Kokomo — Pieces of Ginger Gasaway’s body were discarded in three counties.
It was Joseph W. Brown’s way of hiding the evidence of his crime, murdering the woman he formerly called a lover.
The crime still haunts investigators who crossed Brown’s path. One journalist described him as “a force of evil.” Now investigators say that force fell upon Charles Miller. Police say Brown strangled and killed the former Howard County resident in a cell at the Miami Correctional Facility at Bunker Hill.
Ginger Gasaway broke up with Brown 11 summers ago.
The punishment for that, in Brown’s mind, was death.
A cruel, humiliating death.
Brown talked his way into her apartment Aug. 29, 2000.
“Gasaway was sorry for dating her ex-husband and knew she was going to die,” said Maureen Hayden, a newspaper reporter Brown sought out after his murder conviction in 2001.
“Gasaway even cried a little during sex, knowing that her punishment for betrayal was coming.”
After strangling Gasaway with a shoe lace, Brown headed to a nearby Home Depot in Evansville to buy an electric saw. He unsuccessfully tried to dismember his victim’s body, so he returned to the hardware store looking for advice, according to court records from Brown’s murder conviction.
This time, he was covered in blood. He told the clerk he was trying to cut up a deer and the saw he bought wasn’t cutting it. With a new blade in hand, Brown returned to Gasaway’s apartment to finish his work.
The job turned out to be harder than he expected, so Brown made himself bacon, toast and coffee before going about the work of scattering pieces of Gasaway’s body in Posey, Gibson and Warrick counties.
It’s the stuff of Hayden’s nightmares and the novel “Blood Trails” written by Rick Reed, an Evansville Police Department investigator in Gasaway’s murder.
Formerly a reporter with the Evansville Courier & Press, Hayden corresponded with Brown through letters and collect phone calls from the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility at Carlisle.
Brown first contacted Hayden by letter, writing that he wanted to confess to 13 other murders.
Brown claimed to have killed women — prostitutes and co-eds he picked up hitchhiking — from Las Vegas to Pennsylvania.
Little to no evidence surfaced on Brown’s claims to be a serial killer, Reed said. Brown himself couldn’t even lead police to the bodies, nor recall the victims’ names.
But one name he did know was Andrea Hendrix-Steinert, a prostitute in Gibson County.
Eventually, Reed said, investigators from the Vanderburgh County law enforcement agencies, with help from the FBI, determined Brown’s claims to be untrue.
In the Hendrix-Steinert case, there was no DNA match for Brown or the other suspects, so officials opted to not prosecute a 5-year-old case.
But Reed, now retired from the force, said he is convinced Brown killed Hendrix-Steinert in 1998.
“I don’t know about the other 12,” Reed said. “I think he killed many other people. We just don’t know the names, where or when.”
Reed has company in thinking Gasaway isn’t Brown’s only victim.
It’s easier for someone who has killed before to kill again, said Stan Levco, former prosecutor in Vanderburgh County where Brown’s murder case was tried.
“When he made the claims [to have killed 13 women], it was not a matter of his not murdering someone before, just not that number,” he said.
But why kill Miller?
Reed has a theory. He said Brown wants a single-bed cell and a pet, both of which you get on death row.
At the request of Gasaway’s family, Levco didn’t seek the death penalty. Brown was sentenced in 2001 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“[Brown] had a hard time in the general population,” Reed said. “He’s paranoid and has conflicting emotions all the time about his sexuality.”
In his confession to Indiana State Police Detective Mike Tarrh after Miller’s death June 19, Brown said he packed his personal belongings after the killing, knowing he would be transferred.
“It was bound to happen,” Reed said of Miller’s death.
When he was in prison the first time, Reed said, Brown tried to beat another inmate to death with an industrial can opener. It took several people to pull him off. For that, Brown received an additional five-year sentence.
For whatever reason he committed his crimes, Joseph Brown will be etched in the minds of the journalist and investigators who talked with him.
“It does freak me out,” Hayden said when she learned of Brown’s latest victim.
“I’m nauseated,” she said. “I feel like I had when he wrote me letters. It was very disturbing. The encounter was a vivid reminder that there is evil in the world. It felt like a force of evil.”
For Reed, Brown played a role in his retirement.“I didn’t want to work another murder case like that,” Reed said.