FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio – Family members of the woman killed in a double murder in the Cleveland Metroparks are pleading for tips that may lead to the killer.
Kate Brown, 33, and longtime friend Carnell Sledge, 40, were each shot in the head while sitting on a riverside bench in the Rocky River Reservation at about 5:15 p.m. on June 4. No arrests have been made in the case.
Now, nearly two months later, Brown’s family is speaking publicly for the first time in hopes that it will generate information that will help the investigation.
“It's excruciating. You can't get it out of your mind,” Brown’s father, Tom Brown, said.
Her parents said they learned of the murders when Metroparks Police officers knocked at their home in the middle of the night.
“When the knock came at the door at ten minutes of three, I just couldn't believe it, couldn't believe it,” said her mother, Kim Brown. “Still can't believe it. No, there was no indication.”
Brown’s family has struggled to make sense of the brazen killings or the motive.
“I wake up, the first thing I think of is my beautiful daughter, our daughter, their sister, shot in the head, laying face down in a polluted, muddy river and somebody just walks away,” Tom Brown said.
The murders occurred at a bench that’s just 70 feet from busy Valley Parkway near the Lorain Road bridge on a sunny day, at a time when the park would usually be filled with people.
“It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” Kim Brown said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Relatives said Brown went to the park often and regularly exercised there.
She lived in the nearby Fairview Village Apartments on Lorain Road. FBI agents were at her apartment Saturday to interview neighbors.
Her sister, Lauren Rao, described Brown as kind-hearted and the life of the party. She said Brown was very involved with her family and close with her young nieces and nephews.
“The person who did this took Kate away from all of us. Not only us but our kids, and all those memories that we had to look forward to are gone in an instant,” Rao said. “I just miss her. I miss her so much.”
Investigators continued to serve warrants and review data from cell phone records and social media accounts.
Brown’s sister, Alex Zuban, said she never expressed concern about problems or threats before the murder.
“I think that if she had, she would've been really vocal about it,” Zuban said. “She was on a couple dating apps, she was on Tinder, which sparked my curiosity, and I instantly thought it was possible somebody that she had dated in the past, that it didn't end well.”
She said investigators were exploring those avenues.
“She never was mean to people, and she was respectful, so I can't imagine that somebody would have a vendetta against her like that, but that's where, initially, my train of thought went, was a guy that she had dated," Zuban said.
While nothing will bring Brown back, relatives said they hoped an arrest may bring closure.
“I would like for our family and Nell's family to have closure, to at least know who did it and possibly by knowing who did it, why they did it,” Kim Brown said.
Tom Brown said the family is praying for a breakthrough, hoping people who were in the park on the day of the murders may recall something out of the ordinary.
“Any clue at all, don't think it doesn't mean anything because it might mean something,” Brown said. “With your help, with the public's help, we'll catch this guy or these people.”
Tips can be called to the Cleveland office of the FBI 24 hour a day at (216) 622-6842. A $22,500 reward is available for tips leading to an arrest and prosecution.