Details of Disappearance Brandon was last seen in Indianapolis, Indiana sometime in July or August 1992. In July, his mother, Michelle Engron Jones, traveled to Detroit, Michigan with a friend to attend a theater conference. She told her friend that Brandon was with a babysitter. He has never been seen again.
Jones was only fifteen years old when Brandon was born. Her mother threw her out of the house when she became pregnant, and she spent the next several years in the foster care system. Brandon's paternal grandmother raised him until he was three. After Jones turned eighteen, she began caring for him.
The last time Brandon's grandmother saw him was shortly after his fourth birthday, when she drove by the mosque where Jones worshipped and saw him playing outside. His grandmother and father made efforts to see him between 1991 and 1993, and left messages with Jones about it as often as several times a week. But Jones stopped returning their calls and moved, and when Brandon's father mailed child support checks to Jones, they were returned to him unopened.
In January 1994, Jones checked herself into the Midtown Community Mental Health Center and told counselors there that she had severely beaten Brandon and left him alone in his room for at least a week, with food and water lying out in saucers on the floor. When she finally returned, she found Brandon dead. She said she wrapped his body in a blanket and dumped it, uncovered, along north Interstate 65 in Clinton County, Indiana, near Lafayette.
The mental health workers contacted police. Authorities made repeated attempts to find Brandon's remains, but failed. In September 1995, Jones was charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent. Photos of her are posted with this case summary.
Referring to Brandon's disability, Jones had told his paternal grandmother that she "didn't want to raise a freak." Her apartment manager recalled seeing hundreds of flies swarming in Brandon's bedroom during the summer of 1992. Jones had told the apartment manager that Brandon had wet the bed and the flies were attracted by the smell of urine.
Police searched through the records for any evidence of Brandon's existence after mid-1992, and could find nothing. There was never any evidence that he received treatment for his disability. He was never enrolled in school. Jones had him listed as a dependent on her taxes and with her health insurance, but later had his name removed from both. She had him listed as a beneficiary on her life insurance, but then removed him and had a friend listed instead.
Authorities found bloodstains in the carpeting throughout the apartment where Jones and Brandon had lived, in the 3600 block of Alexandria Court. Witnesses also testified that Brandon had been repeatedly abused in the months leading up to his disappearance, and often had bruises. One witness said Jones repeatedly hit Brandon with a shoe, and that Jones would leave her son with friends for days at a time.
Jones was charged with Brandon's murder in October 1996. At her trial, a forensic expert testified that a decaying body would attract flies to the extent described by the apartment manager, but that urine would not. A neighbor testified to seeing Jones repeatedly washing out the inside of her car during the summer Brandon disappeared. Some of Jones's friends and acquaintances testified about her abuse of Brandon, and one witness testified that when she asked Jones if she had beaten Brandon to death, Jones replied, "I guess so."
Jones's defense tried to mitigate her crime by arguing that she had been abused as a child and was not prepared for motherhood, but she was convicted of murder and neglect of a dependent and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
While incarcerated in the Indiana Women's Prison, she got a degree from Ball State University, published papers on the subject of American history and presented her work by video to history conferences. She and other inmates won a prize in 2016 for the Indiana Historical Society's best research project. She also wrote dance compositions and plays.
In 2017, Jones was released from prison after serving twenty years of her sentence. She had been accepted into graduate programs at four universities, and is now working towards a doctorate in American Studies from New York University.
Brandon's body has never been found.
- Indianapolis Police Department
Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated April 11, 2019; middle name and date of birth added, distinguishing characteristics and details of disappearance updated.