W.S. man pleads guilty to his roles in deaths


Involved in two separate cases one week apart

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Curtis Lamont BrownTwo murders, just a week apart, that shook the Warm Springs community in September 2012, are nearing resolution.

On Nov. 4, Curtis Lamont Brown, 39, of Warm Springs, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Portland to his part in the two separate murders — second-degree murder for the first, and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder for the second.

The first incident occurred on Sept. 23, 2012, when Jonas Miller, of Warm Springs went missing. His body was discovered by elk hunters on Sept. 30, 2012.

"A subsequent autopsy revealed that Mr. Miller died of a gunshot wound to the back of his head," said Craig Gabriel, assistant U.S. attorney, who prosecuted the case.

During their investigation, the Warm Springs Police Department and the Bend office of the FBI learned that Brown was one of the last people to be seen with Miller.

"The FBI and the Warm Springs police interviewed Mr. Brown on Oct. 11, 2012, and in the interview, Mr. Brown confessed that he shot and killed Mr. Miller," said Gabriel.

The defendant told police that he had bought an SKS rifle from Miller, and on the night of Sept. 23, the two had gone out to test fire the rifle.

"Mr. Brown said he was intoxicated at the time, and that he shot Mr. Miller unintentionally," said Gabriel. "However, he admitted that he aimed the gun at Mr. Miller and pulled the trigger, without knowing whether or not the gun was loaded."

After attempting to get Miller "to wake up," Brown realized that Miller was dead, picked up the shell casing, and left Miller's body on the dirt road as he drove away, said the prosecutor.

"As he sped back to the Agency area of Warm Springs, he threw out the shell casing along the highway," said Gabriel. "Police searched for it, but it was never found."

Brown gave the rifle to his cousin, from whom the police later retrieved the rifle.

The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and five years of supervised release, but under a plea agreement, a sentence of 20 years in prison was recommended to District Judge Marco A. Hernandez, who presided over the hearing. Sentencing is set for Feb. 19.

Accessory for second murder

One week after shooting Miller, Brown agreed to help two women dispose of another woman's body and clean up their van.

"Mr. Brown knew that Tana Lawrence and Angeledith Smith and another woman had committed the crime of murder in the first degree the previous day, Sept. 29, 2012," said Gabriel. "Mr. Brown knew that the women had killed Faron Kalama during the perpetration of the crimes of burglary, kidnapping and sexual abuse on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation."

"The defendant then knowingly assisted the women in order to hinder and prevent their apprehension, trial and punishment," he continued. "Specifically, the defendant assisted in moving and transporting the body of Faron Kalama."

Besides helping move Kalama's body from a juniper grove near a populated area of the reservation out to a remote area at the northern edge of the reservation, Brown also cleaned up the van, where she had been kidnapped and beaten. He also disposed of a bloody sheet, on which she had been lying.

For helping the women cover up the murder, the maximum sentence is 15 years, with a fine of up to $125,000, and three years of supervised release.

"We reached a plea agreement under which the defense and prosecution will jointly recommend 20 years total for both cases," said Gabriel on Monday. "Numerous family members of both Jonas Miller and Faron Kalama's families were in the courtroom today to witness Curtis Brown's pleas."

Lawrence and Smith are currently scheduled for trial on Feb. 18, 2014, in the U.S. District Court in Portland, and remain in the custody of the U.S. marshal.