'Exactly what I needed': From life of crime to life of faith, man looks to help those in dark places

Published: Sunday, Feb. 10 2013 7:05 p.m. MST

"I tried to picture in my mind Jojo running back down the golf course after all this is done," Brown said. "There's not much I can do at this point, there was a gun and my wrists were tied. … It was just an intellectual battle at this time."

He heard faint gunshots. When the group returned, Brandstatt was not with them.

He had been shot three times execution style and his body was left at the ninth hole.

Brown panicked. He said he told them he knew more people downtown who had money. He offered to steal a car. Eventually, after a trip to the Salt Lake Main Library yielded nothing, he offered to rob a convenience store.

He hit three, coming away with cash from two of the locations. At the third stop, he hit the cashier with his gun when she only offered $20 from the register.

"It wasn't a hard hit, but I did hit her and nothing can justify that and I feel terrible even thinking about doing that," Brown said.

When he left the convenience store, he saw his four captors inside his getaway car that was stuck at a stoplight. That's when he decided to make a run from the group, hopping the fence of a nearby gated community. Once inside, he approached a woman and asked to borrow her phone to call his mother. He eventually talked her and another woman into giving him a ride to his mother's home.

"I'm thankful I got to be in the car with them because I eventually told them what happened to me and it was me telling them that they (then) went to the police," Brown said of the two women. "My plan was retaliation. I wasn't thinking of going to the police at all, but they went to the police and told them where they dropped me off.

"It was perfect and it was exactly what I needed even though I didn't know it at the time."

The police arrived and took Brown into custody. Though reluctant to cooperate, he told them what had happened and led them to Brandstatt's body.

Brown was booked into jail on Feb. 6, 2009, and remained in custody until Jan. 18, 2011.

"I felt like this was an opportunity for me to do things a little differently, but I also … wanted revenge and I wanted them to let me go so I could get revenge," Brown said. "It was mixed. I wanted to change. I wanted revenge. And it did feel like it was over and I was so thankful to be alive, but even going from being duct-taped to handcuffed, it still felt like it was going on.

"There was a lot of mixed emotions. I was sad about my friend."

He held onto the anger for close to a year. In December 2009, he was transferred to the Utah County Jail and asked to be placed in solitary, so he could be alone with his thoughts. He started to think more about his life and what he wanted for his future.

"I realized that my life wasn't going so well and I didn't want that type of future for me," Brown said. "I wanted to eventually have a family and be good to society. I didn't want to end my life in death or prison because of my ignorant choices. I just wanted something better."

After some time, he decided he wanted to read the Bible.

"I viewed myself as a regular Christian, nothing religious or anything, but it just didn't feel like it was the right time to read the Bible," Brown said. "I decided to try and read the Book of Mormon again."

He asked a guard to bring him a copy of the book, and he did, the next day.

"The minute I touched that book, I'd read it once before, I knew it was true," Brown said. "I started applying all that stuff into this solitary situation and my thoughts became clearer, and I was gaining a better perspective of who I was and what I needed to do with the situation."

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