Family of slain man questions girlfriend’s self-defense claim

November 21, 2016

DeKALB – A DeKalb woman accused of strangling her boyfriend in the apartment they shared had recently met the man’s family in Chicago and discussed marriage, his family said.

Kela M. Moss, 26, of 419 S. First St., DeKalb, was charged Nov. 14 with first-degree murder in connection with the death of her boyfriend, 25-year-old Brendon Brown, who lived with her in the apartment.

Brown’s family members said his death came as a shock, as did news about his arrest for domestic battery. Even more surprising for the family was Moss’s claim that she acted in self-defense.

However, one person who saw a domestic violence incident involving Brown and Moss on a city street in broad daylight in October said that he thought the justice system should have done more to keep Brown away.

“They were living as a happy couple,” said Sharon Smith, Brown’s mother. “It’s unbelievable to us.”

Brown and Moss had visited his family in Chicago on Nov. 2, said Brown’s 27-year-old sister, Shavon Brown. The couple had been dating for more than a year, according to police reports. Shavon Brown said Moss appeared fine during the visit. Moss made a big deal about having never met Brown’s family during the visit.

“She wasn’t scared or nothing,” Shavon Brown said of the visit. “He told us he loved her.”

Smith said that when Moss and Brown argued, Brown would go to Chicago to stay with family. Smith said Moss would always come to pick him up.

Smith described her son as quiet.

“My son was an average person,” she said. “He wasn’t great and wonderful.”

She said he never got into trouble with the law before he met Moss. She also said she and other family members weren’t aware that Brown was out on bail at the time he was killed.

Brown was charged Oct. 14 with robbery and domestic battery for allegedly hitting Moss, pulling her hair and stealing her keys, purse and phone, according to court documents.

Andre Williams, a 39-year-old DeKalb resident, witnessed the incident from his home on Grove Street. He was sitting on his porch talking to a friend and his fiancée when a vehicle stopped at the corner of Third and Grove. At first, Williams said he thought they had car trouble.

After a little while, Brown started to walk away, but came running back when Moss got into the vehicle, Williams said.

“When she got in the car, he rushed up on her,” Williams said. “I could tell he was choking her out.”

Moss was screaming for help.

“I saw her struggling to get her purse from him, he was snatching it from her, and then he got it and he took off and ran,” Williams said.

When police arrived, Moss refused to cooperate, Williams said. Williams said he went with a police officer and helped to identify Brown, who had been caught in the stairwell of the couple’s apartment building on First Street.

Williams said he saw Brown choke Moss, and yank her around by the arm. It was a shocking display of violence that came from out of nowhere, right on the street in his neighborhood in broad daylight on a Thursday afternoon.

“I’m pretty sure if I wouldn’t have said anything, no telling what he would have done to that woman,” Williams said. “This is daytime outside, not the middle of the night. If you have the audacity to do something like that in the daytime, you would have pursued something else had you had the opportunity to.”

“... That young man probably would still be alive had the judicial system paid a little closer attention,” he added.

Police were called to the apartment again on Nov. 4 to check on Moss. When they arrived, Moss said Brown was in the apartment. Brown told police he was just visiting.

Moss was later involuntarily committed to the hospital, and Brown also went to the hospital, court records show. Police arrested Brown two days later after learning about the judge’s no-contact order, according to police reports contained in court documents.

Domestic violence often is hidden, said Sarah Slavenas, prevention program director at Safe Passage, a local nonprofit agency that provides services to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

“It’s pretty typical for close family members and friends to be unaware of domestic violence. Perpetrators know that their abusive behaviors are socially unacceptable and often present outwardly as upstanding, kind and caring people,” she said. “Victims are frequently fearful to seek help due to possible retaliation by the abuser. Victims also experience shame and self-blame for their abuse.”

Slavenas also said domestic violence victims often protect their attackers.

“Abusers often warn their victims something bad will happen if police are called or [if] friends and family are told what is happening,” Slavenas said. “Also, victims may feel sorry for their abuser, feel like they are to blame for the abuse or don’t want their abuser to have a criminal record.”

Victims who have called police in the past might feel as though there’s no good that can come of having their attacker arrested, and that it might only make things worse.

“Domestic violence is an incredibly complex issue that really requires the assistance of professionals to fully address and understand,” Slavenas said. “We hope that anyone reading this who may feel unsafe will have the strength and courage to reach out for our free and confidential services.”

Moss walked into the DeKalb Police Department at 12:22 a.m. Nov. 14 and told an officer that there had been an incident Nov. 13 and that there was a body inside her apartment, police have said.

Moss gave permission for officers to go inside her apartment, where they found Brown dead inside. An autopsy showed he had been strangled, police said.

Moss was initially held on $5 million bond. On Thursday, Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert set bond at $750,000 after Moss’s attorney, Robert Nolan, filed a bond reduction motion.

Moss remained at the DeKalb County Jail as of Friday afternoon and is next due in court Nov. 29.