The Macomb Daily
FRIEND ON HEARING NEWS OF VICTIM’S DEATH: ‘I LOST IT’
Defendant accused in deaths of four women he reportedly met through backpage.com website
Kourtney Myers for more than a day had been frantically scouring Detroit locales for her missing best friend, Renesha Landers, when she heard awful news while in her parked car at her sister’s house.
“My sister charged out of the house yelling that they found two girls in a trunk on the east side,” Myers, 26, tearfully testified Friday morning. “I lost it. I just lost it. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was being choked.”
Myers took the stand in the trial of James C. Brown, accused of smothering to death four women in two separate incidents i n December 2011 after meeting them via the adult or dating section
of the classified web site backpage.com.
Killed with Landers, 24, was Demesha Hunt, 25; their bodies were found the afternoon of Dec. 19 near the Detroit intersection of Chalmers and Outer Drive in Landers’ Chrysler 300.
Killed six days later were Natasha Curtis, 29, and Vernithea McCrary, 28, whose bodies were found about 1 a.m. Dec. 25 in a trunk of a Buick LaSabre, which was set on fire near Outer Drive and Hayes. Both cars were found in an area where Brown previously lived.
Also testifying Friday morning in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens were the v i c t i ms’ three mothers and one br o t her, who were s ubdued and curt in t heir testimony. Photographs of the smiling women were shown to jurors.
Only Myers and McCray’s mother, Denise Higgins, said they knew about backpage. com under questioning by defense attorney Jeffrey Co- jocar.
Landers, who had a fulltime job at a Chrysler plant, was posting ads on the site’s “escort” section but Myers said she didn’t question her about it.
Higgins said she believed her daughter, McCrary, who was the mother of three young children, joined the site for legitimate dates.
“It was for her to meet suitable gentlemen for her and her children,” she said on the witness stand.
It was also revealed two of the women — Curtis and Landers — were celebrating or about to celebrate their birthdays.
Curtis was killed in the early morning hours of her 30th birthday, Dec. 24, said her brother, Jantzen Curtis, who said he now has guardianship of her three children. He said a birthday party was planned for the day she went missing.
“She was supposed to be at a family party for her birthday,” he said.
Landers, meanwhile, was killed less than a week before her 25th birthday on Dec. 23. She and Myers went out Dec. 17 to celebrate Landers’ birthday, and Landers also was excited about buying the Chrysler 300 a week before.
Myers drove to Landers’ home about 8 p.m.
“She was showing me her new haircut for her birthday,” she told Assistant Macomb Prosecutor William Cataldo. “She was outgoing, very bubbly, always happy, caring. A nice, sweet girl.” Myers and Landers smoked marijuana in their vehicle that night as they drove to visit Landers’ sister and father at their houses, she said. At one of the houses, Landers went online to update her backpage.com ad. Myers said she also heard her making plans on the telephone with Hunt.
Myers was going to continue staying with Landers but instead was too tired and fell asleep at Landers’ house, where Landers went to change her clothes.
Myers said she awoke in Landers’ house at 4:33 a.m. Dec. 18 and immediately was worried that her friend had not returned.
Myers said she spent the day, including during her dayshift job as a hotel restaurant waitress, making telephone calls and later going to bars, casinos and other spots where Landers may have been.
“I rode around for hours,” she said. “My stomach was in knots. I just felt uneasy.”
The trial was to continue Friday afternoon and is scheduled to resume Tuesday in front of Judge James Biernat Jr.
Brown is charged with four counts of first-degree, premeditated murder, four counts of mutilation of a body and two counts of arson for burning the car and a garage.