Crime & Courts

Murder victims’ family mourns; killers wanted drugs and money, police say

The 5-year-old boy whose mother and stepfather were shot to death on Christmas Eve told Anchorage police officers who found him wandering in a parking lot that three "ninjas" had stormed his apartment and sent him to his room before killing his family.

New court documents lay out an agonizing account of the deaths of Christopher Brooks, 38, and Danielle Brooks, 32, which police say came at the hands of three men dressed in black who planned to rob the Mountain View couple of "drugs and money."

Police have arrested Jaylyn Franklin, 20, who they say was an accomplice in the killings.

But police say the man alleged to have shot the couple, 22-year-old Lamarkus Mann, is armed, dangerous and still eluding officers as of Monday afternoon.

Police interviewed a second alleged accomplice, DeAnthony Harris, the day of the killings at Providence Alaska Medical Center, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound to his leg, according to court documents. Police say his shooting appeared to be accidental and occurred during a melee in which Christopher Brooks was shot.

Police did not provide any information Monday about Harris' whereabouts. A Providence spokesman said Harris wasn't on the hospital's patient directory, and he also didn't appear in an Alaska prisoner database.

The family of Danielle Brooks, whom her brother described as a medical assistant, said they were in mourning.

"As we witnessed Chris and Danielle's marriage vows less than a year ago it was clear to us that she was happy," her father, Kyle Maze, said in a statement he posted late Monday on Facebook. "This senseless tragedy has not only left our family without our daughter, sister and mother but has left another family without a son, brother and father. Our tears, hearts and prayers go out to Chris's family."

The Brookses' killings were Anchorage's 33rd and 34th homicides of the year — the highest total in at least two decades.

Monday's new details about the shootings emerged from court records and an account from the Brookses' upstairs neighbor and friend, Gigi Lugo, who described the couple as "family oriented" and "good people" whose deaths made no sense to her.

"Everybody wants to know what really happened. But we really don't know," Lugo, 30, said in a phone interview.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Lugo was cleaning her apartment on the top floor of the three-story Mountain View complex when she heard what she thought were firecrackers.

Outside one window, she could see Danielle Brooks' son being handed to a police officer by a stranger. Outside another window, Chris Brooks was lying in bloodstained snow.

The three "ninjas" were gone; a neighbor's surveillance footage later obtained by police showed what appeared to be three men running from the Brookses' building into a pickup and driving away. Police said the footage showed their pickup following a dark Nissan SUV. Police said their records showed that Mann, the alleged shooter, was once cited in the same color and model of car as the Nissan.

In an affidavit filed in Anchorage District Court on Christmas Day, homicide detective James Estes described how police pieced together their allegations against Mann, Harris and Franklin.

[Read the affidavit]

A half-hour after police were called to the crime scene, they were also called to Providence, which had reported a man had been dropped off with a gunshot wound. Harris, before the interview was cut off by Providence medical workers stepping in to treat him, gave police a "vague" description of the events leading to his shooting. He didn't mention a robbery, according to the affidavit.

Harris told police he was with a friend, Franklin, who was eventually taken to police headquarters for his own interview.

Franklin gave what the affidavit called "several versions of the events" at the Brookses' apartment. He finally settled on one that began with him picking up Harris at work, then driving to the home of a woman where the two men met Mann and another man whose name Franklin didn't know, according to the affidavit.

Franklin said Mann asked if he and Harris "wanted to make money, and introduced them to a plan to steal drugs and money from the victim," the affidavit says.

The men got gloves and T-shirts to cover their faces during the robbery, Franklin told police. Mann said he was expected as a visitor at the home of a man named Christopher, police quoted Franklin as saying.

The fourth, unidentified man drove the three others to an alley near the Brookses' apartment, Franklin told police. Then, he said, they went inside the apartment, where Mann demanded drugs and money from Chris Brooks, according to the affidavit.

Franklin told a police detective that Chris Brooks pleaded with Mann "to take what he wanted, while Chris' wife, Danielle, sat on the couch and screamed, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' "

Mann began "wrestling" with Chris Brooks, according to the account from Franklin, who told police he thought that's how Mann accidentally shot Harris — the alleged accomplice who ended up at Providence.

Mann shot Chris Brooks "several times," then shot Danielle Brooks from about five feet away, Franklin told police. Franklin agreed with a police detective who suggested in the interview that Mann shot Danielle Brooks "because she was a witness," the affidavit said. The men ran from the apartment into a pickup and drove Harris to the hospital, Franklin told police.

Left behind was Danielle Brooks, who police described as being covered in so much blood that officers couldn't tell how she died. Police found Chris Brooks just outside his apartment building with gunshot wounds on his body and head; he was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Officers saw Danielle Brooks' 5-year-old son wandering in a nearby parking lot, police said. He told them, according to the affidavit, that " 'ninjas' had come into his house, told him to go into his room, and killed his family." Another witness said the robbers were wearing black clothes.

The child is now being cared for by relatives, police said.

The affidavit makes no mention of whether the three alleged robbers found the "drugs and money" that Franklin told police they were seeking. Nathan Wright, a brother of Danielle Brooks, said in a message that his sister didn't use "hard drugs," and found it "laughable" that she'd have money.

Lugo, the upstairs neighbor, said Chris Brooks smoked marijuana, but she said she'd never seen any indication he sold drugs. He spent much of his time at home with his stepson, or with family, Lugo said.

Every summer, Chris Brooks and his brother would play basketball with the child and Lugo's own son in the front yard, Lugo said. They'd talk and play video games, she added.

The couple and child, she said, "never bothered anybody."

"They would mind their own business," Lugo said. "They were a little family."

Correction: Following police reports, this story incorrectly reported that Danielle Brooks' son is 6 years old. He just turned 5, according to relatives.

Nathaniel Herz

Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He’s been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at ADN and Alaska Public Media. He’s reported around the state and loves cross-country skiing.