The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

November 8, 2012

Local couple dead in apparent murder-suicide

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — A Franklin couple died in an apparent murder-suicide, Delaware County deputies said Wednesday.

The bodies of Willis and Wendy Brown were found at about 6:45 a.m. Wednesday in their home in the village of Franklin, Delaware County Sheriff Thomas Mills said Wednesday. Both had been shot, and it appears that the husband shot the wife, Mills said, but further details won’t be available until autopsies are complete.

Willis Brown was a professor of applied sciences and building technologies at the State University College of Technology at Delhi, and Wendy Brown was a financial adviser with the Morgan McReynolds Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Oneonta.

John Campbell, Franklin mayor, said the Browns were well-known in the village, which has a population of about 500 residents, and the reaction by the community to the deaths was “tremendous shock.’’

“It’s a terrible tragedy — a terrible loss — the community’s sympathies go out to the family,’’ Campbell said. “It’s a very tough thing to deal with. You ask yourself why and how. It’s just very tragic.’’

Wendy Brown was active in the community and known to be a willing helper, Campbell said.

“She loved Franklin,’’ Campbell said. “She was an outstanding person, a very nice person. She just was a very good citizen. … She’s going to be tremendously missed.’’

Christine Jockle, a spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley in the New York City area, said she had no information about Brown to share other than “our hearts go out to the family.’’

A biography on the Morgan Stanley website said Wendy Brown specialized in retirement and investment planning. Her background included nursing, and she had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She listed community activities as the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, Rotary and Franklin Stage Company.

“I think everyone is just in shock, and it’s impossible to find the words to express our sorrow at this tragedy,’’ Carmela Marner, executive/artistic director of the Franklin Stage Company.

“For nine years, Wendy was an invaluable member of FSC’s Board of Trustees,’’ Marner said. “She, Willis and their two wonderful sons have been a precious addition to the FSC community and to Franklin.’’

At SUNY Delhi, the deaths of the Browns were reported by University Police to administrators as unexpected, unattended deaths, Joel Smith, vice president for college relations at SUNY Delhi, said early Wednesday afternoon. Willis had been a faculty member at the campus since 2005, Smith said.

“Our campus is terribly saddened by today’s tragic news,’’ Smith said Wednesday afternoon. Counselors were available at the campus, he said.

At midday Wednesday, yellow police tape surrounded the white clapboard house on Main Street in the village, and two deputy patrol cars were parked at opposite ends of the property.

Dr. Richard Ucci,

Delaware County medical examiner, and county District Attorney Richard Northrup were at the scene, said deputies who withheld further details pending autopsy results. The State Police Forensic Investigation Unit is assisting in the investigation.

Neighbor Larry Archbold, who said he moved to Franklin from Wisconsin two months ago, described the couple as “good folks,” although he didn’t know the couple well. He said he saw them in the yard regularly, doing things like raking leaves.

Archbold said that in the time he lived diagonally across the street from the house there had been no hint of trouble, noise or arguments.

“Nothing usually goes on in Franklin,” he said. Archbold said he saw authorities take two gurneys into the house at about 11:30 a.m. but didn’t see the gurneys removed.

A woman in Franklin who declined to give her name, said the couple had two sons, 18 and 24 years old. Several other residents refused to talk Wednesday about the Browns.

Willis Brown, an engineer who taught electrical instrumentation and controls in the technology division, was known on campus as a leader, Smith said. The college president and provost met to console faculty, Smith said, and faculty and counselors met with students in classes to share the news.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends,’’ Smith said.

Willis Brown had a bachelor’s degree in physics from the State University College at Oneonta and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Syracuse University, according to the SUNY Delhi website.

Before joining SUNY Delhi, he worked for Morningstar facilities in Wisconsin and Virginia, Smith said, and he did corporate training for Friesland Campina Domo, Kraft, The Raymond Corp., and Unisom Industries.

Willis Brown was recognized as Faculty Tutor of the Year for 2012 by the SUNY Delhi Learning Center, Smith said. He also developed programs for the campus’s Office for Training and Business Recruitment. 

Daily Star staff writer Richard Whitby contributed to this report.