Police: DNA links suspect to death
New details have emerged in the violent September slaying of Shaun Hartley, a key witness in an upcoming murder trial who authorities say was beaten to death with a wooden board inside the abandoned half of a duplex in north Baton Rouge.
On Sept. 18, about a week after Hartley, 31, was found dead inside a blood-soaked back room of a trash-filled duplex, Baton Rouge police arrested Jeremy Daniel Brown, 29, of Baton Rouge, and accused him of second-degree murder.
At the time, police provided few details about the circumstances that led up to the grisly killing and Brown’s alleged involvement, other than saying the two men had argued outside the Wenonah Street residence prior to Hartley’s death.
Investigators, however, had already collected a sample of Brown’s DNA, which they believed would link him to the bloody wooden two-by-four board found by detectives at the duplex.
The link they were looking for was there, according to preliminary DNA tests conducted by State Police Crime Lab analysts. The results were described in a search warrant for Brown’s DNA, which was recently returned to District Judge Mike Erwin.
Brown, who has been held on a $200,000 bail at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison since Sept. 18, did not deny that he was present at the duplex on that warm September morning.
Witnesses have said they saw a man “with golds” in his teeth and a sliced wrist — both attributes Brown shared — arguing with Hartley that morning and later saw him following him into the duplex while carrying a wooden board, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Brown is also accused of hurling pipes and bricks at Hartley as he hid underneath the abandoned residence, a place Hartley used to frequent because he knew the former residents, a family member previously told The Advocate.
Brown told detectives his wrist was sliced while at the residence that morning after an unknown man struck him with a pipe. But witnesses said Brown cut himself while hurling pipes at a cowering Hartley, according to the probable cause document.
An autopsy revealed Hartley died of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and chest during the beating, which took place only a week after his release from parish prison following a monthlong stay for a prostitution arrest.
At the time, he was being looked after by prosecutors as part of some relatively small-scale witness protection services offered by the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office.
But prosecutors have acknowledged they lost track of him after his last release from prison, only days before he was found dead.