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Colorado Springs man seeks leads on mother's suspicious death

By: Lisa Walton
November 19, 2013 Updated: November 19, 2013 at 7:00 am
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David Brownlee wants to know what happened to his mother.

He knows she was brutally murdered, because the 72-year-old's decomposing body was found stuffed in the crawl space of her Colorado Springs home, covered by a pile of soiled laundry, according to an autopsy report. Several of her ribs had been broken. She was bruised and scraped, and her neck muscles had bled underneath her skin. Her purse was found at a fast-food restaurant about 5 miles from her home.

That was in January, and nearly nine months later, police have not been able to answer Brownlee's questions.

At the top of his list: Who? Why?

The coroner reported that Joanne Brownlee's injuries were consistent with a homicide, but her cause of death is undetermined, according to the autopsy.

"I don't know what's going on with the police and the DA," Brownlee said. "But apparently they don't have enough to make an arrest. I just wish they would open up and share what they know or don't know."

But police aren't saying anything. They tell him it's an ongoing investigation. They also refused to release details of the investigation to The Gazette.

In fact, they've never even released information on the death, which only became public this week after Brownlee contacted a local TV news station, hoping to get a lead for investigators.

Joanne Brownlee suffered from glaucoma and had been blind for more than a decade. She had trouble getting around, and neighbors who did not want to be identified said she rarely left her house at 1436 Tweed St., off Palmer Park Boulevard just east of Union Boulevard.

David Brownlee described his mother as a "homebody."

"She didn't like to go out a whole lot, except with friends on occasion," he said. "It was just hard for her to move around, which is why we only took her around on occasion."

When Brownlee and other family members hadn't heard from her, they went to her house, which she shared with her 51-year-old daughter, Debbie.

They couldn't find her and filed a missing person report, which led to a more thorough search of her home. Less than 24 hours later, detectives discovered her body, police said. Detectives estimate she had been dead for two weeks. David Brownlee said his sister refuses to talk about their mother's disappearance or death. He said he hasn't talked to her in two months, and says it's unfathomable that she did not know about the body in her house.

Debbie Brownlee has moved out of the house, which the family - Joanne, Debbie and David - bought in 1996. David Brownlee sold the house in May for $89,000, according to El Paso County assessors records. It has been remodeled and is for sale again.

Debbie Brownlee had lived with their mother her entire life, David Brownlee said. And their personalities clashed frequently.

A couple who lives across the street, and did not want to be identified, said they witnessed one such argument in the front yard, but it wasn't an ongoing issue in the quiet neighborhood, where older, retired people live.

The same neighbors had called code enforcement to come to the house last year, after trash began piling up in front of the house.

David Brownlee said the house was often messy, adding that he gave up trying to keep it clean on his monthly visits to the home. He said it's hard to move on with no information about his mother's death.

But, there's not much he can do - but wait.

"We're just trying to find out any information we can."

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