FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday they have charged a man with murder who was already in jail accused of raping and beating multiple women.
Kano Brown Jr., 30, has been held in jail since May 21, 2020, on sexual battery charges against three women who detectives say were prostitutes.
A more than year-long investigation culminated this week with Brown Jr. also being charged with first-degree murder in the death of 50-year-old Kathleen Black.
"These cases sometimes take months and even more. Nowadays, with technology and what it takes to prove a case, what it takes for us to get the state attorneys and judges behind us, has gone far beyond where we were 10 years ago," said St. Lucie County Chief Deputy Brian Hester.
Detectives said Black's cause of death was ruled to be homicide by strangulation.
Both the Fort Pierce Police Department and St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office have investigated allegations against Brown Jr. for sexual battery over the span of several years.
In December 2016, Fort Pierce police said a woman was walking the streets and picked up by Brown Jr.
An arrest warrant said the woman was raped inside Brown Jr.'s vehicle and then told to get into his trunk.
The woman said she was hit in the back of the head and pushed to the ground but ran away before being put in the trunk.
Brown Jr., according to the report, kept the woman's cellphone, purse with her identification and her clothes. A sexual assault DNA kit linked Brown Jr. to the crime, investigators said.
In March 2019, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said a woman, working as a prostitute, was picked up by Brown Jr.
An arrest warrant said the woman tried to get out of the car and was severely beaten and sexually assaulted. She was thrown into the trunk of Brown Jr.'s car, and told investigators she was repeatedly taken out of the trunk and raped over a period of time.
Brown Jr., according to the report, kept the woman's phone and dropped her off naked. A DNA swab linked Brown Jr. to the crime.
"That female victim was in the hospital with a brain bleed, severe bruising in her face, it looked like she was drug across the roadway," Detective Dan Lefleur said.
In April 2020, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said another woman, also working as a prostitute, said she was picked up then beaten by Brown Jr. and choked during the sexual assault.
She told investigators that Brown Jr. opened his trunk, but she played dead, thinking Brown Jr. was going to kill her.
She said Brown Jr. collected her property, including her clothes and what she described as any evidence of the crime.
Brown Jr. was identified as a suspect through a surveillance video, which showed the woman and Brown Jr. at a gas station prior to the rape.
"The amount of force and the amount of violence between each of those cases grows in each one," said St. Lucie County Detective Jason Cannon.
All four victims, detectives believe, were prostitutes.
"Unfortunately, being in that line of work, those women don't report these kinds of things very often, so they're, for a lack of a better term, easy targets," Lefleur said.
While investigating the battery cases, the sheriff's office served a search warrant at Brown Jr.'s home in Fort Pierce.
During an interview with Brown Jr., he told investigators he'd rather talk about the allegations of rape and battery at headquarters instead of at his house, but he said he had previously paid for sex.
On April 29, Detectives also searched Brown Jr.'s car, swabbing the outside driver and passenger door handles, and the interior front door handle.
They also took shoes and male enhancement out of the trunk, and condom wrappers and a fingernail from the interior of the car. The investigation also revealed signs of body fluids inside the car and in the trunk, but the trunk was otherwise empty.
Brown retrieved his vehicle from evidence on May 1, 2020. Between that day and May 21, detectives believe Brown Jr. killed Black.
Detectives arrested Brown Jr. on May 21, 2020, in connection with the sexual battery cases at an apartment complex on 26th Street in Fort Pierce.
Brown Jr.'s mother and grandmother moved the car from the apartment complex where Brown Jr. was arrested to keep it from being towed. They parked the car at Brown Jr.'s grandmother's home.
"We do believe Kathleen Black's deceased body was in the trunk at that time," Cannon said.
On May 24, 2020, detectives got a call for service at Brown Jr.'s grandmother's home, reporting the possibility of a body in the trunk of a car parked at the home.
Brown Jr.'s mother said she went to the car to retrieve a cooler from it when she noticed a foul smell coming from the car. Detectives opened the trunk of the car and found a decomposing body.
Brown Jr.'s mother said no one else had access to the car since they parked it and it was locked.
Investigators said just days before Black was reported missing by her son on May 21, 2020, Brown Jr.'s internet search history shows he visited websites displaying rape, violence, or prostitution, some depicting extreme violence to include dismemberment.
On May 16, 2020, he watched a video depicting strangling a woman while raping her, according to detectives.
"I've been in public safety going on 30 years, I've been in law enforcement 17. I can't unsee some of the things I saw in that search history," Cannon said. “There were 85 videos depicting rape. There were 68 videos depicting extreme violence. There were 193 videos and websites either depicting or offering prostitution. … When I tell you it was disturbing, it was quite disturbing," Cannon said.
Detectives said a good Samaritan found Black's cellphone in a field, which they ultimately gave to a lawn care worker who brought the phone to a cellphone provider, which helped get the phone to law enforcement.
"The good Samaritan found a Facebook post dealing with it, and made contact with the victim's son," Cannon said. "That led us to a plethora of information in this case. It gave us locations of where Kathleen Black had traveled, her patterns of life, photos she had taken, a fitness counter, which told us when she was no longer taking steps with her phone," Cannon said.
Hester said the pandemic lead to delays in getting DNA samples or phone records back from labs and corporations, but because Brown Jr. was being held in jail without bond on the sexual battery charges, deputies had time on their side.
"Kano Brown wasn't going anywhere. He was being held without bond, so it gave our detectives time to really meticulously investigate," Hester said.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
- May 21, 2020: Kano Brown Junior was arrested on sexual battery charges
- May 24, 2020: Kathleen Black was found dead in Brown's car
- May 25 to May 27, 2020: Detectives interviewed family and friends of Brown Jr. while also canvassing for surveillance videos and processing evidence
- June 2, 2020: Detectives searched Brown Jr.'s car
- June 2, 2020: Black's cellphone was found
- July 15, 2020 detectives received DNA results from the Indian River County Crime Lab
- Aug. 27, 2020: Detectives received DNA results from DNA international
- November 2020: Detectives received the results of Brown Jr.'s Google history
- May 7, 2021: Fingerprint analysis returned
- July 6, 2021: Cellphone data analysis returns
- July 26, 2021: Warrant was approved for the homicide charge against Brown Jr.