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Families brought closer after murder-suicide

For reasons no one can explain, a student shot his girlfriend to death outside his apartment June 3, 2006. Another murder-suicide, another wrenching headline. Yet this time two families were brought together, not torn apart.
Two Good Kids
Andrew Brown, right, shot Michelle Michelle to death outside his apartment June 3, 2006. AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

They grew up 20 minutes apart in northwest Ohio, Michelle from a town of 1,750, her dad a postal worker, her mom a shirt embroiderer.

Andy lived just outside this city of 9,400 known for hometown hero Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon. His dad sells farm supplies — vaccines, pet food, pond chemicals. His mom is a secretary at a nursing home.

Andy and Michelle, so close that he drove 436 miles round trip in a weekend to visit her in college.

Yet for reasons no one can explain, Andy shot Michelle to death outside his apartment June 3, 2006. He fired 16 shots at his girlfriend of three years, then walked back inside his apartment, knelt on the living room floor, placed his Glock 9 mm semiautomatic in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

"Two good kids," said Dan Brown, Andy's father. "We don't know what happened."

Another murder-suicide, another wrenching headline. Yet this time two families were brought together, not torn apart.

Two families mourned two victims. Both were 21 years old.

"We didn't just lose a daughter," said Michelle's mom, Becky Mielecki. "We also lost a son."

Andy wanted to be a cop
In high school Michelle and Andy were just friends. Their gang of nine girls and three guys hung out almost every weekend, painting their faces for football games, grabbing Mexican food at El Azteca, a restaurant just off Interstate 75 where Andy always ordered No. 32 — enchiladas tapatias — for the number on his basketball jersey.

Michelle ran cross country, and both were members of the Octagon Club, a service group that cleaned up the stadium after football games, visited nursing homes.

Silly and funny and caring, always telling jokes to make you laugh, said Cary Fell, a friend who still chatted with Michelle almost every day in college.

A loyal friend, always willing to help, lend a few bucks, be there for you, said Cody Hefner, Andy's best friend.

Family came first. Andy spent hours with his grandfather. Michelle took her younger sister, Jenny, along whenever she headed out with friends.

On Sept. 11, 2001, his 17th birthday, Andy turned down a dinner out to watch news of the World Trade Center attack. From that day on he wanted to be in law enforcement.

He rode with Wapakoneta police officers. He bought a Mag-Lite flashlight, the kind police carried, and a scanner and walkie-talkies. Right after turning 21, he bought the Glock, a common gun in police departments.

Michelle's sister Jenny didn't like guns and told Andy so. Guns don't kill people, he and Michelle replied.

Their biggest fears
They started dating the summer after graduating from high school.

Michelle spent a semester at college in southern Ohio but didn't like being so far away and transferred to the University of Toledo, where Andy was studying criminal justice and accounting.

She studied sports marketing and dreamed of handling public relations for the Cleveland Indians. A lifelong fan, she'd gone to a game on her birthday every year since she was a little girl.

At his apartment Andy had a poster of a model holding a Glock in a "Charlie's Angels" pose over his bed. He kept his black-colored gun in a drawer by his bed. His MySpace username was "glockamb."

"Being alone," he wrote on his MySpace page, as his greatest fear.

"Saving someone's life," he wrote under "How do you want to die?"

Michelle revealed her biggest fear on her own page. "Dying or someone I love or close to me dying."

Beginning of the end
Andy was devastated when his grandfather died in a fire in March 2006. Michelle saw how emotional he'd become, how tearful. Different from before.

She was dealing with her own emotions. "Am I too young to be in a committed relationship?" she asked in an instant message of Hallie Sheck, a friend from Grady's Ladies, a group of female fans of handsome Cleveland Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore.

A few days later she'd write, "It's good and I'm happy."

Andy sensed a change too. One day he'd tell Cody he was worried they might be breaking up. The next he'd say they had talked and everything was fine.

On Memorial Day, Andy and Michelle were together at her parents' house, sitting in the living room, cuddling and holding hands.

The next week, Andy called his sister Lindsey, upset that Michelle had broken a date to spend time with a friend.

On Friday, June 2, Michelle told a co-worker at a Bed, Bath and Beyond store that she was going to break up with Andy that night, police say.

That evening Michelle and Lindsey — her roommate — left a party and headed for the Distillery, a popular Toledo bar. Michelle called Andy at work to tell him to meet them there.

"I'll see you tomorrow night," Andy told co-workers as he left.

The final bullet
Meeting at about 11 p.m., they had a few beers. Andy and Michelle were close, holding hands. Then they were gone. Their abrupt departure seemed unusual.

About 2 a.m. June 3, neighbors on the third floor of Andy's apartment building heard loud arguing. "Help me," one couple heard. "No, Andrew," someone else heard.

As the neighbors ran into the hall they saw Michelle pull her wrist free from Andy's grip at the door of his apartment. Andy stepped into the hall, raised his Glock and began shooting. At least two bullets struck Michelle in the torso. The rest hit a stairway wall.

Finished, Andy went back into his apartment, not bothering to shut the door. He called Lindsey on her cell phone but disconnected the call before she answered.

He killed himself with his final bullet.

Coroner's tests showed Andy's blood-alcohol content was 0.10 percent, legally drunk in Ohio. Michelle's level was 0.16.

Family members say they don't believe alcohol played a role. Police say it can't be ruled out.

'Don't hate Andy and don't hate us'
Andy's father, Dan, calls the hour-and-a-half drive to Toledo that morning the longest of his life. Later that day, he and Andy's mom, Dorothy — everyone calls her Dort — took another long drive to a house just 20 minutes away in Cridersville.

Dort told Dan she had no idea how the Mieleckis felt toward them but knew they had to go.

"Don't hate Andy and don't hate us," she said to Michelle's parents.

The Mieleckis decided the day of the shooting that anger wasn't the answer.

"It's not that I'm real religious but I do believe in God and I believe in forgiveness and you're not supposed to hate," Becky says.

The Browns went to Michelle's viewing and funeral; the Mieleckis to Andy's.

Families grow closer
Over the next year the couples stopped by each other's homes to visit. They went to the Dairy Stand for ice cream. Dort, 54, and Becky, 47, talked on the phone. Still do. Not long ago the couples went out to dinner together at the Inn Between.

"Friends Say Boyfriend Was Jealous Type," said one headline after the shooting. But family and friends say that what happened was out of character.

The shooting "was probably the only thing wrong the kid ever did in his life," Tom Mielecki says.

As the one-year anniversary approached, Dort suggested a cookout to honor the couple's memory. Friends came from around the country. They talked and laughed for hours.

The Mieleckis showed up first and left last, as darkness fell.

"Two good kids," says Tom Mielecki, 51. "I wish we knew why, but we don't."

Jenny and Lindsey see each other often. What's the sense in being angry, says Jenny, 20. Lindsey needs her as much as she needs Lindsey.

Andy's other sister, Stacey Jutte, was pregnant as the anniversary approached. She and her husband, Rick, hit upon the name for the baby as they visited Andy's grave.

"You tell me first," Stacey said to her husband. She wept at his reply. "It was the exact same name."

Andrea Michelle.