Burlington, Kansas, Skin Labs: A Revenge Story

Aug 15, 2015 - by Kim Walker

The brutal murder of Ted Brown and his teenage son would have been a capital crime had Brown Sr. not been a sex-offender in Burlington, Kansas, for years, a fact authorities tried to keep under wraps by giving lenient plea deals to two young men he had abused.

by Kim Walker

Early on a frigid February morning in 1983, smoke is seen by a Colorado state patrolman billowing from a concrete underpass near the Kansas state line. 

Local police are radioed, and they go to the home of Ted Brown to tell him his car has been stolen and left burning just outside of town. 

Burlington crime sceneBut Mr. Brown is dead on the floor of his trailer.  He is found face down, bound and stabbed repeatedly.  His son, “T-Bud” Brown, is strangled to death in the next room.  His head lies gently on a pillow, as if he could be sleeping.  

The phone is jostled off the hook where the old man died, and two blood trails streak the rugs from back to front of the house trailer.

In less than a week the Hutchinson News (Kansas) reports that two young men from the area are in custody. 

A farmer witnesses one young man walking away from Brown’s 1977 two-toned Cadillac (white over red).  The coupe de ville is scorched black and filled with guns and TV’s stolen from the Brown house trailer still in the backseat.  

“It appeared the two had been killed during a robbery,” said the sheriff.

Bruce Duffield,18, of Burlington and Randy Wilson, 20, of nearby Ruleton, Kansas, were arrested, and both were held in Kit Carson County jail by Chief Carrol Johnston on suspicion of killing 51-year-old Ted Brown Sr. and his 18-year-old so, Ted Jr.

The paper said Duffield and Wilson had been “guests” in the Browns’ Burlington home before the slayings, and were now the only suspects in the killings of a local “businessman” and his son.   

And all of that is true, as far as it goes.    

Crime Procedural

Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days later another article appears in the Hutchinson News, with a headline saying simply “PAIR SENTENCED.” 

Justice “swift and sure,” but around the bodies of the two dead Ted Browns, everything had changed. 

The two young suspects confessed, or turned on one another, and faced the death penalty by lethal injection. 

But, District Court Judge Carl Absmeier sentences Duffield to only 12 years for his guilty plea to second-degree murder.  And Wilson receives six years with possible parole in three.  From the death penalty, to three years in a light security prison. 

The Role of the Press, Public Defenders and The Plea Bargain

Five weeks after sentencing, an in-depth article appears in The Denver Postby a young reporter, Bill McBeanIt says a local jury never heard the whole story of what happened to the Browns.  What they missed was a story with the power to scar everyone involved forever. 

The newspaper outlined a litany of rumors, gossip, and “black little secrets” held tight by the small town of Burlington. The  innuendo makes Capote’s In Cold Blood (25 years and two hours across the Kansas prairie), sound modest by comparison.

When state police radioed Burlington cops to investigate the stolen car of a local businessman, nobody knew the nature of Browns' “business.”  Duffield and Wilson weren’t “guests,” in the traditional sense, and robbery was never their only motive.  

Although Ted Brown Sr. had avoided arrest, almost everyone in town knew him to be suspicious.  He ran Brown’s Sewer Business, and was a “turd herder” by trade.  But for years, school kids told stories of Brown trading alcohol and drugs for sex with underage kids.

Burlington became the sort of bell-jar justice system that provides leniency for killers charged with capital murder.  They made the offer and acceptance of a plea deal seem easy.  Local D.A., Doyle Johns, initiated proceedings for both young men to avoid both a jury trial, and the death penalty.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  So, 10 months into custody, Bruce Duffield pled to second-degree murder and Randy Wilson, 21 at the time, pled guilty to accessory to murder and aggravated robbery. 

When a father and son are slain in their own home by guests, how is it Duffield become eligible for release in five years, and Wilson in as little as three? 

Maybe the plea would be easier to make, than to live with.   

Small Town, Big Reaction

The McBean article documents Burlington citizens as split between those who felt the sentences were either too easy or too harsh.  And even, over who was the “victim” in the events which transpired.

But those closest to the case saw mitigating , extenuating  and even vindicating factors in the slayings of Brown and his son. Truman, the public defender representing Wilson, said the plea was actually “a great bargain,” saving taxpayers money and “everyone a lot of hardship.”  According to the Denver Post, “the trial would have produced some explosive evidence and testimony.” 

But the hidden costs would be paid, and “the truth” served, one way or another. 

The plea deal was easy, because if the case made it to court, reports from the Colorado State Patrol would show Ted Brown Sr. was involved in auto theft.  But that was the least of it.  Underage witnesses were ready to testify that they’d been given drugs by Brown and his son, “T-Bud,” in exchange for sexual favors. 

Long-held fears around town would be confirmed.  Brown would be exposed as a homosexual and sexual predator. 

Brown would be unable to defend or ingratiate himself, as he often did, by handing out a wad of hundred dollar bills.  And, “the elder Brown’s homosexual lovers would have been required to take the witness stand,” and many would be revealed as clearly underage. 

And Brown’s recent sex partner now on trial for murder, 19-year-old Duffield, was poised to tell a similar story.

If the plea deal failed, what was private would go public.  And much of it would be raw and unfiltered.

And, frankly, Burlington could do without that.  But what villagers were trying to avoid was now coming out in a major newspaper, and not some sleazy tabloid either.  Even that version was cleaned up, compared to the truth. 

Public defender Truman outlined his defense strategy "proving" that Bruce Duffield had an ongoing sexual relationship with the elder Brown.  Truman states the 51-year old Brown was "blackmailing" Duffield, by threatening to tell the entire town details about their sordid sexual affair. 

Anyone with change for a paper could now see all the news fit to print, and imagine the rest.  

The plan to avoid spending taxpayer money on a more “public trial,” was looking like less of a bargain.  At least in court, there were rules of evidence.  And no attorney would allow the badgering of Brown on the stand.  But from the front page of the Sunday section, the article outlines parents, school officials, and leaders in positions of trust who knew what was going on at the Brown trailerhouse. 

Those with suspicions did nothing.  So, the trading of sex for drugs and liquor had been going on for years.

And libel laws don’t protect dead perverts. 

Private Investigators

You can watch TV all your life and never see an episode of "Mayberry, RFD," where Andy’s office fills up with reporters and investigators uncovering the town’s hottest sex crime.  Maybe because TV had a code of decency, or because Andy handled everything himself.  But if Mayberry was real, it had sex crimes.

“I do not believe they (Duffield and Wilson) were convictable of first-degree murder,” Truman said.  A wild and scandalous trial would’ve ended in a split-decision or even an acquital, and serve nothing.  Because, by now, investigators had found other victims around Burlington, some prepared to come forward and testify that Brown was a sex offender who should’ve been locked up long ago. 

It was anyone’s guess why he’d never been caught. 

When one young man tried to break off his relationship with Brown, the old man threatened to tell everyone in town they’d had a “homosexual affair.”  If the young man stopped having sex with Brown, the old man was ready to expose himself and everyone else.  “He seemed kind and helpful but he was really a liar.” 

Private investigators got to the bottom of what really happened in Burlington. Their notebooks provided many of the most damning quotes, “He tried to appear honest, but he was not. He was a blackmailer. He was evil.”

And, Brown wasn’t exclusively homosexual, saying “anything between 16 and 60 is fine with me.” 

What could possibly go wrong?    

The Power of Truth

According to The Denver Post, Brown may have blackmailed as many as 20 young males and females with whom he had sexual relations.  Brown was “obsessed” with appearing as youthful as possible. The majority of the men and women he dated were under 25, and he talked often about getting a hair transplant to be more attractive. 

But his urges went beyond that.  Hanging out at under-age clubs in Colorado Springs and Denver, Brown passed out money in big bills, and bragged about keeping cocaine stashed in the back of his TV’s. 

Around party time on a cold night, Brown knew how to mix drinks and drugs with equal parts teen insecurity and jealousy, then shake the mixture till it erupted in explosive drama.   Perhaps someone exceeded their dosage, because lives were ended that night.  Others were broken long before. 

And now, Ted Jr. was dead, perhaps for reasons as simple as living with his demented dad. 

Ken Bishop, owner of the local building supply in Burlington explained how Ted Brown’s murder divided the town, because the old man led a deviant lifestyle.  “My secretary felt these boys got off scot-free. My attitude is we should have pinned a badge on them and called them champions of justice,” Bishop said.

Lots of people in Burlington agreed that what Brown did, and what he represented, was “just sick thinking.”  Whether evil or sick, or just illegal, authorities had resisted doing anything.  The one undercover investigation targeting Brown had failed to find enough evidence to bring charges against him.

But that was while Brown was still alive, and while those in charge were bound by search warrants and the letter of the law.  Private investigators arriving in Burlington had no such qualms, and publishers knew libel was more difficult to prove when you’re dead.   

If this were the comic books, a new breed of super-heroes would be called, dedicated to bringing sex-offenders to “justice” where needed.  A beacon would shoot across the sky near the water tower, and the call for help would echo across the train tracks.  Because without it, someone might take the law into his or her own hands, and be justified in doing it. 

Burlington’s best-kept secrets had the power to bring out the worst in everyone.    

Some remained in denial, clinging to the notion that Brown’s kid, Teddy Jr. (T-Bud), was innocent.  His mother, Betty (now Franklin), said nobody could come up with “anything bad” to say about her little Teddy.  Consider the source.  Betty was married to Brown for 25 years, until they divorced in 1979, four years prior to his death.  According to reports, this was a full decade after Brown was first suspected of selling, or giving, drugs to school kids. 

When questioned, Betty recounted how Ted Sr. would leave her for days at a time with two small children.  He gave them money, but no emotional security. 

In a small trailer, it’s hard to deny that Junior saw things—bad things -- and did nothing.  The same could be said of his mother.  Maybe neither of them felt things were that bad or serious.  It’s not clear why Betty eventually got out. 

The Browns’ neighbor, who must’ve witnessed more than most, felt the two young killers should be given every “break” the law would allow.    

But Betty’s latest husband, Dale Franklin, was angry that Colorado laws allowed “plea bargains” to be made for any reason.  “It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Why even go through the motions if you’re not going to penalize someone? What deterrent does anyone have from killing somebody?  What’s the use of taking them to trial in the first place? It makes no sense.”

Maybe Dale missed the point of that week’s sermon, and every sermon on conscience delivered since the dawn of Chistiandom.     

 “Brown was very, very charming…and he was very, very nice to me, but he was a rotter, there is no getting away from it.”  Peggy Bishop, Burlington Building Supply.

It was becoming clear to everyone that lots could go wrong.  Lives were broken because secrets were kept.  And whether T-Bud was dead because he lived with his dad, or had strange peccadillos of his own, the private investigators served another purpose.

If one travels the world and The Seven Seas, few things are so powerful or baffling than the clout of truth-telling.  The whole truth and nothing but…so help you, God.  The passages of John 8:32 were familiar to Bruce Duffield.  He’d gone to church with his father the night he killed the Browns. 

Which proves “truth” is elusive, even to those who act like they know it.  We all believe we can tell the authentic from the false, and are capable of serving on juries, in judgment of others.  Due process is what separates American justice from Islamic Law (among other things), and that’s fine for the courts.  But what about the press?  And the harsher court of public opinion?

At this point, Duffield’s public defender was tasked with convincing authorities that Ted Brown Sr.’s corpse was rotting in that “special place” reserved for monsters and sex offenders. 

Prior to their arrival, there were no witnesses.  So investigators went to work on Duffield and Wilson.  At first, Duffield hedges over details demonstrating that the deaths were brutal.  He ignores the fingernail gouges left on Brown’s body, deep and extended from his neck to his crotch. 

Duffield isn’t ready yet.  He denies abusing others, or wanting to be abused. 

For the sake of his family, Bruce seems ready to live with the story of what happened as a robbery gone wrong.  With guns all over the Brown house, why scratch someone into submission?  And if Bruce Duffield were to do time in prison, it might be better to have the reputation of a “killer” than a “queer.” 

But Randy Wilson has a different version of events when he’s questioned a week after the killings.

Another Night in Paradise

When the car is found burning beneath a bridge, a farmer witnesses a young man walking away.  There is no full moon, but the farmer is also a tracker and trapper and he follows the trail. 

In B’town the night before, not all the teenagers are experimenting with sex and drugs as if the Sixties have just arrived to the Great Plains.  Some are still playing basketball, or hanging out at the Sinclair gas station smoking cigarettes. 

The night of his death, T-Bud is playing basketball at a nearby gym and there is talk of driving to Colorado Springs, normally two-and-a-half-hours away.  The drive is half Interstate 70, and half two-lane county road, where speeds often exceed 100 miles-an-hour.

Play turns physical and someone undercuts T-Bud, slamming him to the floor.  Words are exchanged but no blows are thrown.  When play ends and the boys leave the gym, it is snowing. 

T-Bud wants to see his girlfriend in nearby Goodland, Kansas, but decides to call her instead because the snow starts coming down harder.  Her name is Bambi, and she was once a runner-up for the Little Miss National Talent Contest.   Her class ring is taken from Teddy’s finger at the autopsy.

Across town, Randy Wilson and Bruce Duffield buy four packs of cigarettes.  They argue about how much money they can make selling guns and electronics in pawn shops in Colorado Springs.  It’s a conversation they have all the time.  But they agree to head toward Ted Brown’s trailer instead of making the drive, where there is always beer and a large liquor cabinet that never runs out. 

When they arrive it’s a little after nine o’clock, and Ted Brown is watching “Dynasty,” a nighttime soap opera on Thursdays.  The show features the Carringtons, a wealthy family set in Denver, starring John Forsythe as a rich oil magnate and Linda Evans as his hot new wife, Krystle.  A lot like “Dallas,” Dynasty is known for “putting the nasty” back into the CBS lineup.  The boys join Ted Senior leering at Linda Evans, and drinking. 

Wilson begins throwing back beers, and 18-year-old Duffield is quaffing vodka and Sprite, Ted’s drink of choice in the winter of ’83.  One drink leads to another.  Randy Wilson isn’t drunk, but he feels Duffield is fast reaching his limit.

Wilson’s brother, Richard, owes Ted Brown money.  But Randy is looking to leave Burlington “for good,” so he asks Ted to lend him some money for gas.  Ted refuses, but in a nice way, almost apologizing for being unable to front Randy because he’s a little short just now.

When Ted says he has to go to bed, he gets up from the couch and asks Randy if he’d like to sleep over.  Ted says it’s getting late, but it’s perfectly okay if the boys want to stay.  So, the old man gets some pillows and blankets and both boys settle in. 

The CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation) report states that around midnight, as Randy falls asleep on Brown’s couch, a drunk Bruce Duffield leans over him (Wilson), and tries to kiss him on the mouth.

Wilson resists, kicking Bruce off him, and explains to cops later “I’m not into that.”  But Randy’s clearly angry, and his shouting wakes the old man, who comes out and settles both boys, saying “We’ll talk this all out in the morning.” 

They fall asleep, but Randy Wilson hears a loud thump in the night that wakes him.  The noise is Duffield, binding the hands and feet of Teddy with an electrical cord.  In the room right next to where Wilson is trying to sleep, Duffield is strangling T-Bud with two pairs of socks, one light and one dark blue. 

According to the coroner brought in from Denver for the autopsy, Ted Jr. was dead for hours before the old man is scratched and stabbed several times.  If there is a problem with Wilson’s chronology, no one seems to notice. 

Then, as Wilson tells it, Duffield fills the Cadillac with guns and two TV’s (earlier containing cocaine).  Bruce backs out T-Bud’s pickup to clear the driveway, so that together he and Randy can head out. 

They end up four miles east of town, near the Peconic overpass. 

According to Burlington police files, the Browns own nearly 50 firearms, but fewer than five are taken. 

At this point in the night, Randy and Bruce go to pick up Wilson’s car, which has trouble starting in good weather, let alone a frigid February night in Colorado.   Randy and Bruce then argue, and Bruce starts hiking back to town in his blue nylon “moon boots.”   Bruce returns sometime in the night and snuggles under covers in the car, where Randy is again, asleep.

The next day, the farmer is able to identify the moon boots as distinctive. 

When Randy Wilson’s affidavit is signed a week later, it is Bruce Duffield who does all the killing, all of the stealing, and is responsible for burning the Cadillac belonging to Ted Brown. 

Wilson’s version remains fairly consistent.   

It’s hard to know what really went on that night, or what Ted Brown wanted to talk out the next morning.  Was it about being gay?  About being attracted to, or loving, another man?  Or maybe about how all young men experience “natural urges”?     

Whatever…  Because this was not Ted’s first sleepover, he might’ve been “helpful” in processing what was going on between these young men.  No shame and no blame.  But that conversation would never occur, and the score would be forever settled…sort of.

Case Files - 30 Years Later

On a Monday morning in late September of 2014, the current Burlington Police Chief, Barry Romans, hands over the original files for CASE #83CRI.  No FOI (Freedom of Information) request is offered or needed.  Chief Romans provides coffee and a conference room, and then casually asks what will be done with the information in the files. 

The chief explains he was only 11 at the time of the Brown murders and will be of limited help, just as a younger cop walks through and explains he was only 3 in 1983.   Hours later, hundreds of files (including photos), once crammed in two large accordion files, will fit on a thumb drive. 

Chief Romans says that local knowledge of the Brown double homicide has always been explained to him as a “simple robbery gone wrong.” 

The robbery angle works, but simple doesn’t.  Except perhaps in the sense of “blood simple,” a term from Dashiell Hammett's 1929 novel Red Harvest, whose setting is a corrupt town in the middle of a gang war.  Blood simple describes a confused and paranoid state of mind, used again in the Coen brother’s 1984 film of the same title. 

Exposed to ongoing violence, an investigator reduces chaos to simple terms—kill or be killed.  In the corrupt little town, and in the neo-noir film, there is no redemption, and no moment where one of the characters realizes that he’s done something wrong.
“This damn burg’s getting to me.  If I don't get away soon I'll be going blood-simple like the natives."

--Continental Op    

Maybe Bruce Duffield is surprised in that exact moment while he’s stealing guns, TV’s, and Ted Brown’s Cadillac.  He wants to run off to Mexico with Wilson, a man he’s just tried to kiss.  In that instant, Duffield decides he can’t leave witnesses, so he kills both Browns.  Standard criminal behavior.

So, why kill the old man brutally, and the young boy gently? 

Perhaps because only one of the Brown’s was a true sexual predator.  The creepy, old, sex offender will pay the ultimate price for blackmailing Duffield. 

Duffield is driven simple.    

By Reason of Insanity

Burlington would like to forget any darker motive for killing the old man, one more primal than drugs or money.   It’s easier for the town to recall that the “bad guys” in this story were punished.  The rotter is dead.  His killers were convicted and punished. 

But just that quickly, Chief Romans adds another dimension.  Both Bruce Duffield and Randy Wilson are now dead. 

Randy Wilson died in what Romans calls “a straight up murder,” believed to have happened while he was still in prison.  

Duffield served his time, then died in a car “accident” that many say resulted from a conspicuous “brake failure.”  The chief then mutters something about “mob ties” and “possible retaliation” for the death of Brown.  There were rumors Brown had organized crime connects, but a Burlington “Cosa Nostra” sounded untrue.  But hearsay like that, in towns like this, has its own life.  It’s not a rumor if it refuses to die in 30 years.    

The files reveal that Wilson could not correctly spell his own middle name, and suffered from severe dyslexia.  They also show a thorough crime scene investigation, and a tight timeline of “justice served swift and sure.”  

Locals deserve credit for freighting the process of law and order, with one exception.  The first time Bruce Duffield is interviewed, he speaks with policeman, Wayne Mills, but there is no record of that exchange.  More important, there is no record of Mills reading from the little card Burlington police carried at that time, containing Bruce Duffield’s Miranda warnings (i.e., you have the right to remain silent…the right to an attorney, etc.).  

It’s not clear what Duffield admitted, or is later claimed to have said in that meeting.  There is no record of how or when he changed his story, or what caused him to admit to killing Brown.  Later, it is a legal sticking point.     

Within weeks, a court order finds both defendants indigent, and appoints public defenders for Wilson and Duffield (David D. Wymore and Brian D. Shaha respectively ).  All hearings are ordered closed to the press, and Judge Absmeier refuses a request from reporter Steve Gray from KCNC-Channel 4 (Denver), preventing any cameras—video or still--into the courtroom.  Judge Absmeier says cameras would lead to a “circus-like atmosphere.”.  Having seen the depositions, he would know.

Poor, confused, and Wilson illiterate, both young defendants are then denied bail.  The judge places a limit on “fees” for a psychiatrist or psychologist at $2,000.  A social worker is granted, but limited to only $250 in billable hours. 

In April of 1983, Bruce Duffield files a hand-written request, asking if he may remain in Kit Carson County Jail to be near his family and his minister.  The judge approves. 

Over 20 motions are filed by spring, including one arguing that any and all statements made by Duffield are inadmissible as evidence “due to the defendant’s mental and physical conditions, and (because) such statements were involuntarily obtained in violation of due process.”

The public defenders hire private investigators, who spend the summer of 1983 interviewing young people in and around Burlington.  And by August—within five months of the slayings—both young men have entered pleas of Not Guilty—Duffield’s “by reason of insanity.” 

In September, the judge approves an order for payment of $2,054.85 in “fees” to Troy K. Zook, a Colorado Springs PI with Zook and Curry Legal Investigations.  It includes 824 miles at 20 cents a mile and 71.75 hours of time. 

The trial of Randy Wilson is scheduled for right after New Year’s, 1984.  Duffield will be tried immediately after, commencing January 23, 1984.

Then, on Halloween, public defenders for Bruce Duffield file a motion to strike the death penalty from consideration “in that death in the gas chamber constitutes cruel and unusual punishment contrary to the United States Constitution and the Colorado State Constitution.”

Duffield’s “insanity” will not have to be proved (further), and even though Colorado no longer has gas chambers, the judge allows both boys to escape the threat of lethal injection.  

Six weeks later, Randy Wilson files a new plea of “guilty.”  And three days before Christmas in 1983, Duffield is allowed, or encouraged, to plead guilty to second-degree murder “with restitution.”  Restitution is limited to burial expenses for the Browns. 

One day from a year since the original killings, the following appears in a nearby Kansas paper.

Hutchinson News Thursday, February 2, 1984

Swift and sure. 

In May, 1984, Randy Wilson writes a hand-written letter to Judge Absmeier in a wide, barely readable scrawl.  Sent from Buena Vista medium security prison, the looping and canted script explains how Randy has thought “long and hard” about what happened since going to jail. 

Wilson confesses to watching or seeing Ted Brown Jr. die, and that’s all, but that he will have to live with that “day in and day out till God comes back and the rest of my life.”  It is a gut-wrenching letter, made sadder still when Wilson misspells his own middle name. 

The judge writes back right away, saying he is pleased Wilson is in close contact with his parents, “and that you (Wilson) realize that we are all responsible to a higher authority.”

And in closing, “I believe that God can forgive any transgression if we are sincere in repentance.”

The judge affixes a very small sticky note to the original, “file with Wilson case.”

Very soon, also postmarked from Buena Vista, Bruce Duffield sends a four-page hand-written letter to the judge, addressed “Dear Brother Carl.” Duffield explains how he prayed throughout the four-hour bus ride to Buena Vista “to get in the Lord’s hands.”  He tells of his plan “to take the Lord’s word to all the lost souls in prison.”

Then the letter confides that Duffield’s oath was immediately tested. 

“Anyone who goes to church or Bible study is a baby raper or snitch—an informer for the man.”  But when inmates realize he (Duffield) is a convicted murderer “they began to respect me.”  At times when Duffield finds the courage to attend Bible study, other inmates sit back and watch “to see if God is really real they watch my diligence.  I just tell them God has a master plan and they are part of it.  The plan is to show God’s love and Glory to all man kind.” (sic). 

At Christmas, Duffield sends Brother Carl a colorful card with a wintry scene of a young boy dragging a fresh-cut pine tree home through deep snow.  “God Bless You” is written in one-inch-high letters across the top.  “I write this to my Brother in Christ and to show you that God is in control and to tell you that I love you as my brother in the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

It is a long letter concluding in the margin:  “p.s. Write back if you can I would enjoy hearing from you.”  Signed, Your Brother in Christ’s Name, Bruce Duffield.  

The judge does not write back.

Months later, in early February of 1985, Randy Wilson writes again, this time from Delta Honor Camp in southern Colorado.  Wilson asks the judge whether he is “getting credit” for his time spent as a trustee while housed in Lincoln County Jail, because his sentence is becoming harder to serve.  There is no mention of Randy’s progress toward his GED, or what he’s been able to learn about himself in prison.

In August, yet another letter arrives from Wilson, this time asking the judge how to get back 160 acres of family farmland.  It relates how in 1976 the United Bank of Denver foreclosed on his mom and dad.  In November of 1983, while Randy was in jail awaiting trial, his parents attended a “hearing” in Goodland, Kansas.  While there, the bank went to their farm house, removed everything, and changed the locks on the house and barn. 

Wilson went on to explain, “After the hearing Mom and Dad were thrown in jail… Anyway’s, I just wanted to ask you how to go about getting it back?” 

A simple eight-line letter was sent in reply from Judge Absmeier, saying “by statute, judges cannot give legal advice.”  It concluded, in effect, get a good lawyer.  It is Wilson’s last known correspondence. 


In September of 1983, investigators Troy Zook and Andrew Dennison were each paid a few hundred dollars, after expenses.  It is an innocuous detail in the overall telling. 

Thirty years later, both men tell (independently) the story of a tormented kid, not yet in his twenties, who was “turned” by an old man.  That man, Ted Brown Sr., remains a sexual predator in both their minds.

When Zook and Dennison originally arrived in Burlington, nobody wanted to share, though everyone had stories to tell.  Wilson wanted the world to know Duffield was the killer.  Duffield was careful to avoid sounding like he might be gay.  

Some “secrets” Bruce struggled to maintain to the grave, and many of the “explosive details” of Burlington in 1983 are now gone.  Some lost to memory.  Others dependent upon handwritten notebooks since destroyed by a basement flood, in the case of investigator Troy Zook, or just plain lost in the case of Andy Dennison.

But both investigators agree, Bruce Duffield was a hapless pawn of the older Ted Brown.  Brown regularly paid young people to strip for drinks and for drugs and for money.  Brown then took Polaroid pictures of their youthful, naked skin. 

Both investigators believe Duffield was straight.  Both said Bruce just liked the money and the drugs, and “the attention.”  And there is no record of gay men ever wearing “moon boots.” 

It’s believed the Polaroids were sold to pornographers in Denver, but there is no evidence that actually occurred.  It’s true Brown would disappear for hours at a time in Denver, where even the friends didn’t know his whereabouts. 

But that doesn’t make him a pornographer, or a pedophile. 

One of the missing notebooks is thought to hold a jailhouse confessional, in which Duffield describes the young people of Burlington acting like rats in a skin lab, run by an old mad man with gobs of money for those willing to pose nude.    

Once incarcerated and encouraged by his family to join Chuck Colson’s Christian ministry, details start spilling from Duffield, easing his strain and torment, and doing a great deal to get his “great deal” from prosecutors. 

The PI’s wait, they canvas neighborhoods, they network and they build trust until the inevitable truth comes out.  The stigma against “homos” in 1983 Burlington is as strong as a military parade, so the story requires listening without judgment.  Dennison and Zook give “witness” to testimony, documenting the depravity, leading to the deaths, reported in depth in The Denver Post.

No video recording equipment is recovered from Brown’s house trailer and “pleasure dome,” but at this time, the field was only being invented.  Authorities in positions of trust didn’t see it happening in Burlington, because they weren’t looking for “it.”  

If the old man was gay, as many in town suspected, he didn’t deserve to die for it.  But with shame as a catalyst, blackmail explains the anger and raging evident in Brown’s slaying.  When the old man threatens to make public a private part of him, “outing” and implicating him in a “relationship” with a 50-year old pervert…it may’ve been too much for Bruce to bear.  Perhaps Duffield wanted to spare his god-fearing parents the pain of it all. 

Blood simple…

Troy Zook says, to this day, he uses the case as “a good example of how people can be driven to kill.”  Ted Brown was originally driven out of Denver, for what Zook believes were sex offenses.  Burlington was the perfect place for him to prey on kids who were “less worldly.”  Zook calls Brown “a very bad man” and a “devil,” who did “heinous things” to kids in that town.  No doubt.      

It’s not hard to imagine the carcass of Ted Brown covered in flies when police arrive.  The police files contain a single Polaroid found in Brown’s drawer.   It may be one who got away.          

Bruce Duffield was at the nexus of a “sex crime” and a “hate crime..  Brown was the evil lynchpin tying it all together.  And maybe that “evil” died with Brown, but that’s hard to know. 

What is known is that, within only a few years, homosexuality would become much more accepted and commonplace. 

And, it is known that Duffield’s parents and sister still live in Burlington. 

Ted’s Brown’s first wife (and Junior’s mother) Betty Franklin, still lives in town with her husband, Dale.

The first cop on the scene, and the first to interview Bruce Duffield (sans Miranda), Mr. Wayne Mills, still resides in Burlington with his wife, Sharlene, who was the first to supply files for this story (Case #83CRI) from the Kit Carson Combined Courthouse.

A search for “Randy Garfield Wilson” from Ruleton, Kansas, produces zero results on Google, while a search for Bruce Kerry Duffield produces only this:



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