Corey Brown ran away from home early last week, in the middle of a snowstorm, after his parents confiscated his cellphone. On Monday, police confirmed they found his body a mile from his Marshalltown, Iowa home. And no one yet knows how he died.
Brown, 13, was last seen Tuesday night after that “disciplinary discussion” with his parents. The argument, according to Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper, was not out of the ordinary or uncommon, though the eighth-grader may have acted out as a result.
Tupper confirmed that Brown’s body was found around 10:45 a.m. on Sunday in a “secluded area” on the west side of the city about an hour outside of Des Moines.
On Tuesday evening, around 11:15 p.m., after his parents and his older brother Sammy fell asleep, Corey walked out the front door of the family home and into a snowstorm, police said on Monday.
Surveillance cameras outside the house showed the eighth-grader wearing a coat and knit stocking cap outside in weather that included wind chills dipping well below zero.
When Brown’s parents realized their teen son was missing the next morning, they alerted Marshalltown police and the small town of 27,000 sprung into action to find the boy. By that afternoon, more than 200 people wearing snow gear joined a search party that gathered outside of St. Henry Catholic Church in below-freezing temperatures.
About six inches of snow fell early last week, and temperatures reached about 9 degrees below zero most days, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s been dangerously cold the last week and when the town learned that Corey Brown was missing,” Charlotte Santana, a 35-year-old Mashalltwon resident, told The Daily Beast. “No one can survive in those conditions so we all felt the time crunch.”
The brutal weather eventually forced authorities to send the citizen search-party home, instead asking homeowners to thoroughly check their homes, buildings, garages, and cars to see if the boy may have been hiding inside.
By Thursday, the FBI, Iowa State Patrol, and four other agencies helped local authorities continue the search. That evening, in the community room of the town’s library, Corey’s parents, Michelle and Craig Brown, and his 16-year-old brother issued a public plea to Corey to return home.
“Corey, if you’re out there, bud, you’re not in trouble, just come home,” his dad said, holding onto their family dog wearing a Seattle Seahawks sweater.
“Please, please just come home. We want you safe at home. We love you so much,” his mom said, fighting back tears. “Parents, if this was your child, you’d want them home too. Get Corey home to us please.”
In solidarity with the Brown family, Marshalltown residents tied green ribbons around trees and poles throughout town, and put green bulbs on their porch lights in support of the teenage boy. A local print shop produced more than 1,000 fliers to display around town, including disseminating them at grocery stores, the Marshalltown Times-Republican reported.
The boy was eventually found on Sunday morning, wearing the same Seattle Seahawks knit cap and a lime green coat he wore when he left his parents’ house five days earlier.
His body was isolated from a roadway and “other normally traveled pathways,” Chief Tupper said, noting how below-freezing temperatures make getting to the location “not easily accessible.”
Police said it is not immediately clear if Corey was familiar with the area where he had been found, nor do they know the circumstances behind his death. While investigators did not find any immediate signs of criminal activity, they plan to investigate all angles.
“There is no evidence or information available which would suggest a crime occurred or that criminal activity led to this death,” Tupper said. “Criminal charges are not being considered at this time. There are no reasons to suspect anything nefarious.”
However, the chief noted, why the 13-year-old boy left home is still a matter for investigation.
“Anyone with kids has had discussions with their children about household rules,” Tupper said. “This was a typical parent-teenager interaction. No anger. Nothing extraordinary.”
He continued: "He was upset and left home. We are trying figure out why and where he may have gone."
"Our hearts bleed for the Brown family," Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer in a statement to The Daily Beast. "The whole city and all well-wishers will keep them in our thoughts and continue our prayers for them.”
The Brown investigation is the second in less nine months for the South Iowa community, after residents spent months trying to find 16-year-old Jake Wilson who never returned from a walk.
In August, his body was found in Wolf Creek, four months after he disappeared.
“We’re finally at peace with Jake’s tragedy and we feel for the Brown family,” Bruce Wilson, Jake’s father, told The Daily Beast on Monday. “It’s an unimaginable situation that our families have been through and we offer them our prayers and support during this terrible time.”
The Brown family declined to comment on the developments in Corey’s case on Monday, asking for “privacy at this time.”
Tupper reiterated this concern on Monday, asking for privacy for the “family who is already dealing with a very traumatic experience.”
“The Brown family has endured a tremendous tragedy,” he said.