Seattle’s Longest Murder Trial

“Hobo jungle pathway” killing finally gets its day in court.

So far, Bobby Joe Lyons has done five years for the murder of street gospel singer and police informant Sam Brown. Next week, he may even stand trial for it.

A successful low-rent drug dealer, the 55-year-old Lyons is accused of shooting Brown, then 55 as well, in the back of the head along a hobo jungle pathway under the 12th Avenue South Bridge on Sept. 13, 2002. It's thought to be one of the longest murder prosecutions in local history, and is one of the few known slayings of a police snitch.

The accused, known on the streets as Slim, has been awaiting trial in prison almost since the day of Brown's death. A start date has been set and reset dozens of times as Lyons' tenacious attorney, Pete Connick, has battled prosecutors with a stack of motions, at least one of which forced them to consider dropping the case until an elusive witness, Ed Denet, was located at the last moment (see "The Murder Case That Won't Die," Dec. 20, 2006). Prosecutors are equally intense and, like police, do not want the murder of one of their snitches to go unpunished.

Barring any last-minute surprises, King County Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Dan Donohoe says additional motions will be heard in Superior Court this week, with the trial to follow. In a new court memorandum, prosecutors say Brown "was a confidential informant for the Seattle Police Department and was a cooperative witness in two buy-bust operations where the defendant was the target." Lyons allegedly used Denet, also a police snitch, to lure Brown to the deadly rendezvous. Denet, who later donned a wire and taped a confession of sorts by Lyons, is now the key witness in the case.

"The defendant deals to homeless crack addicts who do not have very much money," prosecutors note on their trial memorandum. Those who fall behind in payments have their debts doubled and lives threatened, the memo adds. Lyons also "gives them drugs to sell for him and pays them in crack"—an operation "sustained by fear and intimidation," they allege.

As Lyons reportedly says on the tape of his wired conversation with Denet, apparently referring to the murder, "You know what I do, because you saw first hand."

 
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