William Brooks Murder: Is John Brady Dead or Alive?

Image Credit: The Marshall Project/The Evening Sun

A poorly-planned heist by two men in 1958 led to an unplanned murder, leading to their arrests. William Brooks turned out to be the unfortunate victim of a hare-brained scheme. But the legal proceedings that took place in the following years led to a monumental development that came to be known as the Brady Rule. Crime Junkie podcast’s latest episode, ‘PRECEDENCE: John Brady,’ delves into the history behind the case and what happened back then. So, if you’re curious about the same, we’ve got you covered.

How Did William Brooks Die?

William Brooks was a 53-year-old man who lived in a shack in the woods close to his workplace. At the time, he was employed at a small plastics factory in Odenton, Maryland. In the past, William also worked as a hired hand on a farm. In the time leading up to the incident, he underwent surgery and had been living at a friend’s place during recovery. But on June 27, 1958, William’s life ended abruptly.

On June 28, 1958, William didn’t show up for his 4 PM shift, leading to his landlady reporting him missing; she worked at the same factory as him. A desperate search ensued, but the authorities couldn’t find him or his new car. Then, through additional information that came in as the investigation continued, the police located both the car and William. While the vehicle was found in Virginia, William’s body was found in a wooded area close to his home. He was strangled to death and left under some branches.

Who Killed William Brooks?

The investigation led the authorities to two men: John Brady and Charles Donald Boblit. John was raised by his grandparents and aunt, eventually dropping out of school to work at his uncle’s farm full time. In 1951, he was 19 years old and enlisted in the Air Force. Over the next few years, John got married, divorced, and by 1958, was in Maryland. The same year, he met Nancy and Charles Boblit, siblings; their parents were friends with John’s aunt.

Soon, John began hanging out with the two and fell in love with Nancy. In June 1958, Nancy, married to someone else, told John she was pregnant with his child. At the time, he was working a low-paying job and had bills to pay, with no way to care for a baby. So, he resolved to rob a bank along with Charles. The two planned to do it on a Saturday but needed a reliable getaway car because John’s wasn’t.

Then, John thought of William, whom he had known most of his life. William had worked on John’s grandfather’s farm and lived with him and his aunt while recovering from surgery. At the time, he had bought a new car. So, John and Charles decided to abduct William, hold him until they committed the robbery, and then let him go with his car. So, on June 27, 1958, they placed a log on the road that led to William’s house and lay in wait.

When William got out of the car, Charles emerged with a shotgun and eventually hit him in the back of the head with it. They put William in the backseat and planned to leave him in the woods. However, Charles wanted to kill him; William had seen Charles’ face. After parking the car by some trees, Charles used his shirt to strangle William to death. They dumped the body in the woods, left the car in Virginia, and then picked up John’s car, parked in Glen Burnie, Maryland. They never hit a bank as planned.

Once John knew that police were looking for him, he fled to Cuba, only to change his mind and turn himself in to the American embassy there. Initially, John told the police that he had knocked William out, after which he and Charles had stolen the car. John mentioned where the vehicle and bloody clothes were abandoned. He was initially charged with transporting a stolen car and even agreed to plead guilty.

However, once the authorities got a hold of Charles, things changed. He led the police to the dead body and claimed that John was responsible for everything. When John was confronted with it, he pinned the murder on Charles. He mentioned that saying he struck William first was a way to protect Charles. However, Charles provided the authorities with five different confessions. While the first four involved him blaming John, he took responsibility in the fifth one, admitting to killing William.

In the meantime, John opted for a jury trial, and Charles opted for a bench trial. However, the prosecution in John’s case chose not to tell his defense about Charles’ fifth confession. This meant that John’s defense didn’t know about Charles’ admitting to the murder, which could have helped with John getting a lesser sentence. As it happened, John was convicted of murder in December 1958 and was eventually sentenced to death.

How Did John Brady Die?

While on death row, John got a new lawyer, who filed an appeal upon learning from Charles’ trial that he had claimed his final statement was not true. Once the fifth confession came to light, in October 1961, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that it was a constitutional violation for the prosecution not to have turned over Charles’ admission. The Supreme Court eventually granted John a new sentencing trial in May 1963 and pointed out that the suppression of evidence was a violation of due process. This later came to be known as the Brady Rule.

John’s sentence was commuted to life in prison, and he was eventually released on parole in 1974. Post incarceration, John went on to have an eventful life. He got a criminal justice degree, married, and had a son and a daughter. After 12 years of marriage, John got a divorce, eventually moving to Florida, where he worked as a truck driver and began fishing. He remarried and then died in 2009; John was 76 years old and passed away due to natural causes.

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