Daily Beast Catches Up with Jason Derek Brown, America’s Most Wanted Mormon

Jason Derek BrownNot “catches up,” exactly — he’s been on the run since 2004, and on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list since 2007. But Paige Williams does a nice job of profiling the fugitive Mormon “golden boy gone bad” — and mentions the first thought we had the moment we saw his photos (and before we read the following): “Brown, blond and tan, bears an uncanny resemblance to the actor Sean Penn, so much so that FBI agents have mistakenly apprehended Penn’s body double — twice.”

First, here are just the facts, ma’am, from the FBI, when Brown cracked the agency’s Ten Most Wanted list in 2007:

Phoenix Murder Fugitive Added to FBI’s List of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives

A fugitive from Phoenix, wanted for the November 29, 2004, murder and robbery of an armored car guard, has been added to the FBI’s List of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.

Jason Derek BrownJason Derek Brown allegedly encountered the guard, Robert Keith Palomares, who was exiting a Phoenix movie theater with more than $56,000 in cash. Brown fired six rounds from a .45 caliber handgun at close range, striking Palomares at least five times in the head. Brown grabbed the guard’s money bag and fled on a mountain bike through an adjacent alley. The victim died at the scene.

On December 4, 2004, an Arizona state arrest warrant was issued by the Superior Court of the state of Arizona, County of Maricopa, charging Jason Derek Brown with first degree murder and armed robbery. Two days later, Brown was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in a federal arrest warrant, issued by the United States District Court, District of Arizona.

Jason Brown: Not Your Typical Suspect

The 35-year-old toy salesman from Utah had ties to some of California’s wealthiest coastal communities. He was known for his money and lavish lifestyle, with a long list of possessions that included numerous cars, boats, motorcycles, jet skis and ATVs. But his superficial wealth masked a mysterious man. …

Police say Brown was in serious debt to several creditors and had defaulted on at least one large loan. In November 2004, while living in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City, police learned Brown purchased a Glock semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol. According to officials, Brown had also taken a firearms class. Instructor Clark Aposhian, who privately trained Brown, described him as “an obnoxious student” who was inexperienced with firearms. …

Via police interviews, a number of people who work at the mall adjacent to the theater said in the days leading up to the robbery-murder, they observed Brown sitting in a distinctive BMW M3. According to witnesses, he would sit in front of the theater for lengthy periods of time, surveying the area. But now the trail has gone cold. …

Brown shipped a large package to his brother in southern California on Dec. 13, 2004. … By this time, Brown’s family was cooperating with police…

“This is a case we feel is of the magnitude to meet Top Ten status,” said Special Agent in Charge John E. Lewis. “The subject, Jason Derek Brown, violently took the life of a young father doing his job. This subject deserves to be brought to justice.”

Jason Derek Brown is described as a White male, 38 years old, 5’10, 170 to 180 pounds, with blond hair and green eyes. He speaks fluent French and has a master’s degree in International Business, which enables him to assimilate into a foreign community. He is an avid golfer, snowboarder, skier, and dirt biker. Brown enjoys being the center of attention and is known to frequent nightclubs and show off his high-priced vehicles, boats, and other toys. He has been described as possibly having bisexual tendencies, and has a history of using false identifications. He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Jason Derek Brown is the 489th person to be placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list, which was established in March of 1950. Since then, 458 fugitives have been apprehended or located, 150 of them as a result of citizen cooperation. Brown replaces Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez, who was captured on September 10, 2007.

A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for any information leading directly to the arrest of Jason Derek Brown. Individuals with information concerning Brown should take no action themselves, but instead immediately contact the nearest office of the FBI or local law enforcement agency. For any possible sighting outside the United States, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Additional information concerning Brown and the FBI’s List of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives can be found by visiting www.fbi.gov.

With that, we encourage you to read Paige Williams’s article at The Daily Beast, “What Happened to a Mormon Missionary Turned America’s Most Wanted?” — which (surprise, surprise!) plugs Williams’s book, The Ghost: How a California Golden Boy Became America’s Most Unlikely — and Elusive — Fugitive.

Jason Derek Brown has been identified by at least two different missionaries as having served in the France Paris Mission, 1988-1990. …

Mission.net, February 17, 2005


David John Brown II, the brother of Jason Derek Brown, was indicted by a federal grand jury on an Obstruction of Justice charge on April 20, 2005. Investigators believe he transported his brother’s vehicle and then washed it inside and outside….

Mission.net, April 23, 2005

The teaser:

Twenty-four years ago, before landing on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list for allegedly shooting an armored-car guard five times in the face, Jason Derek Brown was a young Mormon from Orange County, Calif., preparing for his two-year mission to France.

Brown, at 19, wasn’t thrilled to be headed so far from home for so long, but his family believed in service and in living as true believers. That summer, his grandfather ordained him in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints priesthood and bought him some luggage, and after weeks of intensive missionary training in Utah, Elder Brown was on his way.

It was 1988. He was serving a generation behind a fellow French missionary named Mitt Romney, but with, it would turn out, a notably different result. Romney became a candidate for president of the United States; Brown became a federal fugitive…

But before pulling one of the more thorough vanishing acts in fugitive history; and before the murder-one charge; and before pursuing the petty cons and thievery that stoked his expensive tastes and deepening debt; and before divorcing his wife and turning his back on his church; and before losing his father, a gambler with an unstable work history, to a disappearing act of his own, Brown wrote exultant if strangely punctuated, egregiously misspelled letters home. …

In his letters to his grandparents — from Blois, Saint-Brieuc, Orléan, Le Vésinet, Troyes, Le Havre, and Sainte-Savine — Brown wrote mostly of his Mormon desire to “follow the rules,” to be the “best missionary” possible, to become closer to his heavenly father, to baptize more and more converts, including, he fantasized, a Catholic priest “just for a good souvenir of wonderful France.”

Brown came home to Laguna Beach, got married, and began living the LDS life. …

Paige Explores Jason
The Ghost: How a California Golden Boy Became America's Most Unlikely - and Elusive - Fugitive by Paige Williams


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