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[00:00:00]

This episode of Tom Brown's body is brought to you by the Law of Innocence, Michael Connelly's newest Lincoln Lawyer novel available wherever books are sold. Also, be sure to check out murder book. The popular True Crime podcast, hosted by best selling author Michael Connelly, is also now available with the brand new season.

[00:00:17]

This episode has also brought to you by Sellers the wine subscription service that helps you find ones you love. Visit Bridezillas, Dotcom TV. Take the 30 second quiz and get 50 percent off your first six bottle order. One day last fall, Hemphill County Sheriff Nathan Lewis walked into a meeting with two of the county's top officials, the county judge, George Bryant, and county attorney Kyle Miller.

[00:00:55]

And the county attorney looks at me and says, nice. And we're we're real embarrassed about what the county's going through and and all the slanderous stuff that we're going through. We're embarrassed about it. We're embarrassed. The news media's, you know, put in Hemphill County through what they're being put through.

[00:01:15]

The two officials were already upset with the young sheriff for the way he had handled the investigation into Tom Brown's death. But this meeting was actually about a new scandal. Allegedly, Lewis had falsified reports showing the number of training hours completed by him and three of his deputies. Lewis insisted the allegations were overblown, that it was actually just a paperwork error. But the county judge in the county attorney made it clear they had already made up their minds.

[00:01:42]

And we just think that it would be in the best interest of Hemphill County and the residents and us if you would just resign, because if you would resign. But, you know, throughout because all the embarrassment, if you would resign, then we could start the healing process. And I knew right then and there that these guys, not only did they not have any spine or backbone, they definitely didn't have my back. And so that point, that's the point where I said, you know what?

[00:02:17]

That's the last straw. Lewis lived for law enforcement, it was all he had ever wanted to do with his life, but he told me after what he had been through, he was ready to walk away.

[00:02:29]

After all the false negatives and things were going on against me, all the accusations I've been contemplating with my family, you know, stepping down, resigning because I just didn't want to part of this anymore. You know, it gets to a point when when you're being accused of horrendous things, you just don't want to be there anymore. You don't want to do that anymore. And so in November two thousand nineteen, Lewis left the sheriff's department. His chief deputy, Brent Klap, took his place.

[00:03:01]

Maybe people said the healing process could finally begin. Well, not quite. From Texas Monthly, I'm Skip Hollandsworth, this is Tom Brown's body Episode eight. The remains. Three years had passed since Tom disappeared, and it looked like the story might finally fade from public view. Not only had the controversial sheriff resigned, the investigators from the Texas attorney general's office had suspended their work on the case, saying they could find no evidence that Tom had been murdered or that he died by suicide or even that he died by natural causes, although they promised they would resume their investigation if they discovered credible new evidence.

[00:03:56]

It seemed that the case had gone completely cold. But in January of twenty twenty, a familiar figure was seen driving around Canadian in a state government issued black Ford Taurus.

[00:04:08]

Rachel Kaeding, the attorney general's lead investigator on the case, was back in town. The gossip mill began churning why everyone wanted to know had Kading returned to Canadian head, she finally found credible evidence that a crime had been committed, according to townspeople who are trying to track her every movement. Katie was spotted at the office of hedge fund manager Salem Abraham. She interviewed one of his employees who happened to be the woman who had found Tom's cell phone. Keating was seen talking to several other residents.

[00:04:43]

Someone said they saw her driving past the Justice for Tom signs. But as usual, skating was tight lipped about her investigation. She only stayed in Canadian for a couple of days, vanishing as quickly as she came.

[00:04:58]

We are having a special tonight with Thomas Brown's mother, and she's going to join us and talk to us a little bit about Thomas's case.

[00:05:06]

Soon after Kate left, Tom's mother did an interview with an Amarilla television station on Facebook Live. No, it is not a cold case and it is actually still an open case, Penny said she was encouraged that the investigation was again picking up steam, though she admitted she did not know exactly what Keating was up to.

[00:05:28]

Yes, I think that they have already followed up on some leads that they have gotten. They haven't exactly said that to me in those words, but I do think that they have followed up on some things. OK. Do you ever think the complete truth will come out? We hope it does.

[00:05:48]

I think it will eventually. But a few months passed and Keating was still not telling anyone anything, she was seen again in town in May and again in July. Then the case took another turn that caught everyone, absolutely everyone by surprise. Word began to spread that Keating had met with the Hemphill County district attorney and that they were planning to convene a grand jury to hear testimony about Tom's death.

[00:06:16]

I called a spokesman for the attorney general's office who confirmed the news. A grand jury would indeed be convened either late this year or early in twenty twenty one. Obviously, Rachel Keating had uncovered new evidence, but what was it that she discovered Tom had been murdered or was it a suicide that someone had covered up? Did Keating have evidence that witnesses had deliberately misled her? And if so, was she planning to make them testify under oath, forcing them to either tell the truth or go to jail?

[00:06:52]

After the news broke about the grand jury, I called Tom's friend, Christian Webb, Christian, how are you this spring after graduating from Oklahoma State? Christian got a job as a forensic scientist at the Department of Public Safety in Waco. She analyzes DNA evidence found at crime scenes. She had decided to go into that profession because of Tom, because I want to help people and the way that that Thomas was out.

[00:07:23]

And I think a big reason as to why we know as little as we do is because there wasn't any sort of forensics work done from the start.

[00:07:37]

These days, Christian rarely goes back to her hometown.

[00:07:40]

It's kind of hard to return to what it once was because it's not the same. And, you know, I know Tom will never be there again. So I know I don't really talk to any of my friends from high school anymore. And I don't know if Tom's disappearance and death kind of led to ah ah distancing from each other, but it's just not the same go on going home anymore.

[00:08:13]

When she does come home, Kristen finds herself following the same route through town the Tom used to take when he went cruising Tom's loop.

[00:08:21]

The kids used to call it Any time I drive around Canadian, I wonder, you know, what could I have done to help Tom if I. I would have stayed with them a little bit longer. And that's always very hard for me to think about. Meaning you could have expected him maybe, or you could have been there so that he didn't get into whatever trouble he got into. Yes, sir. I could try to protect them, help him.

[00:08:53]

And if someone had something to do with his disappearance, then maybe they wouldn't have messed with him in the first place if there was a second person there. There was a period, Christian said, when she had strong opinions about what had happened to Tom. I was pretty sure that Nathan Lewis had something to do with his disappearance. But now I am not sure. You know who is involved, I think there are a lot of missing holes. I feel like partly because the evidence probably or likely was not handled properly in the first place, especially his car, the very beginning.

[00:09:39]

And I think his car probably had a lot of a lot more evidence and clues that were not found. So that right there just shows me that it will be a difficult case to solve.

[00:09:56]

I asked Kristian if she knew of any possible suspects. She said it remained as mysterious to her as it was to everyone else.

[00:10:04]

It's a lot of he said, she said and I don't think that helps the case at all. And it doesn't bring justice to Tom to bring up rumors and pull people out. And they would just be a lot easier if people would just tell the truth. And so we could all move on. And of course, we would never forget Tom, but we all need closure. There's a chance there will be no closure in this case. There's a chance that no arrests will ever be made and that's going to haunt them so much.

[00:10:39]

Thank you, sir, for sure. I think Canadians will always be I don't think it'll ever be the same. I've learned that some people aren't who they said they were, even some of the people I've known my entire life.

[00:11:03]

In fact, Christian told me when she comes back to Canadians, she often finds herself studying some of the townspeople she sees, studying their mannerisms, perhaps searching for clues.

[00:11:15]

I'm definitely more paranoid, really, wherever I go, and I definitely watch my back more and pay attention to what's going on around me just to make sure what happened to Tom doesn't happen to me and doesn't happen to others around me. Because you think there's still a killer in town, right? Yes, sir. As Paul arrived in Canadian, the town held its annual fall foliage festival, there was a craft show and a pumpkin painting contest downtown. The Palace Theater featured in the movie Hocus-Pocus, the Canadian High Wildcats won the district championship and were once again on their way to the state playoffs.

[00:12:09]

And yet the whole town seemed to be in a sort of limbo, waiting for the grand jury to convene, waiting to see who, if anyone, was going to get indicted, the private investigator, Philip Klein, told me he could not wait to return to Canadian to testify his months of detective work had paid off. He said he was going to drop a bombshell. You've got a bunch of people spewing out a bunch of bullshit. So therefore, you have to dig through the bullshit and find the little nuggets of good stuff.

[00:12:38]

And that's what we've done.

[00:12:40]

When Klein first told me what he believed had taken place on Thanksgiving Eve 2016, he said he was not going to reveal any names. He would be saving that for the grand jury. But he did give me some details. After Tom went cruising with his friends, Klein said he realized he had 20 minutes or so left before he had to be home for curfew. He filled up his Durango with gasoline. And then, according to Klein, he drove to the high school football stadium parking lot where Canadian kids occasionally gathered.

[00:13:11]

We think he met up with somebody over there. That person, Klein said, came up to Tom's Durango, pulled out a 25 caliber pistol, aimed it at Tom as a joke and accidentally pulled the trigger.

[00:13:25]

My belief is that somebody was screwing with him and the gun just wouldn't have killed him. So Tom was sitting in the driver's seat of his car. Somebody walked up behind him, shot him in the head with a 25 foot. So it wasn't someone coming up to kid in the parking lot to kill. I don't think that was premeditated. And how is all that blood hidden? So there's not a lot of blood on a 25 caliber. We think there was blood from the nose and blood from the mouth.

[00:13:52]

That's why hitmen use 22 tattoos. They don't make a bunch of noise if you have a suppressor on it. We don't think this press was involved. We think somebody came up behind him and shot him in the back of the head. That's what we think.

[00:14:04]

Klein added that the person who shot Tom was assisted by someone else or maybe more than one other person who helped him dispose of Tom's body dragged into the back, put him in the seat at the front seat into the backseat.

[00:14:17]

Mm hmm. Anybody check for blood in the parking lot of the. There was some. And then drove him where you have to, like Martin wrote, dumped his body and came back in and washed to clean the car. That's why that's why nobody saw the car driving around up until they caught it on camera coming in to where it was going to be parked. They'd had the chance to clean it, though, and to clean it that night. That night they did.

[00:14:43]

Where would they have cleaned it and lost it?

[00:14:45]

Although there wasn't much blood. Every time I talk to Klein, he added details to a story he said in another interview that he believed it was two teenage boys who were fooling around with Tom and one of them had a gun.

[00:15:01]

The person that did this, we believe, did the shooting was probably a pretty well-known person in town. Did this boy, he shot Tom. He was the son of a prominent family. Our theory is, is that would be correct. Or friends with a prominent part of the family because the kid never knew it was loaded. They were just screwing around with a gun and it went off. There was no intent. We believe that there was a panic of, oh, my God, what do we do?

[00:15:35]

What do we believe? The phone call was made by whoever did it. We believe that a parent was contact or somebody that's an adult that knows somebody was a car that knew what it was. So the boy who did the shooting called one of his parents, the person that that did that to time, we believe, called an adult, that adult could have been a parent, that adult could have been a parent's friend. That adult could have been just an adult.

[00:16:07]

What do I do? Oh, God. What do I do? And then Klein offered up another piece of information that he initially said he would be saving for the grand jury, it was Klein's bombshell that adult made contact with the shooter.

[00:16:24]

Not when the cover up began, is our belief. And the sheriff told them to do what? Cover it up. So the father of the boy who shot Tom, where a friend of the father's source, Lewis. And why would Lewis even then agree to participate in the cover up? There's no reason that the sheriff would try to help cover that up. Other than that, it was somebody that, you know, was a prominent part of the community.

[00:16:57]

We have a thirty two year old sheriff that is a political novice. I mean, literally a political novice. He's such a political novice that he tripped over his own shoelaces. So our guess is he was in a pressure situation. He knew that if he were to not do what happened and that this situation would be maybe a political killer for him, would be a political life killer for him. And so, you know, I think what it was, it was a poor decision made in the middle of the night.

[00:17:36]

And and then it just started growing exponentially. Klein also alleged that as part of the cover up, Lewis came up with the idea publicly describing Tom as a troubled runaway so that no one would spend much time looking for his body.

[00:17:51]

That's what I think all this fairy tale really dressed up in his diaper and got in a truck and drove off or he was picked up by an 18 wheeler driver. I mean, you know, when I started hearing stuff like that on his mouth, I was like, where is that coming from? I mean, there's no evidence to point that way.

[00:18:09]

It was in typical client fashion, an eye popping tail and a curious one. If Lewis did assist with a cover up, that would explain some of the so far unexplainable details. Lewis could have told the two boys to plant the backpack a third of the way down like Marvin's road. He also could have confiscated Tom's phone, which he himself could have later planted near the beginning of the road just prior to Klein's search in twenty seventeen. But what was Klein's evidence?

[00:18:39]

Who were these two boys at the high school parking lot who, according to Klein, were messing around with Tom, which once shot Tom? In what prominent family did he come from? Let me tell you what Klein is saying.

[00:18:53]

Of course, I called Lewis to pass on Klein's accusations that after Tom drove away from his friends he had been cruising with, he drives to the high school football stadium parking lot where a couple of guys are there and they just start messing with him, not to hurt him. But then one guy pulls out a gun, sticks it through the window of the Durango, pretending he's going to shoot Tom and he accidentally pulls the trigger and the gun goes off, shooting Tom in the back of the head and killing him.

[00:19:28]

And the boy tells his father or a friend of his father's who calls you and you tell him to cover up the crime, to get rid of the body, to dump it somewhere. And this is what Klein's theory is. But it's like a movie. I don't understand where he comes up with stuff like this. It's really funny. I mean, if they investigate that theory. Oh, holy moly. You never got a phone call from anybody saying there had been a shooting at the high school football stadium parking lot.

[00:20:13]

I've never received a call from anybody saying that there was a shooting at the high school parking lot. No, and you've never. Gave anyone a suggestion of burying the body or hiding the body of Lake Marven Road. That's crazy. I mean, what in the world? But it's crazy to say this stuff and and people get to hear it. That's just crazy. He's accusing you of a felony. That's laughable. Lewis told me he hoped he would be called before the grand jury so that he could get another chance to clear his name.

[00:20:54]

I'm a celebrity. They love to make fun of me and make shit up. I'm the I'm the dirty sheriff. I mean, that's that's what I'm known for in the Texas panhandle. I'm the deputy sheriff, the corrupt corruption. And it sucks. I laugh about it because it's I know none of it's true and I know the truth. But nobody, everybody else, they have this power the way they think about me, it sucks.

[00:21:25]

Lewis said if he did get on the stand, he not only wanted to raise questions about Klein and all the stories he told, he wanted to talk about someone else. Pinny Mieke. Have you ever been overwhelmed by the amount of wine options that are out there and not know which kind of wine you're like, if the answer is yes, you've got to check out bright colors. Bright Bridezillas is the only wine subscription that provides personalized wine matches and service based on your taste preferences.

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[00:23:07]

Last week we mentioned we got advance copies of the Law of Innocence, and this week we literally can't put the book down.

[00:23:14]

I am having so much fun reading this book. I feel like a detective and I'm sitting at the table with Mickey, Jennifer Sasko, the whole crew trying to build our case, assessed the evidence and get to the bottom of who framed Mickey.

[00:23:26]

Is isn't a while that the tables are turned on. Mickey, I have no idea where Connolly is going to take us next from the characters to the courtroom drama. I can't wait to get to the end, find out what happened and who did it.

[00:23:36]

Michael Connelly really knows how to write a good crime fiction, and I'm officially addicted to his Like Hitler novels.

[00:23:42]

This is the first one I've read. But I can tell you that I'm definitely hooked. You can purchase the law of innocence wherever books are sold.

[00:23:48]

Also, be sure to listen to murder book season two covering the investigation of serial killer Sam Little and the women who helped take him down after he avoided punishment for more than four decades available.

[00:23:59]

Wherever you get your podcast or at murder book podcast Dotcom. That's Murder Book Podcast Dotcom. Thank you for supporting Tom Brown's body. In the first interview I ever had with Lewis, he said that from the moment when he first came to the sheriff's department to talk about Tom's disappearance, he sensed she was hiding information.

[00:24:23]

And I've interviewed a lot of people and I've been around a lot of people talking to them. And I've never seen anybody that holds. I mean. And this is my opinion. This is my my professional opinion. My professional opinion tells me that she's holding something back, that she's holding a lot back, that she won't come out with.

[00:24:43]

And during many of our other talks, he continued to lash out at Pene.

[00:24:47]

You've said that there is something scary about her, man. There is some scary about her. I mean, she shows no emotion. You know, the first day that she came in, within the first 48 hours of this investigation when this first happened, she comes in and she's not even emotional about anything. She's not tearing the door down because she can't find her son and she's not crying. She's I couldn't believe it. She has no emotion. I'm scared of her.

[00:25:18]

But Nathan, when I've talked to her, she's tried to read me. Yes, she did. And she's getting media attention at this point. I mean, yeah, you're going to put on an act. That's what she did. Why she knocked the door down like any other parent would when they can't find their child because they're like this because she's terrified, she's frozen. That happens with people. I just don't see it. I've never seen that, but I've found a kindness to her and surely over the years that you've known her, you've seen a kind quality.

[00:25:57]

I mean, she's a well-liked schoolteacher. She gets along with the kid. She goes to church. Anybody can say to make you believe what you want to think of them. Hello, PennyMac, yes, it's been a long time, yeah, it's been a little while after talking to Lewis, I realized I needed to call Pene one more time.

[00:26:28]

We're coming up on four years since Tom disappeared. Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away.

[00:26:35]

Yeah. And where are we? Is anyone any closer to solving this mystery? I don't know, they say they are, but I don't know what scenario makes the most sense to you right now as to how Tom died.

[00:26:56]

I don't think he committed suicide. I just don't I just don't think it happened. All I know is that there was a shell casing found in his car. There was a blood swipe on the door that was not there when they returned the car to me. I don't know. I don't even know why they returned the car to me. So I don't know beyond all of that. I have no idea what happened to him. I don't know where he went.

[00:27:31]

I don't know where they took him. Whoever they is. I don't know how. He ended up on Lake Marvin's road and his car was on the other side of the river. There's no way Thomas hiked there because for one thing, he's not a hiker. He's not outdoorsy. It was cold that night and he only had on a light pullover over a T-shirt, a short sleeved t shirt. So I have no idea. I don't know what happened.

[00:28:03]

Do you have any better answer of who planted that phone in October? Twenty seventeen, just before Clines started his search? Do you have any idea? I don't know.

[00:28:17]

I mean, I know nobody in my family did it. Tucker wasn't even here. He was in Stillwater because he was going to college. Chris and I were here that we had no idea where the search was. We didn't know where the search was going to take place. So it wasn't us. And I have a hard time believing that it was still up because I don't even know how Phillip would have come across Thomas's phone. And if he had come across Thomas's phone, I think he would have shouted it to the world if I mean, maybe if he thought that it was necessary.

[00:28:54]

But I don't think Phillip or anyone on his team found Thomas's phone and planted it. I mentioned some of the things that Nathan Lewis had told me that he thought she was cold, that she never displayed any real grief or fear when talking about Tom's disappearance.

[00:29:14]

I would say he does not know me very well. I was very frantic. I had cried and maybe I didn't cry in front of him, but I did cry. I'm not I'm not unemotional. I'm not ice cold. I think a lot of people, if they were truthful in the community, would tell you, I'm not that kind of person. If I was, I don't think that my students would like me as much as they do. And I know that I have a very good rapport with my students.

[00:29:46]

And so if I am nice and kind to my students, I am nice and kind to my children.

[00:29:54]

Penny also reminded me about all that she had done to find Tom. Besides hiring an expensive private investigator, she had pushed for more law enforcement agencies to get involved.

[00:30:05]

I took a six to eight week leave of absence from school starting in November. First twenty seventeen. And I spent my days except for Fridays, because a lot of people are in their offices and they don't answer their phones. I spent four days a week from the time I got up about, you know, eight or we'll probably starting about nine o'clock. When people got to the office, I made calls. I wrote letters to people all over the state trying to get somebody's attention to look at the case.

[00:30:44]

And I would not have gone to that much trouble if I had done something. I then asked Penny again about the theory that Attorney General investigators Keating and Smith had come up with the time, had died by suicide and that Penny had found him and moved Tom's body into the woods, all because she did not want people in Canadian to know that Tom had killed himself.

[00:31:09]

How do you answer that kind of accusation?

[00:31:14]

I just knew it wasn't true. It's there's no truth to it. I haven't seen Thomas since he walked out of my house on November twenty third to go hang out with his friends shortly after 6:00. I haven't seen him. I haven't talked to him. I sent him text messages. There was no response ever. I never got a response. I don't know. I guess I just know the truth. I know what the truth is. And the truth is, is that I still don't know what happened to him.

[00:31:47]

And plus, you know, as a as a mom, for sure, if I knew where Thomas was and I found him out in the elements in the grass, the deep grass out by the lake or whatever, why would I leave my child out there to be torn apart or eaten or whatever by animals? I wouldn't do that. In fact, that has haunted me for a long time. So I would not do that. I would want my son to have a proper burial.

[00:32:27]

Do people ever say to you, Penny, if the attorney general's coming after you or might be coming after you, you need to get a lawyer?

[00:32:37]

No, nobody has said that. I mean, I don't I don't foresee that. I don't perceive them coming after me. Pinny still has supporters in Canadian, but the fact is Kading and Smith and Sheriff Lewis aren't the only ones who have suggested Pene is somehow involved. Even many of the townspeople who believe she's innocent now keep their distance from her. They turn around when they see her at the grocery store. They barely nod when they see her at church.

[00:33:09]

Why do you stay in Canadian, Penny? I mean, you're a pariah to some people. I mean, I don't know and my parents, my grandparents, when I when I know for a fact my one grandmother was born here. I mean, I can show you where she was born in nineteen twenty. And I just I guess I feel like that this is my community and I've always, I've always loved Canadian. I'm not sure I love it so much now, but I've always loved Canadian.

[00:33:43]

It was it always felt homey to me because I think because my parents were from here, they grew up here, they were high school sweethearts. I always wanted to come back to Canadian even after I graduated college. I always wanted to come back here at some point. And then I finally did. And this is the situation I find myself in. But I, I don't know. I love my job. I love my kids at school. I'm not going to run.

[00:34:15]

I'm not going to turn tail and run in Canadian still has a hold on you.

[00:34:22]

Well, I just think we have to stay here until we have answers and then I don't know. We'll see. And what about Tom's brother, Tucker, who's still living at home with his mother?

[00:34:35]

How is he doing and how is he handling the accusations that he had helped Penny move Tom's body? The last time we talked, he was upset and we were talking about the lie detector tests and all of the tension and the stress that was going around that, and you said that you were worried if Tucker took a lie detector test, you might lose your second son and not just your first.

[00:34:59]

Well, I think more so than the lie detector test. It would be if he were interrogated, like we were interrogated and if they accused him of doing something, I I think you would just devastating because you didn't do anything to his brother. But no, he's not really. Well, you know, it's kind of another it's a catch. Twenty two. He wants to stay near us, that he also wants to leave. But I just think it's not going to matter where we go.

[00:35:36]

It's always going to go with us. Finally, we got around to talking about one of the great unexplained mysteries of this whole saga. The mystery of Tom Brown himself and what was going on with him back in 2016.

[00:35:52]

Did you ever get any better sense of why he started wearing men's diapers again after years of not doing it?

[00:36:00]

Well, I think that was taken out of context because Thomas was not wearing diapers. I don't know who thinks he was wearing diapers, but he was not wearing diapers. I reminded Penny that Tom's ex-girlfriend, Sage Penington, had informed a sheriff's deputy that Tom had told her he was wearing diapers, and Sheriff Lewis later told you what Sage said. You were taken completely by surprise, right?

[00:36:28]

Yeah, I had no idea what they were talking about. And as far as we know, this has nothing to do with how he disappeared or died a lot.

[00:36:40]

To my knowledge. It doesn't, because I've always wondered if Tom felt afraid that he was going to be found out that one of the girls was going to say something and it would spread all over that school in an instant.

[00:36:55]

Well, I don't I mean, honestly, I've had some other students tell me that Thomas had talked to them about it, too. But I think that we have to understand, too, that this is a generation of kids that, you know, anything goes and you're accepted for anything. And there were a couple of at least two I know of two boys that were in high school at the same time Thomas was and they were wearing girl panties. They just they liked him and they thought they were more comfortable, it's what somebody told me.

[00:37:35]

So I just think that if you're that age and you try something or you want to do something or whatever, you just do it and it's fine, you know, as long as it's not hurting anyone or you're not hurting yourself or whatever, it just it doesn't matter.

[00:37:58]

If he was struggling with something, though, don't you think? Yeah, I agree with that. Yeah. And what would that be if you had to take a guess, what was he struggling with?

[00:38:12]

Well, we have a we have a friend who is a former law enforcement, and she asked some like a psychologist or something that is that's a friend of hers. And she said that it has something to do with his childhood, like he was reverting back to something in his childhood.

[00:38:39]

Did Tom ever talk about his childhood and how he felt traumatized by his childhood?

[00:38:48]

No. He really never said much about it.

[00:38:53]

It's a complicated one.

[00:38:55]

Yeah. But do you think he was struggling to try to figure out his sexuality or what made him? I don't think he was because, you know, he had Sage had been his girlfriend and then they broke up. And I had one of Thomas's friends told me that there was already another girl that he wanted to ask out. And then also right before he went missing, Thomas and I went over to Stillwater and went to an LSU game. And we were sitting down maybe about on the 10 yard line.

[00:39:34]

We didn't have, like, you know, great seats. But I think we were about on the 10 yard line or so. And we all three of us and we were kind of sitting by ourselves. There wasn't a lot of people around us. And we were sitting there and we were having a conversation and all of a sudden Tom's not talking to us anymore. And then I kind of look at each other and then we look over at Tom.

[00:39:57]

Well, it was a commercial. You know, there was a time out and they had gone to commercial. And Thomas, the dance girls, were in front of us dancing and he was zeroed in on those girls. You never heard a word that we fab. And finally, I think Tucker said a jerk to Thomas or something like that. And Thomas comment. Oh, what? And then I think he realized that we saw him and then he kind of got embarrassed.

[00:40:24]

And so we all kind of sat there and laughed about it. So, no, I don't really think he was struggling.

[00:40:31]

If Tom told you he was gay, would you have trouble with that?

[00:40:38]

Well, that's a hard question. Probably so. Yeah. I mean, I would have tried not to, but I wouldn't have, like, done anything or hurt him or anything like that. I mean, we probably would have talked about it.

[00:40:56]

When you say we would have talked about it, what would you have said to him?

[00:41:01]

Well, I probably would have tried to talk to him about Sam and what's talked about in the Bible, about sin. And, you know, just some things like that, I guess. What am I missing, I am missing there is some part of this story that I just can't get my arms around, you know what I'm talking about? I don't know, I mean, if I knew, I would have already pursued it. Well, I'm sorry some of these questions are so hard, but it's amazing how you stand up and answer every one and don't back off any of them.

[00:41:49]

I don't know many people that would do that that are in your position.

[00:41:53]

Well, I guess I would say for people who make those people out there who think that I did something, why would I answer all your questions or anyone's questions, for that matter? All I all I am is a mom who loved her, both of her children dearly. They were my whole life. And all I'm doing is, is fighting for him just like any other mom. I mean, I think any other mom would listen to.

[00:42:29]

I just I don't know how you give up on that. I can't give up on it. I feel like if I did, I would let Thomastown and I just I just don't see how it's it's not an option. Finally. That's when I started working on this story almost a year ago. I assumed that the truth would eventually come out. I assume the justice for Tom Signe's would come down and I assume the piece would return to this pretty little town.

[00:43:02]

But now I'm not so sure there's still so many secrets in Conatus, and there's no guarantee even a grand jury is going to shake all those secrets loose. Well, I join with the ocean blue.

[00:43:15]

Do you have dreams about Tom? Yes. Save you? True. What are your dreams?

[00:43:22]

And shake hands and a Larry. I mean, and walk through the night straight to the light.

[00:43:30]

Sometimes he just shows up at home and I don't know where he's been in my life.

[00:43:34]

And I ask him questions and no hard. Feelings, but he never answers them. Lord knows. Die in her dreams, Penny asked Tom all sorts of questions. But he's never answered. Not one on. I'm finally learning why. Obviously, this story is far from over. We'll be back with new episodes in the coming months as the Tom Brown story continues to unfold.

[00:44:36]

I have no. Tom Brown's body is a Texas Monthly production executive producer is Megan Krait, produced and engineered by Brian Standiford, who also wrote the music. Jaquet Nyko is our editor and Paul Knight is our fact checker. Audio assistants are Sean Cronin and Imogene Hopper. Our theme music is No Hard Feelings by The Avett Brothers. I'm your writer and host, Skip Hollandsworth. And I also want to say a special personal thank you to my wife, Shannon, who knows, I have no technological skill whatsoever and who set up a little podcast studio in a spare bedroom.

[00:45:19]

She sat through every voice over session and she kept telling me to speak better. None of this would have happened without her.