Police: Pre-trial questioning links Marley Lion suspects to earlier robbery involving same gun
An hour before 17-year-old Marley Lion was fatally shot last year in West Ashley, three men accused in that crime used the same pistol to rob a woman in downtown Charleston, according to arrest affidavits.
Prosecutors recently unearthed evidence of the earlier incident while questioning 28-year-old George Ellis Brown as they prepared to put another man, Lion’s accused shooter, on trial next month.
The evidence resulted in two new charges against Brown. Authorities said he drove a getaway car and provided the Sig Sauer 9 mm Kurz used in the downtown robbery and in Lion’s killing early on June 16, 2012.
Brown had faced charges of possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number and accessory after murder in Lion’s death. Because of the recent development, he’s also charged with accessory before an armed robbery and accessory before an attempted armed robbery.
His family had portrayed Brown as a meek and innocent man who got caught up in something he had no direct involvement with.
Police initially described Brown as more of an after-the-fact participant, someone who had heard of the attempted robbery and killing of Lion but failed to come forward. The new evidence ties him to the planning of the robbery of Lion, fresh out of high school with aspirations of studying international trade at Clemson University.
Brown’s father said his son didn’t come forward because he had been shot several years earlier while planning to testify in a murder trial.
Brown remained free on bail Thursday. The day before, Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald lumped his new charges onto the same $200,000 surety bond be posted in April.
It’s unknown whether he will testify in the Oct. 7 murder trial of 32-year-old Ryan P. Deleston, Lion’s alleged shooter.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, who will prosecute the case with Chief Deputy Solicitor Bruce DuRant, declined to comment Thursday.
Brown’s attorney, Aaron Mayer of West Ashley, also would not discuss the new charges.
Bryan Latrell Rivers, 29, and Julius Perrell Brown, 33, already have pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for their cooperation in Deleston’s prosecution. Their sentences depend on how much they cooperate.
George Brown’s latest charges arose from discussions with the Charleston County Solicitor’s Office, affidavits stated. Sgt. David Osborne and Detective Richard Burckhardt, who investigated the Lion slaying for the Charleston Police Department, also were involved.
Of all the suspects, Brown had the least extensive criminal history. He was arrested in May 2006 on a charge of unlawfully carrying a weapon, but he was not convicted.
Julius Brown faced a murder charge in a 2000 shooting, but he escaped a conviction after the lead witness against him was fatally shot before trial. His relationship to George Brown remains unclear.
Rivers has a past of armed robbery, violent assaults and cocaine possession.
Like George Brown, Deleston has no felony convictions, though he has been locked up for drug violations. Of the four suspects, Deleston was the only one not linked to the downtown robbery before Lion’s shooting.
About 2:57 a.m. that day, authorities said, George Brown drove Rivers and Julius Brown to 195 Rutledge Ave., a residential area near Medical University Hospital, the same facility where Lion later died.
The two reported victims, a 23-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man who lived on nearby Cannon Street, told police that someone approached them with a handgun, according to an incident report. The duo described the robber as a 30- to 35-year-old black man.
He took the woman’s purse, credit cards and iPhone, then ran away.
In the recent questioning by prosecutors, George Brown acknowledged serving as the getaway driver. Rivers also used George Brown’s pistol to rob the couple, according to the affidavits.
Then around 4:05 a.m., George Brown drove past Lion’s sport-utility vehicle outside Famous Joe’s Bar and Grill on Savannah Highway “to case the area,” an affidavit stated. Most of the suspects lived in the nearby Ardmore community.
He loaned his Sig Sauer to Deleston, who schemed with Rivers and Julius Brown to rob the young man, according to court documents.
Witnesses later told detectives that Deleston was the one captured in a video walking up to the SUV, briefly retreating when an alarm sounds and returning to fire gunshots through the Nissan’s side.
Lion was shot five times. He had spilled out of the SUV and onto the pavement by the time authorities arrived. He survived long enough to tell police that two men had tried to rob him.
Over the next three weeks, detectives used street informants and undercover officers to build a case against the four men.
Informants told police that Deleston had mentioned six times that he wanted to sell a 9 mm pistol. On July 15, 2012, George Brown’s SUV was in the driveway of Deleston’s Cashew Street apartment just before an informant went there and bought the gun from Deleston, police said.
Experts later matched bullets they fired from the Sig Sauer to the ones that riddled Lion’s body.
According to police, Brown knew all along that his gun had been used to kill Lion.
That night, the other three men returned to an Ardmore home. George Brown was there, police said, when Deleston walked in, put the gun on a table, then washed his hands with bleach — presumably to scrub off gunshot residue, the specks of lead and other materials that a firearm spews when it is discharged.
“He shot that white boy for nothing,” one of the men remarked, according to police, as George Brown sat on a nearby couch.
When George Brown might stand trial remains undetermined.
Glenn Smith contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414.