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Stepmom charged in boy's death 22 years ago

Christopher Brown
Christopher Brown, an 11-year-old boy killed 22 years ago, is shown in this undated photo.WJRT-TV via AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman and her brother have been charged with murder in the death of the woman's 11-year-old stepson, whose body was found floating in a river 22 years ago, the state attorney general's office said Thursday.

Rosalind Brown, 50, and Montel Pettiford, 43, are accused of poisoning, then drowning Christopher Brown in 1985 in the Flint River about 60 miles north of Detroit.

The attorney general's office did not give a motive, but spokesman Matt Frendewey said "a lot of interesting family dynamics were in play."

The sixth-grader's body was found in the river nearly three weeks after he was reported missing from his father and stepmother's home, where he was spending Easter break.

His death initially was ruled an accidental drowning, but his mother, Brenda Simpson, was suspicious because her son couldn't swim and he was fully dressed and wearing shoes when his body was pulled from the water, The Flint Journal reported.

The case was reopened in 2004 when police spoke to witnesses who weren't interviewed during the initial investigation, Attorney General Mike Cox said in a statement.

"New leads opened up, and there are two cops who were dedicated to the case. One of them was even retired," Frendewey said.

Substance found in boy's body
The boy's body was exhumed for tests, which showed a substance in his system that would have been strong enough to incapacitate him, Cox said.

Rosalind Brown, of Wyoming, and Pettiford, of Flint, were arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree murder. If convicted, they face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The two were arraigned Thursday and ordered held without bond. They are due back in court June 6.

Brown maintains her innocence, said her court-appointed lawyer, Mark Latchana.

"My client hasn't run from the current information and has cooperated fully," Latchana said. "She has met with investigators and is anxious to show everybody she had nothing to do with this tragic death."

Pettiford asked for a court-appointed lawyer, but court records did not indicate whether one had been assigned Thursday.