#UNSOLVED: Man shot to death while in bed in Castle Hayne home


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Detectives are still looking for a suspect and a motive in the death of a man shot in his own bed in Castle Hayne in 2002.

Detective Justin Varella with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said Frank Brown lived by himself in a house on Oakley Road in Castle Hayne 16 years ago.

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“Frank went to work,” Varella said. “He worked hard. He mowed his yard. He took care of his house.”

On July 3, 2002, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office got a 911 call from that address. Varella said the 911 call came from Frank Brown’s son, Michael, who was 17 at the time. He said Michael was with his step brother and a friend of theirs at the time. Just before 10 that night, he said the three boys drove to Frank’s house for a quick visit.

“When they get to the driveway, they see Frank Brown’s truck actually backing out of the driveway,” Varella said. “At some point, they noticed that it wasn’t Frank that was driving the truck, so they followed the truck for a little while and then they ended up turning around and going back to the house.”

When they went inside, Varella said they found Frank was actually lying in bed and had suffered a head injury. It was a fatal gunshot wound. Varella said Michael immediately called 911 and first responders arrived.

“Frank was obviously beyond any life saving measures at the time,” Varella said.

That left his son and investigators with lots of unanswered questions. What happened to Frank’s truck?

“It’s been reported that at least one of them saw the truck come back by the house while they were there and while they were trying to get emergency personnel on scene and then the truck ends up somewhere shortly down the road,” Varella said.

Varella said it did not appear to be a robbery.

“Didn’t appear to be any signs of forced entry, so it wasn’t a home invasion,” Varella said. “The house didn’t appear to be ransacked.”

Did Frank even see it coming?

“At the time that this happens, Frank is laying in bed probably watching tv,” Varella said. “He could have even been asleep at the time. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of a struggle, doesn’t seem to be any indication that Frank tried to fight anybody.”

Was it a planned murder?

“This could have very well been, you know, an ambush,” Varella said.

Why would someone want to take Frank Brown’s life?

“What I can tell you about Frank is that everybody that we’ve talked to over the years.. Really good guy,” Varella said. “You know, he was a very moral person.”

Varella said Brown lived alone, but his son lived back and forth between his house and Michael’s mom’s house.

“The relationship between he and his ex-wife wasn’t tumultuous,” Varella said.

Varella said his neighbors all liked him.

“Neighbors said that you know he was a good guy that pretty much kept to himself,” Varella said. “You know he was happy go lucky.”

Varella said Brown was the assistant manager at the Wrightsboro Food Lion.

“He tried to help people when he could,” Varella said. “The employees that were spoken to at Food Lion said that he was a very jovial person, liked to joke around with everybody. They felt like they could talk to him.”

A plaque still hangs in the break room at that Food Lion in his memory.

“It makes you wonder why? Why would this happen? Who would have wanted to kill this man? It appears someone had to be angry with him,” Varella said. “Someone was mad. I don’t know what he could have done to someone to make them this angry. With murder comes motive.”

Varella Said they need someone to come forward who knows someone who was angry with Varella and thinks that could be why they would have killed him. If you have any information, please contact the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.