It’s been 12 years, and the family of Herbert Brewer Sr. and his son are still looking for answers.
In 2006, Brewer and his son, Herbert “Herbie” Brewer Jr., were killed in a trailer fire. Officially it was ruled an accident and no foul play was suspected.
Now the story has been brought back to life, thanks to a book published by noted psychic profiler Robbie Thomas, titled “Psychic Profiler: The Real Deal, True Crime Cases Vol. 1.” The Brewer family called Thomas in to help with the investigation. They also called in Andy DeLay, who had worked for a central Florida law enforcement agency before retiring and had a radio show “Burning Rubber,” which was broadcast on a local station.
The fire happened on Aug. 15, 2006, at the Brewer residence on Old Richmond Road. Law enforcement officials at the time, backed by a report from the state medical examiner’s officer, maintained the Brewers died of smoke inhalation. The case was never investigated as a murder.
But the family has always maintained their belief that their loved ones were murdered.
“It was a cover-up,” said Rosalie Brewer Simpson, one of Herbert Brewer’s surviving children. “We know the story, how it happened. The sheriff’s office covered it up. A person saw three men coming from the trailer and one of them was carrying a gasoline can. Even after interviewing her, the police just threw it off.”
“Andy (DeLay) just called me up one day and asked about Herbert and Herbie,” Thomas said in a 2006 interview with The Sentinel-Echo. “I knew immediately that they were murdered. They didn’t die from the fire.” Thomas, from Canada, worked on several cases in Kentucky and also helped police in the case involving Alabama teenager Natalie Holloway, who disappeared while on a trip to Aruba in 2005.
Simpson said the Laurel County sheriff at the time, after losing his bid for re-election, gave the family a going away present—photos.
“He just threw a bunch of negatives at us,” Simpson said. “My sister and I took them to Walmart to get them developed. What we saw when we got the prints horrified us.”
While sitting in the parking lot of Walmart, Simpson and her sister, Alene Brewer Spurlock, started going through the photos, which were taken after the fire was extinguished. They saw the bodies of their father and brother lying in the bathroom. Even though the official investigation said there was no evidence of foul play, the family to this day still believes otherwise.
“I saw the photos of their bodies burned up,” Simpson said. “My dad had one of his arms cut off. My little brother had a knot in his forehead the size of a baseball bat. The police wouldn’t do anything. They said we were ignorant and stupid.”
In the book, DeLay said that after viewing the documents that were supplied to him on the case, “two things were glaringly apparent to me.”
1. Two people were killed in a mobile home fire.
2. The investigation was botched and halfheartedly conducted.
“It became apparent that simple rules of crime scene preservation and basic investigation skills were not adhered to during the arson investigation,” DeLay said. “The sheriff’s office came to the conclusion that the fire was not suspicious and the deaths of the two men were accidental. My conclusion as a retired (and now again current) law enforcement officer are quite different. The fire was set to cover up the murder of two healthy adult men, who were awake and fully mobile prior to the crime, inside of a small single-wide mobile home.” He goes on to note that forensic evidence gathered at the scene reveals blunt trauma to the skulls of the two men. He said the state fire marshal explains this was the result of the intense heat of the fire. He countered that his investigation revealed the fire was not hot or intense enough to cause heat-induced intracranial explosion of the skull; in fact, he states, the skulls were not exploded, they were imploded or crushed due to blunt trauma. There was also accelerant found at the scene by the state fire marshal.
That’s when DeLay, after the Sheriff referred to the family as “crazy” and became confrontational with him and the Kentucky State Police declined to open the investigation, decided to get in contact with Thomas, who agreed to come to Kentucky to help investigate.
When the two men and members of the family visited the scene of the fire, Thomas felt strongly that the Brewers were robbed and killed before the fire had been set.
“They got a taped confession from one of the suspects,” said Larry Ballinger Jr., grandson of Herbert Brewer. “We heard the confession. Then when DeLay gave the tape to the investigator with the sheriff’s office he took it into a room, then came out and said there was nothing on it.”
“We heard the tape,” Simpson said. “One of the suspects confessed. The whole family heard it. They (the police) wouldn’t let Andy (DeLay) and Robbie (Thomas) go into the room with them when they got the tape.”
In a taped interview with one of the suspects, who worked as a police informant, that person said he believed another one of the suspects set the fire “because he was in conflict” with one of the Brewers. “There was always a dispute about land also,” the suspect said. “When he would get high he was always paranoid, worried that the law was coming. He wasn’t that way before the fire.”
When Thomas appeared on DeLay’s radio program, he revealed aspects of the case not known to the general public. The family heard the broadcast before they even contacted Thomas and was astonished at the information he had.
“He said there were three attackers,” Simpson said. “He described details that a lot of people didn’t know. I believe those three men robbed daddy because they needed drug money.”
“If we didn’t hear that taped confession it would be a different story,” Ballinger said.
One of the suspects was taken into a room with the sheriff’s investigator, and about an hour later, the investigator came out and informed DeLay and Thomas that the tape had nothing on it.
“Both Andy and I looked bewildered because we reviewed everything prior to going to the sheriff’s office, and everything was just as it should be,” Thomas states in the book. “The investigator insisted that there was nothing whatsoever that would insist anything otherwise and that he wouldn’t be furthering along the case.”
The book also states that the two men had contacted fire officials who stated that the Brewers did not die from the fire, and that the enormous frontal cranial indentation on Herbert Jr. was indeed created from a trauma blow to the head, by something like a baseball bat.
“Perhaps it was the baseball bat they found near his body after they put the fire out,” Thomas writes. There was also a set of brass knuckles found by the state fire marshal beside of the younger Brewer, which the family still has sealed in an envelope.
Thomas also saw a knife used in the crime, and he told the family that the knife was still on the property. Months later one of the daughters, Alene Spurlock, called Thomas to inform him that they found a large knife, hidden in the tool shed, behind the trailer.
“I still have that knife,” Simpson said. “It’s got blood on it and it’s wrapped up in plastic.”
“I was given photos from the state medical examiners office because she thought there may have been foul play,” Spurlock said. According to Spurlock, one of the suspects was given a lie detector test that he failed.
One of the suspects would later commit suicide. DeLay said he confessed to the murders on his deathbed. Another is currently incarcerated in the Whitley County Jail. “I believe if someone would talk to (that suspect) he would confess to everything,” Simpson said.
Right now the case is open but considered a “cold case.” Sheriff John Root said his office would investigate any “new evidence that hasn’t been investigated before.”
With all the evidence pointing to murder instead of an accident, the family would like to see someone brought to justice. The autopsy report from the Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s Office showed that Herbie Brewer had both the upper and lower bones in this right leg broken, two fingers on his right hand broken and his right forearm broken.
“We just want justice and closure,” Simpson said.