TIFTON -- A man who crashed his car on Interstate 75 Friday afternoon near Eldorado after a high-speed chase has been charged with murdering his sister-in-law, a popular deejay at MIX 103 in Destin, Fla.
William Edward "Ed" Brown, 34, faces a variety of charges from local officials following Friday's chase and faces charges of felony murder and grand theft auto from officials in Florida.
Brown's mother found the body of Valerie Tara Brown, 29, last week in a vacant townhouse at Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Authorities in Okaloosa County are not yet releasing the cause of the woman's death.
For two years, Valerie Brown served as the radio station's midday personality. When she didn't show up for work last Wednesday for her 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift, co-workers became suspicious. Her stepfather reported her missing to authorities.
"There was no explanation for her no-show and she was reliable and dependable," said Corporal Rick Hord, public information officer with the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Department. "It was out of character for her and everyone was very concerned.
"This has had quite an impact on the community, even outside the immediate community."
Hord said the last time anyone reportedly saw Valerie Brown alive was Tuesday at 11 p.m.
"She left her house to take her brother-in-law home and never returned home," Hord said. "Then, she didn't show up for the night class at the local college and she had a test that night."
Hord said Ed Brown lived approximately 10 miles from Valerie Brown's home in Mary Esther, Fla.
Hord said the owner of the townhouse where Brown's body was discovered hired Richetta Brown, Valerie Brown's mother-in-law and the mother of Ed Brown, to clean the vacant unit.
"She (Richetta Brown) went there at noon on Thursday on a routine thing. The doors were locked and she used the key. She found Valerie's body inside," Hord said.
Hord said authorities there were already looking for both Valerie and Ed Brown. They had earlier issued felony fugitive murder and grand theft auto warrants for Brown and had developed information that he was in Georgia, specifically southbound on I-75.
"Late Thursday or early Friday morning, we got information that he was somewhere on I-75 north of Atlanta and was headed south," Hord said. "We made sure all the agencies along that route were aware of him."
Officials with the Tift County Sheriff's Department received the bulletin early Friday that Brown was wanted for questioning in the homicide. They also received a tip he might be in the area.
Major Jack Woolard of the TCSO said information came from Crisp County that Brown was on a telephone in Tift County making a call. Authorities traced the number through E-911 to a pay phone located at Central Avenue and I-75. Later, a number Brown had called was also traced to Lenox.
Woolard said Lt. Chris Owens first spotted Valerie Brown's silver 1997 Honda traveling east in front of Carter's Fried Chicken on Seventh Street. Owens contacted Woolard, who was getting off I-75 at U.S. Highway 82 and headed east.
When Brown refused to stop, Owens and Woolard thought they would be able to pen him in when they were stopped by a train. But Brown turned around and traveled west on Seventh Street and then south on I-75. Speeds on Seventh Street exceeded 60 miles an hour and approached 115 miles an hour on I-75 during the chase.
At one point, Sgt. Julie Thompson of the Tifton Police Department joined the pursuit ahead of Owens and Woolard. Her patrol vehicle was damaged, but no officers were injured in the incident. Other TCSO deputies, TPD officers, a Cook County unit and an officer with the Lenox Police Department were involved in the chase.
The chase ended just north of Eldorado when Brown drove the Honda into the rear end of an 18-wheeler.
"He unbuckled his seat belt and went straight under the truck," Woolard said.
The Honda then spun around and hit a guardrail.
Tift County Emergency Medical personnel transported Brown to Tift Regional Medic
al Center where he was treated for minor lacerations from broken glass and released to the TCSO. He waived his extradition in a court hearing Monday and local authorities were expecting Florida officials to pick him up before the day's end.
Hord praised local officials for their cooperation in the case and the care they have given to the Honda, which will also be shipped to the Florida Crime Lab for analysis.
To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.
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