Three Days in June | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Three Days in June


One spring afternoon in 2001, Jan Michael Brawner slipped into the home of his ex-in-laws, Jane and Carl Craft, in rural Tate County, and stole a .22-caliber rifle.

Later that day, during a confrontation with his former wife, Barbara, over custody of their daughter back at the Craft home, Brawner raised the gun and shot his ex in the back before also shooting Jane.

He fired again, once into Jane and once into Barbara, and told Paige, his 3-year-old daughter, who witnessed the murders, to go watch television in a back bedroom. Afraid Paige would identify him for killing her mom and grandmother, he went into the bedroom and shot the girl twice, killing her.

When Carl returned home from work that evening, Brawner shot and killed him as he came through the door. Brawner snatched $300 from Carl's wallet, Jane's wedding ring and food stamps from Barbara's purse.

Brawner told investigators that he and his new girlfriend were having money troubles, according to court documents. A jury convicted Brawner on four counts of capital murder on April 11, 2002, and a judge sentenced him to death April 12.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the cases of Brawner and two other death-row inmates, prompting Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to seek execution dates for all three men. Hood will ask for a June 14 execution date for Brawner, four days after Brawner's 35th birthday.

In addition, Hood wants June 12 and June 13 execution dates for Henry Curtis Jackson Jr., 47, of Copiah County and Gary Carl Simmons, 49, of Jackson County.

Jackson's and Simmons' crimes are equally grisly. Jackson received the death penalty in 1991 for stabbing his two nieces and two nephews to death. Court papers indicate that Jackson killed the four children "in an attempt to steal money kept in his mother's safe in her home."

On Nov. 1, 1990, Jackson's mother went to church with several of her grandchildren while Jackson's sister, Regina, babysat the younger children.

Jackson parked his car two blocks away, walked to the house and cut the phone line, then knocked on the door. Inside, he picked up the phone and told Regina it was dead. Moments later, he grabbed Regina by the throat and demanded her paycheck and the combination to their mother's safe.

When she said she didn't have any money and didn't know the safe code, Jackson "pulled out knives and shoved them into her throat and waist," court documents say. Another relative, 11-year-old Sarah, jumped on Jackson's back. During the struggle "Jackson told them that he had to kill them."

Sarah pleaded with Jackson to take the safe and leave the house. Over the next few minutes, Jackson stabbed Regina and Sarah several more times, and stabbed and killed Regina's 2-year-old daughter, Shunterica. That night, he also killed three other young relatives: 5-year-old Dominique, 3-year-old Antonio and 2-year-old Andrew. Sarah survived by playing dead. Regina and a 1-year-old relative, Andrea, also survived the attacks. After a manhunt, Jackson surrendered to police Nov. 5.

Simmons' conviction for capital murder, rape and kidnapping charges came on Aug. 29, 1997. Simmons participated in the murder of Jeffrey Wolfe, to whom Simmons owed a drug-related debt, and raped Wolfe's girlfriend, Charlene Leaser.

In August 1996, Wolfe and Leaser arrived at Simmons' home from Houston. While Simmons and Leaser smoked a joint in the kitchen, Simmons' former brother-in-law Timothy Milano shot and killed Wolfe.

Simmons questioned Leaser about whether they were police or had any drugs, tied her up, and shoved her into a metal trunk. Later, after Leaser freed herself, Simmons stripped her, took her jewelry and raped her. When she heard no one answer Simmons' ringing phone, Leaser escaped the trunk and ran to a neighbor's house.

Police got a warrant to search Simmons' home and noticed a piece of flesh in a boat docked behind Simmons' house, along with some buckets and a bloody bush hook and knife.

"Shortly after this discovery, they began collecting body parts from the bayou, a task that took several days," a court document said.

At Simmons' trial, his friend, Dennis Guess, testified that Simmons confessed that he had "whacked a drug dealer, … deboned him, cut him up in little pieces and put him in the bayou." Guess convinced Simmons to turn himself in, which he did August 14.

Support our reporting -- Follow the MFP.