Paul Brian Brooks, 70, and Margaret Susan Brooks, 69, had been married for almost 50 years. They had three sons, three daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. The couple were originally from Canada, but had moved to Baldwin, Michigan, after Paul retired from the auto industry in Detroit.
In early 2013, the couple had been spending the winter at their family’s cabin near Table Rock Lake in Missouri. On the 31st of January, 2013, a neighbour of the couple could hear some strange noises coming from inside their cabin.1 As he looked outside, he could see two unfamiliar teenagers who appeared to be taking items from the Brooks’ resident to a nearby vacant home.
After witnessing the suspicious event, the neighbour called police to report what he had seen and then held the two teenagers at gunpoint as he waited for them to arrive. Police arrived and detained the two teenagers. They then entered the cabin owned by the Brooks. Inside, they were met by a horrific scene.
There was blood throughout several rooms inside the home. In the bedroom, they found the lifeless bodies of Paul and Susan. They had both been stabbed and bludgeoned to death with some kind of heavy object. There was evidence that they had been killed in the kitchen and then dragged into the bedroom.
In the car outside which the two juveniles were using to carry items from the Brooks’ home to the vacant home, police found a wooden bed post that was smeared with blood. In the teenagers’ pockets, police found credit cards and driver’s licenses belonging to the couple.
Outside, the two juveniles made no effort to deny the murders. When they were asked if anybody was inside the cabin, one replied: “I killed them. I beat them with a baseball bat and stabbed them.”2
They were arrested, and they were identified as 15-year-old Christopher Allen and 16-year-old Anthony Zarro. They were charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and felony burglary.
Upon their arrest, a police officer asked Zarro to see his hands so that he could swab them for evidence. Zarro chillingly replied: “Why do you need to do that, I already told you I killed them.”3
In the wake of the murders, the Brooks family released a statement which read:
“This was a senseless act of violence carried out upon a defenseless, loving couple. Their lives were tragically cut short a few months before their 50th wedding anniversary. Yet, in this truly difficult time, we see evidence of God’s abundant grace and have many things to be thankful for.”4
It was uncovered that Allen and Zarro had ran away from a nearby Christian youth camp for at-risk teenagers, Lives Under Construction Ranch.
The facility was a 186-acre ranch near the Missouri-Arkansas line. From here, they broke into an unoccupied home near the cabin of the Brooks, and they had been staying here for the past two days. Currently, there was no notification system in place to notify nearby residents when an occupant escapes. This was something law enforcement were wanting to change.5
The state Children’s Division, which oversees residential youth facilities, would suspect the Lives Under Construction Ranch to give it time to “process the incident.” It was the fifth time that the facility had been suspended. The first time came in 2001, when a 14-year-old was killing while trying to run away. The facility was suspended again in 2004, 2008 and 2011. Issues included sexual contact among residents and failure to immediately seek medical help for a boy with a broken leg.6
In June, an alert system was set up at the Lives Under Construction Ranch. This meant that going forward, if a juvenile escaped then the Stone County Sheriff’s office would alert residents living in the vicinity.7
Due to the severity of the murders, it was decided that Zarro and Allen would be charged as adults, which meant that the case would be handled by the Stone County prosecuting attorney’s office as opposed to the county’s Juvenile Department.
The trial was scheduled for September of 2015, but when the trial date rolled around, Zarro appeared in court to plead guilty to first-degree burglary. He was sentenced to ten years in prison that would run concurrently with any other sentence he receive in the case.8
The murder trial was then pushed back to March of 2015. In February, Zarro pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second degree murder. The plea had come as part of a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty in exchange of a sentence of life plus 15 years which would keep Zarro incarcerated for at least 40 years.9
Allen’s trial was scheduled for the 19th of April, but before then, he too pleaded guilty to the murders and burglary. He was sentenced to life plus ten years for the burglary.10
With Zarro and Allen behind bars, the family of the Brooks would file a lawsuit against Lives Under Construction, accusing them of not adequately supervising the teenagers before they escaped.11 A jury would ultimately decide that the facility was not liable and the lawsuit was thrown out.
- Associated Press, 1 February, 2013 – “Double Homicide Reported in SW Missouri County”
- NBC – 3 KYTV, 23 April, 2013 – “Judge Certifies Juveniles to be Tried” as Adults”
- Lake County Star, 28 February, 2013 – “I Already Told You I Killed Them”
- Kalamazoo Gazette, 6 February, 2013 – “Slain Baldwin Couple Beaten, Stabbed”
- Lake County Star, 7 February, 2013 – “Lake County Couple Found Murdered on Vacation in Missouri”
- Associated Press, 29 April, 2013 – “Mo. Ranch Suspects Ran Away”
- Associated Press, 13 June, 2013 – “Alert System Set Up”
- Associated Press, 14 September, 2015 – “Double Homicide Suspect Pleads Guilty”
- ABC – 33 KSPR, 19 February, 2016 – “Teen Pleads Guilty to Killing Couple”
- Associated Press, 26 March, 2016 – “Second Defendant Gets Life Term in Deaths of Michigan Couple”
- Associated Press, 8 August, 2016 – “Family Sues Missouri Boys Ranch After Couple Killed”