I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
Michelle Engron Jones was only 14 years old when she discovered she was pregnant. Her mother, Mae Engron, was enraged at the announcement and kicked Michelle out of the family home after beating her daughter in the stomach with a board. Following this devastating event, Michelle spent her remaining juvenile years in a series of group homes and foster homes, while her son stayed in the care of his paternal grandmother.
In 1990, Michelle finally turned 18 and insisted on raising her son alone. By the end of 1992, Brandon was gone.
The Short Life of Baby Brandon
Brandon Lamarr Sims entered this world on November 11, 1987, at Wishard Hospital (now known as Eskenazi Health Foundation) in Indianapolis, Indiana. His mother was only 15 years old and his father, Kevin Sims, was barely an adult.
With Michelle still being underage, she was required to remain within the foster care system and Kevin was serving jail time, so Brandon was raised by his paternal grandmother, Arlene Blevins, for the next three years
Soon after he was returned to his mother's care, Brandon was a patient at Riley's Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with Gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty. This condition is caused by a high level of sex hormones and causes a child to mature at an early age. These children are initially taller than their peers in childhood but end up significantly shorter than them in adulthood.
Although the syndrome can be devastating to parents, medication to block the onset of early puberty is available. Unfortunately, no records could be located showing Brandon received such treatment.
After Michelle had reclaimed her son, Brandon continued to visit his grandmother and his father. However, by 1991 the visits were becoming less frequent. Arlene and Kevin called and requested time with Brandon but Michelle refused. Eventually, she stopped returning their calls altogether and moved. The child support checks Kevin mailed to her were returned unopened.
The last time anyone but his mother saw Brandon was shortly after his fourth birthday. Arlene had seen him playing outside the Mosque he attended with his mother.
Where Is Brandon?
In July 1992, Michelle attended a theater conference with friend Deborah Asante in Detroit, Michigan. When the friend asked about Brandon's whereabouts, Michelle claimed he was in the care of a sitter. After this trip, Deborah and others noticed they never saw Brandon anymore. When they inquired about it, Michelle claimed he was living with his father or his paternal grandmother.
During this same summer, Michelle's landlord was walking past Michelle's unit when she noticed a swarm of flies covering one of the bedroom windows. When she asked Michelle about it, the young mother claimed Brandon had wet the bed and the flies were attracted to the smell.
Neighbors at this residence reported seeing Michelle frequently cleaning the interior and exterior of her car.
On the first day of 1993, Michelle moved in with friend Mahalia Aamir. When her landlord went to inspect the apartment after Michelle's departure, she noticed it was relatively clean but there was a large brown spot on Brandon's bedroom floor.
By December 1993, Kevin and Arlene were frustrated by being unable to contact Brandon. Having learned Michelle was living with Mahalia, they contacted her for help. Mahalia told Kevin and Arlene she hadn't seen Brandon in two years and was told the child was living with them. When Mahalia confronted Michelle, the mother admitted that when they had attended the conference in Detroit, she had left Brandon alone in the apartment with food and water accessible to the preschooler but when she had returned from the trip, Brandon was dead in his bedroom. Michelle continued by saying she had wrapped Brandon's body in a blanket and taken it to a wooden area for an informal burial. In yet another confession made later to Deborah Asante, she claimed to have put Brandon in a box and attempted to bury him.
Both women encouraged Michelle to take a leave of absence from her job at Eli Lily and seek mental health care, which she did in January 1994. While at Midtown Community Health, Michelle confessed to her counselor who then notified the police. She related the tale of leaving Brandon alone for several days to the police officer, how she had returned to him being deceased, and how she had disposed of the body. Multiple efforts by police to find the child's body were unsuccessful.
When detectives returned to Midtown to question Michelle further about Brandon's disappearance, she stated she had retained an attorney and would no longer be speaking with them.
I don't want to raise a freak!
— Michelle Engron Jones
In September 1994, Michelle returned to her job at which time she changed her health coverage from a family to a single policy and removed Brandon as the beneficiary of her life insurance.
Between September 1994 and November 1995, there's seemingly no report of Michelle's claims or continued mental health care.
Investigation and Arrest
After Michelle's confession to officers, they were unable to locate Brandon's body. Because Michelle was a patient in a mental health facility, investigators pondered whether Brandon was real or a figment of Michelle's imagination.
However, Detective Michael Crooke was able to confirm Brandon was indeed real through vital records, aided by a birth announcement provided by Arlene Blevins.
Detective Crooke was then inundated with questions such as, was Michelle hiding the child from his father and grandmother? Had Michelle sold Brandon for drugs she claimed she was taking? He wanted to provide answers for the worried father and grandmother but despite what Michelle had said, he didn't feel it was right to tell them Brandon was dead when he wasn't sure whether that was true or not.
Detective Crooke, along with the District Attorney and other officers, continued their investigation, re-interviewing friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others who knew Michelle; some of whom claimed Michelle's repeatedly abused the child and frequently left him with caretakers, often for days at a time. Their investigations revealed Brandon had received no medical care or been enrolled in any daycare or preschool since 1992. Going back to Michelle's previous residence, forensics uncovered multiple bloodstains on the carpeting.
Although investigators still had not located the little boy's body, with the foregoing information and testimony of Arlene Blevins wherein Michelle had once told her, regarding his disability, she "didn't want to raise a freak," the State's Attorney's office felt they had enough to arrest Michelle for two counts of Neglect of a Dependent but not homicide and subsequently arrested her on October 7, 1995.
One year later, however, something happened that completely changed the prosecutor's course on this case: Clarice Dunlap, a friend of Michelle Jones, made an anonymous call to the prosecutor and claimed that in November 1995, Michelle confessed she had beaten Brandon, left him alone for several days in her apartment and had returned to find him dead. When Clarice asked if Michelle had beaten Brandon to death, her response was, "I guess so." She continued the discussion by saying she had intentionally misled police on the whereabouts of Brandon's body because she was scared.
With that information in hand, the state's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the two counts of Neglect of a Dependent. Once that was done, new charges were filed on October 22, 1996: one count of Murder and one count of Neglect of a Dependent.
Michelle Goes to Jail
At the trial of State of Indiana versus Michelle Engron Jones, she was found guilty as charged and the court imposed a 50-year sentence for murder and three years for Neglect of a Dependent.
Michelle's attorneys appealed her conviction, as is standard procedure, but the appeals court upheld her conviction.
Prison to Ph.D.
While Michelle spent the first 12 years of prison in a haze, for the remaining eight years she participated in numerous civic activities including, but not limited to, serving as a law clerk for incarcerated women, service dog training, studying ministry, and crafting mosquito nets to send to Africa. She also regularly attended support groups and therapy sessions while incarcerated. Additionally, she earned her Bachelor's Degree through online courses.
In 2017, after serving a little more than 20 years in prison, Michelle was released after earning good behavior and educational credits. Four months later, she was a Ph.D. student at NYU with a research scholarship to Harvard.
However, Harvard would be a no-go. According to The Marshall Project, a prison news source founded in 2014, Michelle was a top candidate for the Ivy League school but top Harvard officials would intervene and deny her acceptance. They felt Michelle wasn't forthcoming about her crime and feared backlash from conservative news outlets.
Where Is Michelle Now?
No articles have been written about Michelle since 2017 and she has no social media profiles that can be found. In those last mentions, Michelle continues to deny that she killed her son. While she admits she to beating Brandon, leaving him alone for several days, and burying the body, she refuses to say she actually killed him.
As of this writing, Brandon's body has not been found.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Kim Bryan