case right then and there – whatever was going on it made no difference – she knows the way they do things – in their little kingdoms.
En-route to the mountain, Imogene is followed as she drives her red Cadillac up to Coalmont. She pulls over at the Roller rink and then at the High-school – eventually the police converge behind her when she pulls into the Seagroves residence where Adam is waiting.
“Momma, I didn’t do what they said I did.”
“It was a man with red hair,” said Deputy Cleek.
“You have red hair,” said Imojene to Cleek.
“Do you know Malcolm?” asked the deputy.
“I know who he is,” said Adam, “everyone does.”
“How did you get my son’s name is what I want to know?” said Imojene.
But all they ever learned was there was, “Incoming Information.”
They all drove in line to the sheriffs office, where Adam agreed to give his finger prints and have his picture taken,wearing his ball cap and showing a small healed cut on his face, he does so willingly to “clear things up.”
A state police officer, agent Larry Davis, asks if he can take Adam’s car to be tested in Nashville for blood splatter – to rule him out as a suspect. “Sure,” he says, he wants to clear things up, and in co-operation Adam and his mother agree. The car though is not taken to Nashville, it is taken by Sheriff Myers to his office.
A few days later Imojene goes to Malcolm’s funeral, alone, where there is a rumor going around that one of the pal bearers killed Malcolm, she thinks they are talking about her brother Ed who did know Malcolm. But there were others, including his brother Bill. Don Burrows, Malcolm’s other brother, tells Imojene he doesn’t think Adam did it and said Malcolm Killed some nurses horses and that is probably why it happened. Wanda Desmarais (Burrows) though said Adam did do it – Wanda’s three husbands died mysteriously and the fourth ran off for his life when he learned about the other three said Imojene. Wanda knew the nurse Krista well.
Adam is soon arrested for the murder of Malcolm Burrows. Based, said the Sheriff, on an identification of him, by witnesses of his hat, the cut on his face and his car with a particular dent that it has on the front drivers side. Sheriff Myers tells them he didn’t think Adam did it, and it will all probably get cleared up. The family is convinced Adam is not capable of murder but has no clue as to what is going on or who to ask.
Adam arrives to court for a preliminary hearing with two lawyers – a retired Judge, Flossy Davis and a lawyer he picked to help him, Bob Peters. His mother raised the 50 thousand dollar retainer.
A little woman, around 55 years, named Becky Hill takes the stand and tells how she was with her Brother Malcolm at his house on the dead end mountain cove called Mellisa Rock Road. They were getting ready for dinner, when a stranger came to the door who said his car had broken down just up the road. Her brother went off to help the man – and that was the last time she ever saw her brother.
Becky then said that the man came back alone in a gold colored car and asked her for starting fluid – his car still wouldn’t start he said – and when she bent down under the sink to get what he was looking for, the man struck her on the head with a silver rod and kept hitting her – she fell to the ground and screamed “He’s killing me.”
Asked who it was that hit her, she turned to where Adam was sitting and said: “that’s him – he did it.”
Becky Hill continued: she said that her son, Kirk Braden, was in the back room sleeping the whole time, because of his diabetes, but woke up when she screamed, and he fought the man off. “That man.” pointing to Adam; otherwise she’d be dead she said.
The other witness was Larry Davis of the TBI.
Davis said he arrived on the scene and found Malcolm’s body on the side of the road next to the car Becky Hill said was hers, a Chrysler. Though he didn’t mention the Chrysler was registered as a Honda and the ignition was torn out — hot wired.
He then proceeded to the house, he said, where the assault took place. He entered and saw lots of blood and then found what they thought were the weapons — alluding one of them was used in the murder of Malcolm – a black souvenir ball bat broken in two pieces that he said he found in the trash can. The other being a fire extinguisher he said he found on a chair.
On cross examination Davis changed his story “no, well I didn’t actually find the weapons in the house, Sgt Michael Brown found them, he had them, we put them back where he found them.”
When asked where Sgt Brown was, the District Attorney said Brown’s wife was sick and he couldn’t make it.
When asked if the forensic tests had come back on the car and other items the answer was no. When asked if they could postpone the hearing until the tests came back, the DA said “if we had to wait on tests the backlog for prosecutions would be ungodly.”
The Judge then said that “I think he probably did it” and Adam was bound over for Trial after a perfunctory grand jury hearing.
Adam thought he might have been in the wrong court when he didn’t here anything much about Malcolm. What did beating up this woman have to do with murder. And why was she pointing at him, he had never seen her before in his life, how would she know what he looked like. Had he blacked out that night. He and his family were in the dark and confused.
Adam was released on bond and reunited with Tiffany, they get married, and moved to Manchester, just north of Pelham. And despite the rush to indict him, a year and a half went by until the day came when he was told his trial was scheduled to take place the following week.
When the trial came, Imojene was not allowed in court to watch the witnesses against her son. Though they let her watch when the verdict was read.
Bud Perry was the Judge. Steve Strain was prosecuting.
Becky Hill again testified though she changed her story. Leaving out where she saw a gold colored car – this went un-noticed.
Becky’s son Kirk then testified. He was quite able to describe the gold colored car with the dent, he saw it in the Sheriffs parking lot. He said he had forgot he knew who Adam was when the police first asked him, saying only it was a man with red hair of medium build. But then remembered he was told his name back before the murder when he was with Chris McDaniel and they saw Adam together. Yet the prosecutor said Kirk picked Adam out of a line-up. It was hard to know how one could do a lineup if one knew the persons name and told it to the police. But this was confusing, and went un-noticed.
Kirk said he had to call 911 from the neighbor Thomas Fluhry’s house because Malcolm didn’t have a phone. Thomas Fluhry did not testify.
Larry Davis, when he testified, went back to saying that he found the weapons. not talking about Sgt Mike Brown – who again never showed up to tesitfy.
Angie White, the other neighbor, said she saw a gold colored car around that time. According to the court record she said it was Friday the 6th. The day before the murder, during the day.
Josh Seagroves testified that Adam was with him after 10 PM on Friday when he arrived.
Charles Partin said Adam left his house around 9:15 PM on Friday.
Kristen King said she talked to Adam in the church parking lot in-between 9 and 10 p.m.
The prosecution did bring in a man named Sgt Troy Brown to testify – one can wonder why. He talked about staking out Imojene’s house before she went up the mountain to get Adam.
What was odd was no one talked about Malcolm in court. No one asked Becky whether anyone else came to the house besides the man with the broken car. Or what Malcolm did for a living. Or the many times he wound up in the Grundy County Herald. No one mentioned this. And this went un-noticed
When Adam was convicted and given 51 years without parole, the blood drained from Imojene. Some said the reason Adam looked back in horror at that moments was there were men in the back with guns ready to shoot if the verdict had gone the other way. Though he was likely looking at back at his Momma to ask what was happening. But Imjoene had passed out.
The defense had made no objections and without those the appeals would be tough. Though Bob Peters volunteered to do the first one – going to Nashville he told the Judges what he had seen on TV, something he thought could be useful. And he said if Adam was an accomplice, things should be different in the verdicts. Though this went unnoticed, and the first time the Braseels had heard anything about Adam being an accomplice.
The appeal was denied. The court in writing the opinion claimed since Angie White could identify Adams car through the particular dent, this corroborated the witness testimony — this was not true, Angie White said the Gold car she saw had no dent – yet this went un-noticed, and there it sat.
Adams sister Christina then moved back to Pelham valley, beneath the mountain that took her brother. She got a Job at Dr Trussler’s office to make money for a new lawyer and to try to learn what happened.
In the case file she discovered something they were never told existed from their lawyers – a packet of statements made by prisoners at the Grundy County Jail. In it were cryptic tales of dead horses and a nurse who borrowed money from Malcolm Burrows man who was murdered – the things her mother had heard something about way back at Malcolm’s funeral — expecting them to be explained at court. Malcolm’s brother Don said this, but then he was killed in an car crash and they had heard no more. Wanda had died too.
She also found a report from a witness she never knew of – Jay Douglas, who said he saw a couple in a Gold Colored Car pull up to Malcolm’s house — get out and talk to him, so he could see them well. The man was about 6 foot with dark hair and the woman was blonde.
Also there was a page from a man who was referred to as “Killer Allan Meeks,” who said he heard Adam went and killed the nurses horses with Malcolm – (which seemed more than unlikely that anyone, let alone Adam, would be on both sides of a feud – plus no one could put Adam with Malcolm or the nurse Krista garner – this was tracked back to Wanda Burrows doing and a snitch deal.)
And another page where a girl named Dana Fredrick was riding around on Xanax and beer, told her boyfriend she would have her dad kill him “Just like he did Malcolm.” Christina learned that Dana was now dead – some say whoever did it backed a car fender against her head while she was tied to a tree to make it look accidental.
Christina, having two Jobs, had little time to investigate, and going up the mountain was very dangerous. Still she thought a lot about those pages in the packet and how they got Adam’s name. She hired an investigator and they went to Lila Seagroves, the place Adam Stayed when he visited. They asked her how she could know Malcolm was dead that night and how she knew the Sheriff was looking for Adam – knowing she had a police scanner.
But Lila also said she received a phone call that Sunday, yet wouldn’t tell them from who.
Christina then found out Doctor Trussler’s father was the Jury Foreman who had convicted her brother. She would see him come in the office frequently. And one day she did talk to him about it. But it was really just more confusing, she said. He drew a small circle and said here’s what the jury knew, and then drew a bigger circle saying this is whet everyone else knew. And then the doctor’s father left the room and that was that.
She thought about the nurse practitioner mentioned in the packet. At her work she saw lines of patients at the doctor next to her doctor, Doctor Brandon, who she heard that same nurse worked at one time – she heard the name Garner – his patients were a seedier group she thought – but still. How did she wind up working where her bosses father thought her brother was guilty – the jury foreman – what was she doing there, yet she needed the job to pay the new lawyer the sixty thousand dollar retainer.
Christina and Adam talked all the time from prison – they were sure the witnesses were somehow just mistaken, and if they could figure out who it was that came to their door – whose car broke down – who beat up Becky Hill; Imojene wasn’t so sure about Kirk being mistaken, she knew Becky didn’t know who Adam was when he entered the preliminary hearing because she heard Wanda say “he’s here,” and Becky said “Where, where.” Wanda is Becky’s sister.
As for Kirk Braden, Becky’s son and Malcolm’s nephew, Imojene didn’t trust him.
But the kids were less willing to make such accusations. Not wanting to “do to them” what had been “done to Adam” – who was now housed at Riverbend Maximum security in Nashville for life.
Christina talked to two lawyers – one who thought publicity was a good idea to win a case and one who did not like publicity. They picked the latter – the one who didn’t like publicity.
A motion asking for a new trial based on the ineffective counsel of Flossy Davis and Bob Peters was written – but somehow this got sent near the last day of the deadline and the required signature of the defendant was missing. And that was that. The case just sat there – and no one at that courthouse, high up on the mountain in Altamont, paid any attention to it. The appeal just lay there in a bin. Ignored.
Adams wife Tiffany visited him regularly for a while and then stopped. Though Imojene was sure she still loved Adam and it would all be cleared up.
That was a few years years ago.
Josh died and his brother Rocky died, Dr Florence was seen at the funeral. Said he looked like Ozzy Osborne, the Heavy metal Rock Star who ate a live bat on stage.
At the end of 2014 I was contacted by a debutante from Houston.
I discovered an anonymous note written in a forum – it was a major clue, though some would dismiss it — they are wrong.
Sheriff Myers would arrest a ham sandwich for being Jewish.
If there’s a way to mess up a case, make a poor judgment call or side with the wrong party, “The Blind Eye of Justice” will find a way to look the wrong way.
Seriously. He messed up the simplest case for us which could have been a real victory for him had he handled one step of it even partially competently.
How is this man in office?
I can smell an agent. I also know that if they botched an operation, the agency, because of protocol, would not interfere, even though it left an innocent person in prison.
And sure enough, I found agent Kim Harmon’s name scribbled in ink in the preliminary hearing witness list. So someone knew. But what happened? Why was this dropped. Kim Harmon investigating Malcolm Burrows and nurse Krista Garner for Medicaid fraud. Horses killed, Malcolm dead. Adam Braseel? How did none of this enter the court record. Who had the power to make that happen? To keep things quiet.
And oh how a group can create a guilty story for someone when it is convenient for them to do so.
At the time of this writing Adam is out on bond and his conviction has been overturned by Judge Angel – this was announced on Christmas day of 2015 – a year to the day from when a plan was launched to break him out.
This is the story of what it took to get Adam out of prison amidst the biggest Medicare fraud in TN history, in the poorest white county in America. Of outlandish untethered Doctors, unbridled officials entrenched in gray area drug deals – all in league with profiting off a new prohibition money making scheme that went wild in middle Tennessee. A judge whose own son died of the crimes he refused to allow be heard in his court. Grundy Mountain, the last place anyone would think to go to find the truth. It is about the discovery of an unlikely civil rights school once at the near exact location of the crime Adam was pinned for. “The Mountain Top” revolutionary school secretly nestled amongst the poor white trash left behind by NY funded coal mining and logging interests long since gone with resources stripped.
About a people of mixed Scottish and Cherokees decent and their absolute code of secrecy and distrust and a means found to break through and and convince judge Angel to go against his peers.
The thousands of people who answered a call – willing to rush the mountain for justice and risk their lives – yet the few it took to come forward and reveal the truth and risk the shame of their past.