Father of Basalt woman murdered in South Africa | AspenTimes.com

Father of Basalt woman murdered in South Africa

Aaron HedgeThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Keith Brown

BASALT – Efforts are under way to help a local couple after the woman’s father was brutally murdered during a robbery at his Johannesburg, South Africa, home about three weeks ago.On June 7, Keith Brown, 75, suffered a sharp blow to the throat while fighting five men who were trying to steal two old Mazda sedans belonging to Brown and his wife, Merle, 67. The blow killed him instantly, said his daughter, Kimbo Brown-Shirato, of Basalt in a phone interview from Walkerville, the Johannesburg suburb where Brown had lived.One of the men is in custody under bail for 3,000 South African rands, the equivalent of about $400, said Eugene Martin, a warrant officer with the Walkerville Community Police.In the weeks since Brown’s murder, Brown-Shirato, her husband Jason Shirato and Merle Brown have been wading through a sea of financial and international red tape, trying to get Merle Brown to the United States, where she can be happy in “her twilight years,” Brown-Shirato said.But after killing Keith Brown and tying Merle Brown up in the driveway of the home, the assailants stole her passport and travel visa, which she had obtained in anticipation of a trip she was planning to the United States later this year. Merle Brown is trying to get the documents back, or renew them.The thieves attacked Brown around 6:20 a.m. after he had backed the cars out of the garage to warm them up. Brown apparently resisted their attempts to gain access to the house, and one of the men panicked and swung a pair of bolt cutters at him. It’s not clear whether the bolt cutters were the murder weapon, Martin said, as they had no blood on them. Merle Brown exited the house several minutes later, wondering where Brown was. One of the men grabbed her, threw her to the ground next to Brown’s body and bound and gagged her with cable and duct tape, with her face pointed away from Brown.”Being the saint she is, she maintained that the one guy was ‘kind,’ as she is sure he shielded her face from seeing my dad’s body, which potentially saved her life too, as she may have panicked upon seeing him dead,” Brown-Shirato said in an e-mail message to a Basalt friend, Rene Van Wieren, who is coordinating a bank account for donations to the family.The men entered the Browns’ home and took numerous belongings, including jewelry, kitchen appliances credit cards and the vehicles. The total worth of the stolen items is about 64,700 rands, or more than $8,000, Martin said.Upon getting the phone call that her father was murdered, Brown-Shirato and her husband quickly scraped together the $7,000 they needed to make it to Johannesburg, and flew there the same day, which happened to be the day the World Cup soccer tournament began in the city.Brown-Shirato said she will return to the valley on July 9. Shirato will stay behind to help Merle Brown sell her home, where she has lived for the last 20 years. Brown-Shirato said she hopes to have her mother in the states by the end of the year.Greater metropolitan Johannesburg, which has a population of more than 10 million people, is notorious for its crime rate, as is South Africa. But some media reports indicate that murder rates are dropping. Still, the most recent data from several online publications, as well as The Washington Post, says murder rate in the country hovers around 51 a day out of a population of 47 million.So far, the travel for Brown-Shirato and Shirato has cost the couple nearly $8,000.Anyone interested in donating to the couple can call Alpine Bank and ask to donate to Kimbo Shirato-Brown or contribute to their PayPal account at https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=ZAL9S929YQ48Y&lc=US&item_name=Keith%20Brown%20Family%20Fund&item_number=Kimbo&currency_code=USD&bn=PP%2dDonationsBF%3abtn_donateCC_LG%2egif%3aNonHosted .ahedge@aspentimes.com

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