Shot once before, man who knew of Marley Lion’s killing feared more retribution
Even before Marley Lion died, a man not involved with the robbery that led to Lion’s shooting already knew the identity of his assailants.
But 27-year-old George Brown hesitated to tell the authorities because he was scared, according to his father. He was prepared to testify against an accused killer once before, but as the trial neared two years ago he was shot multiple times, and he stopped cooperating with prosecutors.
So when three men walked into the West Ashley house that Brown was visiting early on June 16, he wanted nothing to do with what had just happened. Ryan Deleston, 30, now the accused shooter, set a handgun onto a table as Brown sat on the couch, his father said. Deleston washed his hands with bleach.
He heard the men talking about how their robbery of Lion led to a shooting. He heard Bryan Rivers, 27, another suspect in Lion’s death, say that Deleston “shot that white boy for nothing,” according to affidavits.
Court documents say Rivers, Deleston and 32-year-old Julius Brown had planned to burglarize the Famous Joe’s Bar and Grill when Lion’s SUV pulled into the parking lot at 1662 Savannah Highway. It interrupted their plans, so they decided to rob Lion instead.
But George Brown never came forward with that information, according to his father. He kept quiet, a decision that led to his arrest on a charge of being an accessory to murder.
“If someone came to your house and shoots your son, would you tell him to step forward again years later and tell the police what’s going on?” said George Brown Sr., 55, who lives on Corral Drive with his son. “What happened was wrong. That boy never should have lost his life, but my son’s life is worth something too.”
The new information, gathered from Brown’s father and court documents released Wednesday, illustrates a concern that Solicitor Scarlett Wilson raised Tuesday when the police announced the four arrests in Lion’s slaying.
Wilson said witnesses and tipsters in the case, who were integral in leading the police to the murder weapon and the suspects, must stay the course.
At times, Wilson said, things do go wrong.
Her example was connected to another suspect in Lion’s case, Julius Brown, who was one of three accused of a murder more than a decade ago. He is not related to George Brown.
In that killing in October 2000, authorities said Julius Brown and two other men burglarized an apartment on Ashley River Road. As they ransacked the home, 23-year-old Atiyaa Manley was fatally shot by one of the intruders as her twin toddler boys were in a nearby bedroom.
Years later, one of the three men accused in the home invasion that led to Manley’s death, 20-year-old Terrell Taylor, decided to change his life. He found salvation and told the police about what happened to Manley.
Taylor’s decision would be a deadly one.
In March 2005 he was shot outside his home in the Ardmore community, the same neighborhood near the Lion shooting scene. It was the price he paid for breaking the code of the streets, his family members said at the time.
Wilson, the solicitor, said the investigation into Manley’s death had stagnated until Taylor came forward. He became prosecutors’ primary witness.
But his death foiled their case, and Julius Brown was set free.
“The key witness was killed,” Wilson said. “That’s why (the charge) was dismissed.”
After a bond hearing Wednesday, all four suspects in Lion’s killing had been informed of their charges. Three — Deleston, Rivers and Julius Brown — face charges of murder and attempted murder, among other counts. George Brown was charged with being an accessory after a murder and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number.
On July 15, undercover officers bought the 9 mm Sig Sauer used in the shooting from Deleston outside his Cashew Street home, police said. Deleston later told investigators that George Brown had brought him the weapon just before the sale.
Brown’s father spoke with The Post and Courier Wednesday, after Magistrate Linda Lombard set his son’s bail at $200,000.
He talked about a “no-snitching” code on Charleston’s streets that people like his son fear breaking.
Brown had witnessed the 2008 Halloween shooting death of Shawn Michael Porter, 24, at a house in West Ashley’s Ponderosa subdivision. He drafted a written account of the incident and cooperated with police, saying Porter was shot over some stereo equipment.
Less than two weeks before Porter’s accused killer, Antwaun Breyon Henderson, was set to go to trial in November 2010, Brown was struck six times with .45-caliber bullets as he stepped outside his home in Ponderosa.
Brown recovered from his injuries enough to deny ever writing the statement against Henderson. He refused to testify, and Henderson was found not guilty.
His shooting was the culmination of threats Brown had received in the weeks leading to the trial, and he didn’t want them to continue.
‘The whole truth’
It was the same uneasiness he felt two years ago that kept Brown from “doing the right thing” after Lion’s killing, his father said Wednesday. His arrest, however, changed his tune.
“I told him he better tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” George Brown Sr. said. “He told them exactly what happened.”
Brown and the other three men were at Julius Brown’s home in the Ardmore area when the trio talked about burglarizing Famous Joe’s Bar and Grill. George Brown was drunk and stayed at the house, his father said.
The trio’s plan changed when Lion pulled into the parking lot, according to affidavits released Wednesday. After a night at a house party in West Ashley, Lion was too intoxicated to drive to his Johns Island home, so he pulled over to sleep.
Julius Brown later admitted to investigators that he walked through the parking lot and peered at Lion’s SUV to see how many people were inside, the documents stated. He reported his findings to Deleston and Rivers, who carried out the robbery, according to the affidavits.
Deleston and Rivers exchanged the handgun before the incident, but Deleston is accused of first trying to break into the SUV, then shooting Lion five times. In the hour before he died, Lion told officers that he had seen two men try to rob him.
When the three returned to the Ardmore house where George Brown was resting, they started talking about the killing, documents stated.
“He knew it was wrong, what they did,” George Brown Sr. said. “My son got dressed and he left. He saw the police down by Joe’s (the bar), but when all of this was going on, he didn’t want to tell anyone.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.