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Jury Selection Begins In ‘Backpage Murder’ Case

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James Brown appears in court with attorney Jeff Cojocar in 2012. (credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ Newsradio 950)

James Brown appears in court with attorney Jeff Cojocar in 2012. (credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ Newsradio 950)

MOUNT CLEMENS (WWJ/AP) - A trial is starting for a Detroit-area man charged with killing four women after meeting them through online escort ads.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Macomb County Circuit Court in trial of James Brown, who is charged with killing the women in pairs on two occasions at his Sterling Heights home and dumping their bodies in Detroit in 2011.

Brown told police that he met the women on Backpage.com, which carries personal ads. Police said three of the women had ties to ads for escort services on the website.

The bodies of 24-year-old Demesha Hunt and 23-year-old Renisha Landers were found Dec. 19, 2011 in separate car trunks in Detroit. Then, on Christmas Day 2011, the bodies of two additional women, 29-year-old Natasha Curtis and 28-year-old Vernithea McCrary, were found in the trunk of burning car.

Detroit detective Derryck Thomas testified that Brown admitted he was with the women in his basement when they died. Thomas said Brown told him that he fell asleep and found the women lifeless when he woke up.

Dr. Francisco Diaz, an assistant Wayne County medical examiner, testified that the victims died of asphyxiation, a lack of oxygen to the brain. Diaz said it’s possible for someone to be asphyxiated without a struggle, especially if the attacker is larger than the victim. Brown is a large, muscular man who could have killed the women as he sat on them, Diaz said.

Detectives say Brown also admitted to burning two of the women’s bodies after putting them in a car and driving to the east side. Another investigator testified that Brown’s DNA was found under the victims’ fingernails and blood was found in Brown’s house that matches the victims.

Brown is charged in Macomb County, where the deaths are alleged to have occurred, with four counts of first degree murder, four counts of disinterment and mutilation of a dead body, one count of arson of real property, and one count of arson of personal property. He faces life in prison if convicted as charged.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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