Military honors

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Robert Brooks

JOHNSTOWN — A five-state, military-style procession for city resident Robert Brooks —whose body was found March 5 in a suitcase in an Arkansas field — concluded Tuesday afternoon in South Carolina.

His son — 58-year-old Jay Brooks of Greensboro, N.C. — took possession of his World War II Army veteran father’s ashes from the Patriot Guard Mission Tuesday at Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia, S.C.

The military ceremony featured an Army bugler and Honor Guard, as well as bagpipes.

Jay Brooks said Tuesday the Army indicated it stands ready to properly bury or inter Robert Brooks’ ashes whenever he is ready.

“I want to hold on to him a little bit longer,” his son said.

The ashes of Brooks, 89 — formerly of 329 N. Perry St. — were escorted by motorcycles from the Patriot Guard Mission starting Sunday in Little Rock, Ark. His ashes in an urn then went on a five-state procession through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and up to South Carolina by Tuesday afternoon.

“They did transfers to each state line,” Jay Brooks said.

Robert Brooks will have to wait a little longer before he is finally put to rest. According to police in Johnstown and Arkansas, his remains have already been on quite a journey.

Johnstown police believe Brooks died of natural causes in Johnstown in January or February.

But city police on March 7 executed a search warrant to comb Brooks’ North Perry Street residence for evidence. Arkansas police two days earlier on March 5 came across a suitcase containing Robert Brooks’ remains in a field in Des Arc, Ark. It wasn’t long before two suspects emerged, as the persons allegedly responsibly for transporting the suitcase in a pickup truck from Johnstown to Arkansas.

The Prairie County Sheriff’s Department in Arkansas arrested Michael W. Stivers, no age available, and his girlfriend, Virginia L. “Ginger” Colvin, 56, both of 329 N. Perry St. Colvin was Brooks’ caregiver. They are in the Prairie County Jail in Des Arc, charged with felony counts of abuse of a corpse.

Brooks alleges Colvin placed herself as sole beneficiary of his father’s life insurance policy.

Johnstown police also arrested two others in the case. They are Aaron M. Rulison, 25, of 9 Eighth Ave., Gloversville; and Leeann N. Sager, 34, of 329 N. Perry St., Apartment 2. They were released on bail from the Fulton County Jail. Both are charged with one felony count of concealment of a human corpse. She is also charged with felony third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and misdemeanor second-degree criminal contempt.

Colvin is Sager’s aunt, police said.

Johnstown police Lt. David Gilbo said Tuesday he hasn’t seen anything indicating there was a life insurance policy for Brooks.

“We can only do what we have in front of us,” Gilbo said.

He said he is waiting on subpoenaed documents that may shed light on Robert Brooks’ “exact” date of death, and issues related to his financial situation.

Gilbo said it is his understanding Jay Brooks hasn’t talked to his father — and only by phone — in about 15 years.

Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

Prairie County District Attorney Timothy Issac said Tuesday he couldn’t comment because law enforcement was still investigating.

“I don’t know that their investigation is done,” Isaac said. “There’s been no report.”

Brooks, meanwhile, noted that the crimes against his father have made nation and international news. The Washington Post had a major feature on Robert Brooks on Sunday and his son said he was contacted by a British newspaper.

Brooks said with “all this attention,” his personal hope is police investigate the case to the fullest.

“I think they held him against his will,” Brooks said.

He believes his father was a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. That is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity.

Brooks said he believes his father had a car at some point. He doesn’t understand why police in Johnstown or Fulton County haven’t charged anyone with fraud in his father’s case. He said the Prairie County Sheriff’s Department checked for any poisons or medications in his father’s system. Eventually, Brooks said he thinks it is possible suspects in his father’s case could be charged with manslaughter or murder.

Brooks said the case has been “overwhelming” to him personally.

He said he didn’t have contact with his father earlier this year, because his caretakers allegedly disconnected the phone. Robert Brooks lived in Arkansas for a couple years before coming back earlier this year to Fulton County where he lived most of his life, police said.

Brooks said he talked to his dad by phone in 2006 or 2007 and asked him to come to visit him in North Carolina.

“I believe they shuffled him back and forth,” Brooks said. “He loved to hunt and fish.”

Gilbo said he continues to work on the case with Arkansas authorities.

“We’re trying to get that wrapped up as soon as possible,” the lieutenant said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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