The Longboat Key Police Department has announced an arrest in connection with the murder of director Jamie Brown. A theatre director with both Broadway and extensive regional experience, Brown was found fully clothed and face down in his Florida living room on June 8 after police responded to a call from a friend requesting that they check on his welfare.
A bloody fingerprint on the base of a lamp found near the victim's body by the forensic team of the Manatee County Sheriff's Department positively linked a 25-year-old local plumber, Jameson Nelson Smith, to the crime scene. Smith was described by police as having an "extensive arrest history."
Police said the director was beaten and stabbed, but they have no motive for the crime at this time. Bail has not been set and will not be determined until Smith's first appearance before the judge.
As reported earlier, the victim's car, which neighbors said had been missing for "several days" prior to the discovery of Brown's body, was found abandoned in an industrial section of Sarasota, just nine blocks from the suspect's home. Police indicate that Smith said he discussed doing freelance auto work for the victim.
In another development, reminiscent of the Nicole Brown-Ron Goldman murder case, bloody shoe prints from a size 10 tennis shoe were found at the scene of the crime. The victim's shoes were clean, but police later found a pair of shoes with a tread pattern that matches the bloody prints behind the suspect's home, on top of a shed. Director Jamie Brown worked on Broadway, in regional theatre and more recently at Sarasota's Asolo Theatre Company as a guest director. Friends and family alerted local authorities after Brown dropped out of touch for several days. Sarasota Herald-Tribune writers Timothy O'Hara (crime) and Jay Handelman (theatre critic) described Brown as a prominent director who helmed As Is, "the first play about AIDS to be produced in Sarasota."
In the Sarasota paper, O'Hara and Handelman reported that Brown directed I'm Not Rappaport, Master Harold ... and the Boys, Philadelphia, Here I Come and The Cocktail Hour at the Asolo. His last show there, the 1998 production of Mr. Bundy, about a child molester, was described as being "as controversial as his first."
On Broadway, Brown directed Of the Fields Lately by the Canadian playwright David French. His Off-Broadway credits included the American premiere of The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche and a revival of All the Way Home. In 1996, Brown directed The God of Isaac at Florida Studio Theatre. A retiring man who left the vaguest of impressions with certain neighbors and who often kept to himself, Brown nonetheless managed to earn impressive national credits working at such leading regional theatres such as the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, McCarter Theatre, Syracuse Stage, GeVa Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Delaware Theatre Company and Virginia Stage.
Initial local news reports indicated that Brown was gay and that police believed that he probably knew his assailant. Even so, police said that his "sexual orientation" had not motivated his murder. Later, in a June 16 Manatee County complaint, police reported that the suspect in the case claimed that Brown approached him about freelance plumbing work at a Sable Harbor work site. The suspect also told police that he frequented the 10th Street Boat Ramp, which the victim was also said to visit.
The Longboat Key Police Department can be reached at (941) 316-1977.
-- By Murdoch McBride