By Beth Fisher

DETROIT (WWJ) James Brown, 24, of Sterling Heights was arraigned Saturday and ordered held on a $1 million bond for his alleged role in a series of crimes that have been dubbed “The Backpage” murders.

Brown pleaded not guilty to charges of arson, mutilation of a dead body and disinternment in 36th District Court in Detroit in connection with the murders of four Detroit women, whose bodies were all found in abandoned cars in the city last December.  Police said three of the women had ties to escort ads on the website

The  bodies of 29-year-old Natasha Curtis and 28-year-old Vernithea McCrary were found in a burned out vehicle in Detroit Christmas morning.  The bodies of 25-year-old Demesha Hunt and 24-year-old Renisha Landers were found in the trunk of an abandoned car in Detroit  a few days earlier.

Demesha Hunt’s aunt Rita Hunt thinks the charges aren’t stiff enough — because Brown wasn’t charged with murder. His charges are each 10-year felonies.

“I’m not happy with that at all,” she said.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee praised the work of investigators from Sterling Heights, Detroit police, and the Violent Crimes Task Force, saying this is one of the most high profile cases they’ve handled. But it’s not over.

“We’re not done, we have more work to do,” Godbee said, adding he believes the women were killed outside Detroit and dumped in the city.

Earlier this week, two people were questioned in the case; the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office says the case is still under investigation.


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