Becky Brown had a hunch she was in for a long fight when she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Diego in December 2014 — alleging that the San Diego Police Department mishandled a murder investigation that led her husband, a former crime lab worker, to kill himself.
Two years later, the case still hasn’t gone to trial, but that’s okay with the retired high school teacher. Brown just wants to clear her dead husband Kevin Brown’s name — insisting that he’s innocent of the grisly 1984 murder of a teenage girl that cold case detectives say he committed.
“When we first filed this the judge warned me, ‘You do realize this is going to go on for another year or two? This doesn’t happen fast,’ ” Becky tells PEOPLE. “And I told him, ‘That’s okay. I just have to do what I have to do. I’m in this for as long as I’m alive.’ “
Kevin Brown first made headlines in October 2014 when San Diego police announced that they had used DNA evidence to crack the three-decades-old murder and sexual assault of Claire Hough on a San Diego beach. The only problem was that their suspect – who had worked in the city’s crime lab for decades – hanged himself before the authorities claimed they could arrest him.
“He knew he was under investigation,” San Diego Police Lt. Paul Rorrison told PEOPLE at the time. “Unfortunately, he committed suicide before we could take him into custody.”
Becky insists her 62-year-old husband, who she describes as “nerdy and socially awkward and didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” is innocent.
“They kept pushing Kevin until he killed himself,” she told PEOPLE not long after his death. “Then they announced, ‘Case closed.’ ”
Any DNA linking her husband to the crime, she contends, came from accidental “cross contamination” during his work at the crime lab.
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Using DNA found on evidence taken from the crime scene, police also identified a second suspect in the murder – convicted rapist Ronald Tatro, who died in a boating accident in 2011.
Police have never been able to explain how Brown might have known Tatro, who spent several years in an Arkansas prison for sexually assaulting a woman at knifepoint. “That’s one of our mysteries,” admits Lt. Rorrison.
Depositions of San Diego police officers and crime lab workers connected with the case are expected to wrap up in mid January and Brown’s lawsuit is expected to finally go to trial in May 2017.
“It’s been stressful,” says Becky, 62, who recently “semi-retired” from her longtime teaching because of the strain she felt from the case. “But I’ve started trying to not talk about it all the time and finally living my again. I can’t stay locked up in my bedroom, crying for the rest of my life.”