A one-time Salt Lake City resident sought in the fatal shooting of an armored truck courier in Ahwatukee Foothills could be taking advantage of philanthropic Mormon church members, the FBI’s lead agent on the case said.
Jason Derek Brown is accused of shooting Robert Keith Palomares five times in the head at close range with a .45-caliber handgun on Nov. 29, 2004, outside the AMC Ahwatukee 24 Theatres while he was carrying a bag containing that weekend’s receipts. The FBI says Brown made off with $56,000 on a bicycle he ditched that yielded his fingerprints.
The cold-blooded murder of the armored truck courier left local police and witnesses shocked at the brutality and pushed Brown onto the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.
Investigators said that as 24-year-old Palomares walked out of the Ahwatukee Foothills theater around 10 a.m. on that fatal day, Brown rode up on a bicycle, pulled a gun, and shot the courier multiple times in the head.
Astonished witnesses told police that Brown then grabbed the bag containing about $56,000 and fled on the bicycle, which police later found abandoned. But by then Brown had transferred to his BMW, checked out of a long-term stay hotel at 50th Street and Chandler Boulevard, and fled.
Brown, who came to Ahwatukee Foothills from Salt Lake City, knew the area, having lived here for six months, renting a home in the 3900 block of Nighthawk Way, where neighbors described him as a high-roller with plenty of “boy toys,” from large-screen televisions to boats and cars.
But according to the FBI, the realty was far different. Brown was heavily in debt and broke at the time of the murder.
A Maricopa grand jury quickly indicted him for first-degree murder, but Brown’s trail went cold after his car was found in Oregon a month after the murder.
“America’s Most Wanted” filmed a reenactment of the murder, but despite airing on the popular television show, there have been no solid leads until now.
Brown, who is described as having a resemblance to actor Sean Penn, acts just like he looks in his driver’s license photo, say neighbors who knew him.
“He was like a kid, he was friendly and young,” said Jon Pike, who lived down the street from Brown when he was renting in Ahwatukee Foothills.
The last confirmed sighting of Brown was in August 2008, when a friend spotted the fugitive at a stoplight near the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, where he lived just months prior to the murder. He bought a handgun at a Kearns gun store two weeks before the crime, and the weapon was later linked to Palomares’ death.
The 43-year-old Brown is good at lying and convincing people that he’s someone else and could be taking advantage of a Mormon church member’s philanthropy, FBI Agent Lance Leising said.
Leising told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/10Q6mBo ) that his ability to blend in is one reason he’s on the Top 10 Most Wanted list.
“With the commonness of his name and how he looks, like a surfer dude in California, we’ve had more tips (about this) fugitive than any other on ‘America’s Most Wanted.’ It’s caused us to chase leads all around the world,” Leising said.
Brown served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France. He later earned a master’s degree in business, and started two businesses.
An Arizona arrest warrant was issued in 2004 charging Brown with first-degree murder and armed robbery. Brown later was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in a federal arrest warrant.
The matching fingerprints came from an application Brown submitted weeks earlier in Utah for a concealed-weapons permit. Utah authorities held the license because of the shooting, and it was never issued.
• The Ahwatukee Foothills News contributed to this story