TERRELL (CBS 11 NEWS) – Charles Brownlow is charged with capital murder in the death of 22-year-old Luis Leal-Carillo, a popular store clerk at Ali’s Market in Terrell.
Brownlow is also suspected of killing four other people, including his mother, Mary Brownlow and his aunt, Belinda Walker.
State records show Brownlow has a lengthy criminal record.
Matt Orwig, the former U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Texas tells the CBS 11 News I-Team that the court records raise the possibility that Brownlow fell through cracks in the justice system. “I don’t think there’s any doubt the system failed the victims.”
State records show back in September, 2008, Brownlow was prosecuted by Kaufman County for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and prohibited weapon, in this case a short-barrel or sawed-off shotgun.
In January, 2009, Brownlow was sentenced to three years in state prison for each charge, which ran concurrently. He was released on parole just seven months later.
Orwig says if Brownlow had been prosecuted for the gun charge by federal prosecutors and convicted, the maximum penalty he would have faced was five years in prison, with little chance of getting out early.
Orwig said, “This is clearly a defendant that if handled and processed properly would have been a good candidate for federal prosecution. At various times, the Department of Justice has had a real focus of getting violent criminals off the streets. This is a perfect example of a one man crime wave.”
CBS 11 News reporter Jack Fink asked the Terrell police department if it had contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) or any federal law enforcement agency to investigate Brownlow back in 2008 on a federal gun charge.
In an email to the CBS 11 I-Team, Terrell police chief Jody Lay said, “…The U.S. Attorney’s office does not adopt every single state case that is also a violation of federal law. Generally, unless there is drug trafficking involved or some other broader federal nexus, these cases are filed in state courts.”
Richard Roper was the U.S, Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, which includes Terrell, back in 2008 at the time of Brownlow’s state gun charge.
Roper couldn’t speak specifically to the Brownlow case, but he said while federal prosecutors don’t accept every case of a felon caught possessing a firearm, they do prosecute those type of cases depending on the facts surrounding them and the suspect’s criminal history.
Jack Fink checked with the ATF, which investigates gun crimes, and a spokesman said there’s no prior record the ATF investigated Brownlow in 2008.
Jackie Merrick is the brother-in-law of Mary Brownlow. She said, “How he skipped through the cracks, I don’t know. It doesn’t make me feel good at all, and it darn sure doesn’t make the family feel any better. You can understand some of the people falling through the cracks, but someone with a rap sheet that long? How many other folks have fallen through the cracks around here that could possibly end up doing something similar to this here?”
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