It was a breezy, sunny day in April, 1909. The flowers were beginning to bloom, the birds collecting for their nests, children happily splashing in the mud as their parents tend to their chores. Life is simple, yet good, at least that is what T.H. Brown would have told you. He was happily married to a beautiful, younger woman, successful, and had great friends- or so he thought. After five happy years of marriage to the love of his life, Mr. Brown would have done anything for Nettie. So when Nettie asked him, ever so sweetly, to take out $2500 out of the bank to travel west to Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Mr. Brown saw no harm in carrying out her wishes.
Nettie V. Brown, born Netter Daniels in 1874, had a plan. This plan began taking shape in 1904, when she married Thomas, a single father of a 16 year old boy that was “slight in the head” named Pete. Nettie wanted the good life and saw Mr. Brown as a way to get that good life. He, being 17 years her senior was already wealthy and stable, as a farmer. However, Nettie could not bring herself to love him no matter how hard she tried. By their fourth year of marriage, Mr. Brown found out that Nettie and his son was having an affair. Nettie knew that she would have to act quickly to divorce him, if she was going to get any of his fortune. With that, she immediately tried to file suit for a divorce. Try as she might to take the majority of the wealth, the courts were not going to side with her. Nettie was not going to get anything, and she could not have that.
Nettie decided to convince her husband that she still loved him and the affair was not by her choice. She told him that his son had become too strong for her to hold off and was infatuated with her, Her lies caused strife between father and son. A strife that was carried to the grave. At the same time, she began convincing Pete that they could be happy together if his father was out of the picture. She told Pete how much she loved him, but that his father was mean and hurtful and wouldn’t give her a proper divorce. “No, don’t confront him about it”, she would tell him, “he will just take it out on me later.” At first Nettie, jokingly, suggested to Pete, how if only his father was dead, then they could be married and have his father’s land and money and live happily. As time went on, the joke became more of a plan and for nearly a year she wove her web of lies, whispering love and money into Pete’s ears. Hypnotizing him with passion and lust until she was sure he would do anything she asked.
Finally, the time drew near and Nettie knew it was going to be during her trip with her husband, or never. She would bide her time. She had already convinced Pete that killing his father was the only option and the right thing to do or they could never be together properly. Pete attempted to hire a man to do the killing but the deal fell through, and Pete had second thoughts about it. He wanted to forget the whole thing, but Nettie would not have it. On the night of April 28th, 1909, with the moon high in the sky; the guest have long gone, and all was sleeping, Nettie woke Pete up for the kill. She advised him to use the foot adz and strike Mr. Brown in the head. One strike was made to his temple, then Pete sat back and watched his father’s body quiver and shake until his life force had drained away. Nettie, hurriedly, collected the money that was on him and instructed Pete to burn his father in a fire. In the commotion of them getting the dead body into the fire, Nettie’s young niece woke up. Nettie instructed Pete to choke her to death. But after he had started, she changed her mind and ran to save the child from his clutches. She took the child and lay with her in the wagon, while Pete finished the job. Pete stayed up all night to continue adding wood and oil to the fire until nothing of Mr. Brown was left but a few teeth and bones. Mrs. Nettie Brown slept peacefully that night, holding tightly to her niece.
The next day, they resumed their travels. Calling for friends to help manage the horses now that Mr. Brown had disappeared in the night. She staged a fight with a very, unknowing, Pete so that her young niece would overhear about calling the authorities to help look for her sweet husband. She convinced her friends Cora and Bert Brumfield that she had money that she earned from other sources and would like to deposit it in their account for safe keeping until the matter with her husband was resolved. She deposited a little under $2500.
The relationship between Nettie and Pete changed almost immediately as she began to treat him as a imbecile. When she made it to her sister’s home for a visit, her sister thought it was queer how they acted towards each other. Not of a mother and son, yet not of two lovers either. They were distant and secretive even with each other. The couple remained there three days before Pete headed to Texas. He continued to correspond with Nettie, though she had little interest in him anymore.
Soon, with Pete away from Nettie’s manipulation, he began to think for himself and was burdened with guilt. He turned himself in for the murder of his father and even showed the authorities where his father was burned. But, after listening to his confession and realizing that he was just a boy and unintelligent, the state offered him immunity for his crime, if he testified against Nettie. At the finish of the trial on February 14, 1910, the jury took only three hours to find Nettie V.
Brown guilty of murder and given life in prison. Pete remained in jail until the conclusion of the case and all appeals. Nettie appealed for three years, while doing hard labor in McAlester prison, but all her appeals were denied.
~~ Victoria, Historian
Sourced: Gateway to Oklahoma history, newspaper archives.