by Timmy Chong
The Takoma Park love triangle murder case has come to a close, as a Takoma Park woman and her boyfriend were sentenced to the maximum of 30 years in prison in Montgomery County Circuit Court on July 26.
Cecil Brown was found beaten to death in his own backyard in the 800 block of Colby Ave. by Takoma Park Police on Aug. 4, 2014. Photos shown at the sentencing depicted several gashes on the back of his head and the brutal nature of the crime.
His wife, 71-year-old Larlane Pannell-Brown, and her lover, 51-year-old Hussain Ali Zadeh, were arrested on the counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport on May 28, 2015.
Both Pannell-Brown and Zadeh were convicted of second-degree murder on April 7.
The state’s case was built on letters that confirmed a romantic relationship between Pannell-Brown and Zadeh, as well as hand-written notes in Pannell-Brown’s home that listed several types of poison that would cause death, according to evidence presented in court.
There were also electronic messages between the two defendants and internet searches from her phone that showed premeditation of the murder, according to the Washington Post.
Over a dozen members of Brown’s family were present at the sentencing to support the siblings, children, and grandchildren who came forward to give testimony. They provided anecdotes that detailed Brown’s character and denounced that of his wife.
Bernard Brown, a stepson of the victim, spoke highly of his father. He said that Brown treated him as one of his own children and impressed on him the value of a good education.
“Everything I’ve become is in part because of him… And they killed him,” Brown, a lawyer and Marine veteran, said in the courtroom.
Both defense attorneys pleaded for lesser sentences, citing their defendants’ lack of violent history.
Theresa Chernosky, the assistant public defender for Pannell-Brown, also cited her client’s age and the positive impact she has had in her community as a teacher for disabled students and a hostess of neighborhood block parties.
Lakeisha Brown, a granddaughter of the victim, scowled during the lawyer’s statements. She said she was displeased with the character testimony and that Pannell-Brown deserved a life sentence.
When Judge Gary E. Bair sentenced Pannell-Brown to 30 years in prison, she smiled for the first time that afternoon in the courtroom. “I’m happy about that,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
Zadeh opted to give a final statement after his sentencing, offering his condolences to the family and insisting that he did not kill Brown.
After the sentencing, Brown’s family stood together with Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy at a press conference.
“It’s like putting a backpack down,” said Belinda Brown-Payne, one of Brown’s daughters, at the press conference. “Thirty years was exactly what we were praying for.”
The lawyers for the prosecution and defense declined to comment, but Chernosky and Zadeh’s attorney, Laura Rhodes, said in the courtroom that they would file appeals.