On this first trip to the crime scene I went disguised in a camouflage ball cap. Christina pointed out to me how the tires from her car, while rolling up Hobbs Hill, were making an odd sound, like moaning ghosts. I offered back — “Maybe they are the souls of many whose story is still trapped in the mountain.”
“My heart is beating fast,” she said, as we came to the point of no return. A thin road we wouldn’t be able to turn around on – to a place no one wanted us. She would do it though, go into this God forsaken place — for her brother. It was that, or be consumed by the waiting. Sitting at home going mad while her mother suffered countless ailments brought from worrying about Adam in prison for crim he didn’t do. Better to face the fear. Fear of the Mountain, than die a slow consumption from the injustice wreaking havoc on her family. We needed to go in there. So we did.
Mellissa Rock Road does not have what I would call an inviting entrance. There is no road sign of that name, or indication anyone lives down there, other than the few mailboxes tucked to the side and hard to see. A “no trespassing” sign also doesn’t add a welcoming feel to anyone “just happening” to take a curiosity drive and poke around.
Not a road in any normal sense, but more of a drive way, very narrow, with only enough room to fit one car. It leads to a few houses scattered over a few hundred yards, and then comes to an abrupt dead end.
In other words, if you don’t know someone down there, you have no business there. Making it a near impossible location a passerby would “just happen” to have their car break down.
So how is it then, in Kirk and Becky’s story — that Malcolm went to help with a stranger’s car that ran out of gas, how could this possibly seem plausible to the Sherriff — or anyone?
No one from the defense had gone to the crime scene. In fact, none of the Brasseels had been on the road, until the other day that is, when Christina and I took a little drive up the mountain to Tracy City.
I have talked to Adam Braseel many times. So now, having been on that road myself, I can tell you, if you saw this place, you would immediately object to the broken-down traveler story. And if Adam had ever been down that road and knew what it was like, I believe he certainly would have too. But he didn’t, and that too me is very telling.
Remember that both Becky and Kirk made it sound like uncle Malcolm was not expecting anyone. That he was merely helping someone out that happened to be there. Meaning, the man didn’t say: “sorry I’m late but my car broke down just up the road,” for example. No, the story is that whoever it was simply knocked on the door and said his car broke down. Something that would be very hard for Malcolm to believe, if he was not expecting the man himself.
The essential question in Adam’s case becomes: why was Kirk Braden never considered a suspect? Even if this broken-down traveler story is remotely possible, there is every reason to doubt it too. Not to mention the many times the then thirty-three-year-old Kirk changed and added detail to his accounts. And of course, there is his own record for domestic assault while living with his mother. The very crime that convicted Adam Brasseel of murder by circumstance.
So here is the rub.
Police records, if they existed and not destroyed, would they tell us what we need to know?
Kirk Braden’s arrest for domestic violence was found in the Grundy County Herlald Archives. But not in the system. Though the date was after the murder, one clue leads to another and many questions arise.
First off — why is there no matching record in the system, not to mention the Sheriff’s files? By law, domestic violence charges must be put in the State system, even if no conviction takes place.
Which raises the logical next question: if this one arrest is missing from the system, are there others missing too?
Officer James Caldwell, first police responder on the scene indicated there were many such domestic calls involving Braden, Hill and Malcolm. Saying to me when I showed him the arrest – “that was nothing new.” Andy West, the second responder agrees.
But it goes much deeper.
When Kirk was arrested, there would have to be a complaining witness statement from Becky Hill. But it missing or being hidden. This is what we want to see. We want to know why his mother called the police on him and what she said.
Did she say she was tired of being beaten by her son, like the other times, including the night of Malcolm’s murde. Essentially admitting she lied to save her son but would no longer do so after how she was being treated — was it the last straw?
Then consider if this is what she did say, how great a threat it would be — not only to Kirk, but also to Sherriff Myers — as if he was found to be covering up any assaults of Kirk on his mother to convict Adam Braseel, this would be very bad, not only for him, but for any and all involved in a bigger prescription drug ring picture.
If Becky talked, the whole thing could snow ball – exposing that Malcom was under investigation by the Feds at the time of his murder — that he was the threat to many — the tie that would prove the doctors, nurses, and pharmacies were knowingly prescribing or selling narcotics to those who would resell them on the street. — Malcom, by definition, is that person — the go between. And if he were arrested, no doubt there were many who thought he would make a deal and turn them all in. Malcolm would have to go.
The only thing needed for the whole thing to implode was a statement from Becky Hill saying it was her son, not Adam Braseel, that beat her.
Instead, Becky Hill was found dead in her residence shortly after her sons arrest, and the charges on Kirk disappeared. The police reports were destroyed or “missing,” and the whole thing went away.
Remember it is not only the direct drug ring that would be exposed — the judges, prosecutors and the original defense team itself would be under fire if this happened
Once Becky Hill says that she was coerced to lie and finger someone she had never seen – the entire house of cards would fall. If true, her choices were bleak — enduring escalating assaults at home or exposing the frame job and putting herself in danger.
Chris and I shot video of our mission up to the real Mellisa Rock and little mountain lair up the road from Mikes Pharmacy in Tracy City. Past hillcrest village where Kirk Braden now lives near the infamous Alvin Seagroves house where the four-year-old child was dropped off with his mother after his shooting spree. Across the street from the little abandoned white house from Fear the Hills page where we turned right into the crime scene where Malcolm Burrows body was discovered by Mike Brown — who swears Malcom’s big fat wallet was on him when he turned the body over to Myers, Cleek and Agent Larry Davis. All who claimed the wallet was stolen to make their case against Adam Braseel.
The video will be part of a film making process to tell the whole story, of a remarkable and tragic case.