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5 years, many theories but no answers in Thomas Brown's case

He disappeared and his remains were found five years later but there are no answers but three theories about what happened that night.

CANADIAN, Texas — We give thanks tomorrow for many blessings, but for one Texas family Thanksgiving is a stark reminder of one empty seat at their table. It has been five years since a young man in the Texas Panhandle an hour an half outside of Amarillo went missing and was later found dead. There are still no answers in Thomas Brown’s death despite investigations by several local and state police agencies plus a private investigator. Three possibilities still remain.

High school senior Thomas Brown was on the state champion Canadian Wildcat football team, class president and in drama. The real drama began in the rural town the night before Thanksgiving in 2016 when he disappeared. His body was found two years later not far from town in a remote wildlife area near Lake Marvin. The story of what happened to him reads like a choose your own ending book and all the outcomes end in tragedy. There has always been some controversy about whether Thomas’s death was a suicide, murder or an accident. There is still no agreement on those three possibilities. The Canadian community thought there would be some definitive answers when the private investigator the family hired decided to open the book on Thomas’s investigation in a four-hour long town hall.

Credit: Dee Dee Lynch
Thomas Brown acts in a high school play.

“Before anyone starts this fact versus theory crap, these are facts,” said Philip Klein, a private investigator with Klein Investigations at the town hall. “These are backed up by records, police records.”

The attorney general released 249 pages of evidence the night before the town hall stating his death is questionable with no sufficient evidence to determine how he died. It is important to note that not all of the evidence is included in the documents. The documents do show investigations into the former Hemphill County sheriff and a deputy as well as Thomas’s mother and stepdad. Yet, no one has been charged in Thomas’s death.

Included in the investigative summary is a statement from the district attorney saying “it is the longstanding practice of the 31st Judicial District Attorney to not present suspicious deaths to a Grand Jury if evidence shows the death was a result of a suicide.” A timeline from the attorney general shows Thomas searched on his phone at 9:11 p.m. the night he went missing for the suicide hotline. KENS 5 was turned away when we went to ask the district attorney questions in person. 

The private investigator’s town hall revealed little new information but showed how one side of Thomas’s face was crushed. He also exposed what he said was a local gambling ring that bets on high school football games and may be connected to Thomas’s death.

“Is it true there’s a gambling ring?” said Klein. “I don’t care. Is it true they violated UIL rules from head to toe that could take away a state championship? Yeah, probably, but I don’t care. I want to know what the hell happened to Thomas.  All of us do.”       

Credit: Chris Meek
Thomas Brown and his mother Penny Meek after a Canadian High School football game.

Yet, the question of what happened to Thomas was never specifically answered. 

Previously, Klein went on record with Texas Monthly’s Skip Hollandsworth on the podcast Tom Brown’s Body saying he believed a person or people that Thomas knew saw him near the high school football field in Canadian, were fooling around, accidently shot him in the back of the head, put his body out near Lake Marvin, parked his car near the sewage treatment center and walked home.

“This was kids playing around and they shouldn’t have and they know it shouldn’t happen,” Klein told KENS 5 previously.

Here is what Klein said at the town hall when KENS 5 asked if he still held to his previous theory or had changed it because of the information about the gambling ring:

“Great question,” Klein said. “Let me tell it to you this way. Like I said, it’s a theory. We gave you a two hour long presentation on the facts of the case. The theory is something happened out at the football field. We do not know. That was a theory. Now we know his head was smushed in. How bad was it, bad enough to kill him? Maybe his head was smashed in first and they shot him in the back of the head because he was still alive. I don’t know.”

Klein also previously said he believes Thomas was accidently killed and others in the Canadian community are not at risk.

“I want to say this to the public and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Klein said previously. “This was not an intentional homicide.”

Klein said he was looking at three suspects but that he was blocked from getting more forensics.

The best chance of getting better answers is to keep updating the case according to a cold case investigator.

“People out there may have seen something, you know, a piece of evidence and didn’t realize what they were looking at at the time,” said Alex Baber, a cold case investigator with Cold Case Consultants of America. “You just have to jog their memories and by doing that we have to get it out into the public’s vision in front of the because if not, you know, it’s just literally falls away and is forgotten, unfortunately.”

A small metal cross with white flowers is the only marker for Thomas Brown. It was placed near where his remains were found on Lake Marvin Road. His family is unable to put him to rest because while the attorney general now classifies his investigation as a cold case, it technically remains open and his remains stay in a lab in Texas.

Credit: Philip Klein
A cross sits on a fence off Lake Marvin Road near where Thomas Brown's body was found.

The private investigator has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review Thomas’s case.

Thomas’s mother, brother and family friends gathered on the five year anniversary of Thomas's disappearance at the district attorney’s office with signs like “Justice for Thomas Brown” and “Questions Under Oath” in an effort to get Thomas’s case to be reviewed by a grand jury.

Credit: Eva Hammer
Thomas Brown's family and friends gather at the district attorney's office to ask for a grand jury to review his case.

Contact Klein Investigations if you have any information about Thomas Brown’s death.