Devastated. The families and friends of Jean Ann Jefferson Brown and Raymond Brown were devastated after someone shot the two cousins to death.
Jean Brown “was doing missionary work, helping somebody” when she and Raymond Brown were killed, Jean Brown’s goddaughter Christel Butler said.
She would’ve celebrated her 67th birthday on Saturday. Instead, Jean Brown’s friends and family will be gathering in a Holly Hill church to honor her life.
Raymond Brown’s funeral service has not yet been announced, one of Jean Brown’s sisters, Mary Smith, said on Monday. He was 62.
Mary Smith said her sister was her best friend.
And Raymond Brown “was the type of person who would help you if you needed him,” Mary Smith said.
“He was good-hearted and very mannerable,” she added.
“Me and my sister, Jean, took him under our wings and helped him to get whatever he needed” after his parents died several years ago, Mary Smith said.
“And whatever he needed or wanted, we tried and we did it to help him move along. He brought his self-esteem up to what it needed to be,” she said.
“He was soft-spoken. I never saw him say anything unkind to anyone,” said Krystle Smith, Jean Brown’s niece.
Mary Smith said she and her sister took Raymond Brown to doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping and wherever else he needed to go.
“If Jean couldn’t take him to the doctor, I’d take him to the doctor, grocery shopping, anything,” she said.
Jean Brown took Raymond Brown to Charleston for a doctor’s appointment last Wednesday. She had her 1-year-old grandson with them for the ride.
Mary Smith and Jean Brown talked earlier in the day. But later on, neither Mary Smith nor Jean Brown’s husband, Bishop Melvin Brown, were able to reach Jean Brown by phone.
“Something is wrong,” Mary Smith recalled Bishop Brown telling her.
Mary Smith and her brother went to Raymond Brown’s home at 246 Wesgar Avenue, near Eutawville.
Jean Brown’s 2014 black Buick Enclave wasn’t at the scene and neither was her grandson.
The keys to Raymond Brown’s home were in the lock of the closed door, Mary Smith said. A plastic bag containing a Styrofoam box of food was hanging on the doorknob.
Mary Smith and her brother called 911. Law enforcement arrived.
She was considering entering the home when a state trooper appeared next to her.
He convinced her to let him go inside instead of her.
Jean Brown’s body was found behind the front door, so deputies entered the home through the back door instead, according to an Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Once inside, they discovered Raymond Brown’s body near his slain cousin’s.
After the shootings, Jean Brown’s 1-year-old grandson was found in a stranger’s unsecured car at a St. George gas station.
The child was reunited with his mother several hours later. He was not physically harmed.
The man accused of shooting and killing Jean Brown and Raymond Brown was familiar to them, Mary Smith said.
Antonio Smalls, 45, had done some home repairs for both sisters.
Mary Smith had hired Smalls to complete a sheetrock project, which he did the prior Thursday, she said.
Smalls is Mary Smith’s nephew, through her husband’s family, she said.
She knew Smalls had a few convictions on his record, but never imagined he’d be accused of killing her sister and cousin.
Smalls’ warrants allege that he confessed to shooting and killing Jean Brown and Raymond Brown.
Mary Smith said Smalls was living with his brother in St. George, although he’d previously lived with his mother in Moncks Corner.
Authorities in North Charleston located Smalls there a few hours after the bodies were found.
He’s charged with one count of kidnapping and two counts each of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Moncks Corner is also where Bishop Brown serves as pastor of My Father’s House Ministry.
“We’re devastated,” said Diane Harris-Smith, one of the church’s members.
“We were raised up like sisters right next door,” Harris-Smith said of Jean Brown.
Jean Brown “was an all-in-one package,” Harris-Smith said, noting the many roles she served at the church, including singing, leading and being involved in nearly every way possible.
“She was everything to everybody,” Butler said.
“Always helpful. She took on many people’s children to help raise them, feed them, clothe them, pray for them,” she said.
“She was very kind, very loving, but also a disciplinarian,” Butler added.
Jean Brown has three natural children, but the number of additional children – those she helped raise and nurture – are countless, family members said.
They described her as a “stand-in mother,” namely because Jean Brown served as a type of “community daycare” for working mothers who needed someone to keep their children.
“She was a woman of many hats, literally and figuratively,” said Shannen Johnson, Jean Brown’s niece.
“She taught me a lot about being a mother. She taught me so many things. As I got into the ministry, because she’s a first lady, she taught me how to carry myself as a first lady. She told me, by being in ministry, to ‘always have a prayer life,’” Johnson said.
The families of Jean Brown and Raymond Brown have been praying and are comforted by those who are praying for them, they said.
Recalling the words of a popular old hymn, Mary Smith said, “We’ll understand it better by and by.”
Contact the writer: [email protected] or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD