On March 6, 1982, Reginald Brooks Sr. murdered his three sons as they lay sleeping in their beds. Why did he commit these heinous crimes? This Reginald Brooks wiki takes a look at the couple’s troubled marriage and the events that led to the murders and Reginald’s November 2011 execution.
It Started as Young Love
Reginald Brooks was born on March 20, 1945.
|About Reginald Brooks|
|Children||Reginald Brooks Jr., Vaughn Brooks, Niarchos Brooks|
Beverly Brooks recalls Reginald as being gentle, kind, and attentive when they first met in school, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. He was, she said, “just so smooth” and he treated her in a way she’d never experienced with anybody else.
“Everything just fell into place.”
Soon, the couple became pregnant and were expecting their first child. They were both excited at the idea of starting a family.
Reginald proposed, and they got married on November 21, 1964. Beverly recalls her wedding day as being “surreal.”
“I was happy, I was finally Mrs. Reginald Brooks. I figured we’d be together for the rest of our lives, like you’re supposed to, till death us do part.”
The couple went on to have three sons.
Reginald Adams Brooks, Jr. was born on January 9, 1965.
Vaughn S. Brooks arrived almost two years later, on September 6, 1966.
Reginald and Beverly’s youngest son, Niarchos Travior Brooks, was born on December 28, 1970.
The couple brought their family up in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cracks Appear in the Marriage
Beverly could never imagine the evil Reginald would commit. But in hindsight, there were some troubling signs.
For starters, Beverly wondered why Reginald was always trying to keep people away from her.
On one occasion, Beverly’s favorite uncle was visiting her parents, and they called to let her know that he wanted to see her. An excited Beverly was looking forward to a visit later that day; Reginald, though, had different ideas.
He told Beverly that there was no way her family members were coming over to their house. He didn’t want anyone to come inside. “When they knock, just don’t answer,” he said.
Reginald didn’t say it in a mean way, and he wasn’t demanding. It was just a seemingly normal conversation.
Unfortunately, Beverly had no way of warning her mother—this was a time before cell phones. Her parents and uncle came over and knocked on the door, repeatedly. But Reginald refused to let them in. Beverly just sat there hoping they’d stop knocking and go home.
Beverly was too embarrassed to go over to her parents’ place and explain anything. “What do I say?”
After that, if anyone wanted to visit with her, Beverly would just go over to their house. “It just made it easier.”
Reginald Brooks’ Slow Descent into Madness?
When their third son, Niarchos, was born, Beverly noticed that Reginald began to isolate himself. Beverly knew that Reginald was a loner, and she kind of respected that, but then he wanted to go out and do less and less. He even stopped going out of the house; he wouldn’t go to the store with Beverly or visit friends and he didn’t want to be around her family or his own.
At one point, he would sit on the porch and watch his kids play. But even that came to an end, and Reginald wouldn’t step outside the house.
At the time, Beverly didn’t necessarily see his actions as strange. She wrote it off as him simply being “a recluse” who “disassociated himself from the outside world.”
Reginald may have been content to be a hermit, but Beverly and her sons kept on living life to the fullest.
Beverly began to notice other strange things, most notably that Reginald started to act paranoid. He told his wife that he believed someone was out to get him, or trying to poison him. One evening, Beverly made beef stew for the family. Reginald wasn’t feeling well and confronted Beverly, asking her what she put in the stew.
Reginald told Beverly that he noticed she didn’t have any. The answer was simple: she was up making dinner and serving her family. Their three sons had eaten the stew and were fine. That explanation wasn’t good enough for the agitated Reginald. He demanded that Beverly eat some, to prove to him it wasn’t poisoned.
Reginald stood there while Beverly ate the delicious stew. Reginald wasn’t feeling well, but it had nothing to do with Beverly’s cooking. She suggested they go to the emergency room. There, they discovered he had appendicitis and was just 30 minutes away from dying.
As the boys got older, Reginald’s behavior became even stranger. Beverly even began wishing she hadn’t made him go to the hospital that fateful night. If she’d waited half an hour longer, he’d have died. And life would have taken an entirely different trajectory.
Reginald was becoming more and more paranoid at work. His coworkers were out to get him, do him harm, and poison him. In 1976, Reginald quit his job, leaving Beverly as the sole earner. After he quit working, his behavior started to change for the worse.
When their three sons had friends come over and visit, Reginald would hide in the bedroom—but he would open the door a sliver and peek out and stare at them. He never came out of the bedroom; he just watched from a distance.
At the time, Beverly excused his behavior: he wasn’t hurting anyone, it was just his nerves, he was going through a rough patch…etc.
Even Stranger Nights
When Beverly was getting ready for bed, she would often see Reginald already under the covers, watching TV—as he had been all day. At a certain time every night, the TV station would sign off, and all that would be left on the screen was flickering snow making white noise.
Instead of turning the TV off, Reginald would sit there watching the white snow for hours. Beverly asked him to turn the TV off so she could get enough sleep to go to work the next day, but he just ignored her.
She could have gotten up and turned the TV off herself, but she didn’t know how he would react. He had never been abusive to her, but she also didn’t want to push the issue to see if it got to that point. Beverly just tried to tune it out.
On another night, Beverly woke up to the smell of smoke. It was coming from the kitchen. When she got in the kitchen, she found one of her ornamental rag dolls on the stove top, in flames. She took it to the sink and ran the water.
Beverly confronted Reginald when she went back to bed. He had been in bed when she woke up to the smoke, which means he set the doll on fire and crawled back into bed. Reginald didn’t reply when she asked him why he would do that. He just rolled over and went to sleep.
Beverly felt like she had to let the issue go. But she was also more on guard than ever before.
Beverly and Reginald’s oldest son, Reginald Jr., had a stuffed pet dog that he slept with every night. One morning, Beverly got up before the kids and went into the living room. There, she found her son’s stuffed dog hanging from the chandelier, strung up with a noose around its neck. It also had a hole in its heart.
Beverly again confronted Reginald and he just looked at her blankly. Again, nothing.
Why would he do something like that? Reginald believed in voodoo and believed there were things one could do to put a spell on someone.
The voodoo theory may sound far-fetched, but it wasn’t an isolated experience.
One afternoon, Beverly heard strange noises coming from their bedroom, “incantations” and “chantings” is how she described them.
At that point, Beverly decided to call the police. As soon as they arrived and knocked on the bedroom door, he stopped chanting. The police spoke with Reginald in the bedroom and, after 15 minutes, they left.
They said that she should call them again if he hurt her or their kids; otherwise, there was nothing they could do.
Reginald made sure she wouldn’t be able to call again. He smashed the phone, claiming people were listening in to their conversations.
Again, not believing there was anything she could do, Beverly just decided to keep a watchful eye.
Tensions Reach a Breaking Point
On January 31, 1982, Beverly came downstairs to Reginald in a physical altercation with their middle son, Vaughn, who was 15 years old at the time.
Reginald had confronted Vaughn about his homework, then struck the young man when he didn’t get the response he wanted.
Beverly Brooks tried to break up the melee but was pushed out of the way by Reginald. At this point, Reginald Jr., the eldest son, entered the room, with both he and Vaughn subduing their father. It was at this point that Reginald told his eldest son, “You’re dead.”
Over the next two weeks, Reginald Brooks made decisions that would forever change his family.
On February 24, 1982, Brooks took out a cash advance on his credit card.
On February 25, Brooks Sr. traveled across town to North Olmsted where he purchased a gun and ammunition. On the federal gun registration form, he hid the fact that he had once been arrested for grand theft.
On March 4, an exhausted Beverly served Reginald with divorce papers, after which he told her that “he was going to burn the papers,” and that “if he didn’t know better that he would be afraid of himself.”
On either Tuesday or Wednesday of that week, Beverly’s employer told her she would have to work on Saturday, March 6, 1982. So Beverly let Reginald know that she had to work on Saturday and he would be home alone with the kids that day.
March 6, 1982: Reginald Brooks Murders His Three Sons
On the morning of Saturday, March 6, 1982, Beverly Brooks left for work sometime between 7:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. When she left, her three sons, Reginald Jr. (17 ), Vaughn (15), and Niarchos (11), were asleep in bed.
At around 7:30 that morning, Reginald Brooks was seen walking his dog around the neighborhood.
At 8:00 a.m., Vicki Hayes, who lived in the upper level of the two-story family home the Brooks’ resided in, heard a “loud sound.” Her bedroom was located right above the bedroom the three Brooks boys shared. She then heard a stereo playing loudly for the rest of the day.
Vonda Jackson, a friend of Reginald Brooks Jr., called to speak to her friend a little after 9:00 a.m. Reginald Brooks Sr. answered the phone; when she asked to speak with Reginald Jr., he replied, “I am afraid not.” Vonda called the home three more times that morning, but no one answered.
Later that afternoon, between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., Beverly Brooks returned home from work. She heard the stereo playing and noticed that at least one of her sons was still in bed. Beverly looked for her husband but could not find him.
She then went into her sons’ bedroom again and noticed that all three were still in bed. Niarchos’ bed had some blood on it; she simply thought he had a nosebleed. When she turned back the covers, she discovered Niarchos had been shot in the head.
Beverly quickly looked over at the bunk beds and saw that her other two sons were also dead, executed in the same fashion. She screamed, ran out of the house, and called police.
Three East Cleveland police officers responded to the call and found that each of the three boys had indeed been shot in the head. The youngest, Niarchos, had been shot through the covers, which were pulled up over his head.
Tellingly, there was no evidence that the house had been broken into. There had not been a struggle, and the house had not been ransacked.
Police did learn that Reginald Brooks Sr. had purchased a bus ticket that morning on Continental Trailways, traveling from Cleveland to Las Vegas. The bus left Cleveland at around 10:40 a.m.-10:55 a.m.
March 8, 1982: Reginald Brooks Apprehended in Utah
Two days later, police apprehended Reginald Brooks Sr. on a Continental Trailways bus en route to Las Vegas in Beaver City, Utah.
After being read his Miranda rights, Brooks said he understood his rights, but refused to speak to police.
Police asked if he had any luggage; Brooks replied that he only had one small maroon bag. It was confiscated by police, and Reginald Brooks Sr. was taken into custody.
While taking inventory of Brooks’ belongings, an officer discovered a second baggage claim ticket hidden between two pictures in his wallet. The officer asked the Continental Trailways bus driver who drove the Beaver City, Utah-Las Vegas route to check the baggage claim area at the Las Vegas station for a bag that originated in Cleveland.
Days later, the driver said he found a red American Tourister suitcase in the Las Vegas bus station; it had originated in Cleveland. On March 20, 1982, the red suitcase with a combination lock was delivered to police in Beaver City.
Beverly Brooks, meanwhile, had noticed that her red suitcase was missing. It matched the description of the one found in Las Vegas. She gave the combination to the East Cleveland police and her permission to open the suitcase. Just to be safe, police also obtained a warrant to search the suitcase.
What Was in the Red Suitcase?
Reginald Brooks Sr. was in the room when police opened the red suitcase. They asked Brooks for permission to open the suitcase, but he simply responded that it wasn’t his.
When they opened it, they found personal items; a black box with a .38 Special RG Model 40 revolver, fully loaded with six live rounds; and a box of ammunition.
Further examination of the contents would reveal that latent fingerprints on the gun box and two cartridges matched Reginald Brooks.
Ballistics would later confirm that two of the threes slugs retrieved from the murder scene were from the same .38 special. The third slug looked like the other two, but was so badly damaged police could not make the same definitive identification.
Authorities also found gun powder nitrate on the right sleeve of Reginald Brooks’ coat.
Reginald Brooks Sr. Charged with Three Counts of Murder
Reginald Brooks Sr. was indicted on three counts of aggravated murder for killing his three sons.
On May 9, 1983, a psychiatric hearing was held to determine whether Brooks was competent to stand trial.
Dr. Aaron Billowitz, a court-appointed psychiatrist, testified that Reginald Brooks suffered from schizophrenia, but the courts found he was still competent enough to stand trial. The courts reasoned that Brooks had the “ability to understand the charge against him and work and cooperate with his attorneys in his defense.”
The trial began on September 19, 1983, before a three-judge panel. Brooks waived his right to a jury trial.
At trial, Brooks’ lawyers said the killings were related to Reginald Brooks’ schizophrenia, which made him fear that his three young sons were a threat to him.
Beverly Brooks, however, believed Reginald Brooks murdered the three boys to get back at her for the divorce. She did not believe, as the defense attorneys did, that his mental illness caused him to kill the boys.
September 23, 1983: Brooks Found Guilty
On September 23, 1983, the three judges found Reginald Brooks guilty on three counts of aggravated murder. In late November, a hearing was held to determine whether Brooks would face execution.
At the sentencing hearing, Reginald Brooks brought three witnesses before the court.
Dr. Stanley Althof, then-chief psychologist at the Cuyahoga County Court Psychiatric Clinic, testified that Brooks suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The doctor said this impaired his judgement, control, and likely contributed to the murders.
Dr. Kurt Bertschinger, meanwhile, testified that Brooks suffered from psychogenic amnesia, which prevented him from being able to consciously recall the murders. Because Brooks suffered from amnesia, there was no way Bertschinger could determine his mental state at the time of the murders.
The third witness, Paul Hrisko, was one of the three attorneys who represented Brooks during the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. He noted that Brooks refused to testify at either phases of the trial and also refused to submit to a sodium-amytal test; this is a test psychiatrists use with trauma patients to tap repressed or unconscious material.
For its part, the State presented three witnesses at the sentencing hearing: Dr. Aaron Billowitz, Beverly Brooks, and James Hughey, a Cleveland police officer. Prosecutors tried to show that Reginald Brooks had an understanding of psychology and had fabricated his amnesia to appear incompetent.
Reginald Brooks had studied college-level psychology, and related books were retrieved from his home after the murders. Dr. Billowitz, who had evaluated Brooks on four separate occasions testified he was “legally sane at the time of the act.”
Billowitz admitted that Brooks was “schizophrenic” at the time of the killings, but concluded he knew “that killing was wrong and…had the capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law (as indicated by the great amount of circumstantial evidence showing detailed planning and awareness of escaping detection[)].”
Reginald Brooks Sentenced to Death
The three-judge panel was not swayed by the defense and sentenced Reginald Brooks to death for each of the three murders.
The panel concluded that Brooks “suffered from a mental illness-schizophrenia…before, during, and after commission of the [murders],” but concluded that the “mental illness or defect did not cause him to lack substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.”
The judges said that Brooks’ “family relationship [had] steadily deteriorated” since 1976 and that “[i]t [was] entirely conceivable that [Brooks] was under extreme stress due to [this] deteriorated relationship [,] … [his] lack of employment, and [the] threat of divorce”—including being served with divorce papers two days before the murders—but found that Brooks’ “free will was not impaired by” these events or his mental illness.
Reginald Brooks filed numerous appeals, but they were all denied.
Brooks Executed on November 15, 2011
After almost 30 years on death row, Reginald Brooks, aged 66, was finally executed by lethal injection on November 15, 2011.
Prison officials said nothing out of the ordinary happened the day he died. Brooks visited with his brother and attorneys on Monday evening. His last meal consisted of lasagna, chili-cheese fries, garlic bread, moose-tracks ice cream, chocolate cake, caramel candy, beef jerky, cashews, almonds, and root beer.
Reginald Brooks slept from around 11:00 p.m. Monday to 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. He did not make any phone calls or write any final letters.
The execution was scheduled for 10:00 a.m., but was delayed for a few hours while two of Brooks’ final appeals were reviewed in court.
The Ohio Supreme Court rejected a request to halt the execution because Brooks suffered from schizophrenia. Prosecutors said his mental illness had no impact on his decision to murder his three sons.
His meticulous preplanning of the murders—buying a gun two weeks in advance; being at home alone with the boys; targeting them while they were asleep; turning up the volume on the stereo to muffle the sounds of gunfire; and fleeing on a bus with a suitcase containing the murder weapon, birth certificate, high school diploma, and other personal effects that would help him start a new life—showed clear intent and not a psychological break.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, Reginald Brooks never admitted to murdering his children. Nor did he ever show any remorse. Instead, he clung to theories about look-alikes who committed the murders, etc.
Brooks Delivers Obscene, Defiant Final Message
Reginald Brooks refused to give a final statement before his Tuesday execution. Instead, he took the opportunity to give the middle finger on both hands to everyone in the witness area.
The defiant Brooks raised his two middle fingers as he was strapped down on the lethal injection table. His fingers stayed that way throughout the entire execution—for 22 excruciating minutes—until after being declared dead at 2:04 p.m.
After the execution, Beverly Brooks’ sister, Monica Stephens, addressed the media.
“I don’t want to use the word closure because we’ve had to deal with this ever since 1982,” Stephens said. “Our nephews are gone and they’ll never be replaced. The memories we’ll always have. The what-ifs we’ll always have.
“I wouldn’t want to wish what we witnessed today on anyone under any circumstances.”
Less than an hour after the execution of Reginald Brooks, Ohio lawmakers held a news conference to announce legislation designed to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without parole.
Sister Helen Prejean, the Louisiana nun who wrote Dead Man Walking, joined them. She said Ohioans would support lifelong imprisonment if they knew the convicted person would never be paroled.
“We can be safe without the killing,” she said.