Chris Brown and Kenzie Houk had been friends since they were teenagers. Though life had taken them in different directions for a while, they reconnected and were getting ready to officially tie the knot, and give birth to a baby boy they had already named Christopher.
Our story begins during that pregnancy, on a chilly February morning. Chris was running late for work and though his eight-months’ pregnant fiancee asked him to stay home, he decided that he should go into the office anyway. They had a baby on the way after all. It was a decision that would haunt him from that day on.
Despite the fact that the blended family had only just moved in together, they seemed to be bonding well. Jordan had even begun referring to Kenzie as “mom.” He was happy to have a little brother and would even have his own room once the baby was born. It was in that downstairs bedroom that Kenzie had been sleeping in that morning, simply because it was easier.
Ready For Baby
It wasn’t that Kenzie was worried about the pregnancy, she was ready to have the baby and had plenty of practice being a mom. After all, she already had two daughters from a previous relationship – 7-year-old Jenessa and 4-year-old Adalynn. She even had a stepson through Chris in the form of his 11-year-old son Jordan.
Stay at Home
That morning, Jordan was awakened by his sister Janessa. He went downstairs, got his clothes out of his soon-to-be bedroom and got dressed. Then, the two siblings sat in the living room until the bus came. About 8:15 a.m., Jordan and Janessa went out the back door and headed to school. At around 9 a.m., some tree trimmers arrived to do some work around the house.
Not long after they’d begun working, one of the tree trimmers noticed 4-year-old Adalynn standing in the doorway and crying that her mother was dead. The worker quickly called 911 and waited for Pennsylvania State Police to arrive. Corporal Jeffrey Martin was one of the first responders on the scene. Right away, he could tell something was very wrong.
Martin waited for another officer to arrive and then went with him into the bedroom. At first, it appeared that Kenzie had some sort of medical emergency related to the pregnancy. Based on the blood, it appeared as though she might have hemorrhaged somehow and sadly had died because of it. They didn’t move her, choosing to preserve the integrity of the scene as they waited for the medical examiner.
As soon as the coroner began taking photos, Martin realized that what they were looking at was no complication or accident. Kenzie Houk had been shot in the back of the head. Her death was the result of a homicide. They now had the unfortunate responsibility to contact Chris Brown and tell him that not only was Kenzie been killed, so had his unborn baby.
Tell Her Husband
Chris had been at his job in the shipping department of a local tableware company when he received the news. He fell to his knees in despair and once he had regained composure, made his way to the state police barracks. As part of procedure, they had to interview him and even swabbed his hands for gunpowder residue just in case. But he had been at work during the shooting, so he couldn’t have done it.
At the same time, officers had been dispatched to Mohawk Elementary School to speak to Janessa and Jordan. It appeared that neither of them had noticed anything unusual that morning. Later though, Jordan recalled seeing a black truck near the garage. He believed it had been a work truck and thought nothing of it. The family went home and grieved together.
The girls were sent to their father’s house while Chris and Jordan stayed in the home. At around 3:30 am, Chris awoke to the police pounding on his door. They had a warrant for 11-year-old Jordan’s arrest. They took him to the police station and resumed questioning. The young man wasn’t just a suspect in his step-mother’s murder, he was the prime suspect.
It had been barely 18 hours since Kenzie was killed and already, Chris had lost his fiancee, unborn son, and his only remaining son. The arrest of an allegedly murderous fifth-grader quickly found its way onto the Internet and onto network news. Millions were watching this small Pennsylvania town. As for Jordan, he seemed to have no idea what was happening.
Change of Story
Jordan’s second interview revealed that not only had he seen a “black truck” in the driveway, he’d also seen someone inside it. He had changed his story, albeit slightly, but enough that his soon-to-be half-sister’s account cemented in their minds that he might be lying. Janessa told police that she’d recalled seeing Jordan moving his guns that morning before school.
This recollection was hardly an innocuous detail, it also happened to be something that Jordan had omitted entirely from his own description. Not only that, but Janessa recalled waiting in the living room for Jordan when she heard a “big boom” echo through the house. It sounded to her like a gunshot, but when Jordan appeared none the worse for wear, he didn’t think anything of it.
Learned to Shoot
Kenzie’s death had been caused by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, possibly by a 20-gauge shotgun.The Brown household held a number of handguns, rifles, shotguns, including a 20-gauge one, and several rounds of ammunition. This being rural Pennsylvania, this was not uncommon and neither was Jordan knowing how to shoot.
Jordan assured them that he hadn’t touched any gun that morning, but the smell of gunpowder and the youth model shotgun in the home told a different story. They even found a perfect shotgun shell in the driveway. Still even working on the idea that Jordan was jealous of his new baby brother, all of this might not be enough to charge him with the crime. Especially with the media frenzy surrounding the case.
Kenzie’s old boyfriend, Adam Harvey was another suspect the police originally liked for the murder. He too drove a black truck but investigators quickly determined that it would have been impossible for him to have made the 24-mile drive over to the house without disturbing the snow on his hood from earlier that day. He also didn’t seem to know where Kenzie lived.
Not His Kid
Of course, Harvey also just discovered that 4-year-old Adalynn, was not his biological daughter as he once believed her to be. He admitted to police that he and Kenzie argued about money but much as that seemed like viable motive on his part, it still couldn’t be him. Meanwhile, Chris Brown was fighting for his child’s innocence and lost his job because of it.
The following years saw Jordan Brown fighting for his freedom and reading the fantasy books his father brought for him. He maintained his innocence the whole time and never changed his story. More than two years after he was charged, the now-13-year-old was moved out of adult and back to juvenile court. He was no longer facing life in prison.
There was a chance that Jordan could be released much earlier, but it would be another eight months before he would stand trial for double homicide – one count for the mother, one for the baby. He was found guilty of being a juvenile delinquent, which effectively meant he was guilty. In prison, he taught himself guitar and how to play basketball, but it was still a prison. Meanwhile, his father kept fighting for his freedom.
Jordan’s conviction was eventually overturned due to insufficient evidence. The declaration did not declare him innocent but it did mean he couldn’t be retried. After nine-and-a-half years, Chris Brown felt as if a great weight had been lifted off him and his family. He and Jordan finally felt vindicated in their assertions that Jordan hadn’t committed that terrible crime.
Convinced of Guilt
Of course, Kenzie’s family remains convinced that Jordan is responsible and that he was released on what is essentially a technicality. They still believe that he should receive the maximum punishment and even that he should be tried as an adult. Whoever killed Kenzie certainly did something that day, they tore apart what could have been a loving, happy family.