Arraignment Scheduled for Suspect in 17-Year-Old Murder Case

Joseph Ray Messer, 38, of Desert Hot Springs was charged in March with murder and a sentence-enhancing gun use allegation in the July 27, 1996, death of 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Brown.

Arraignment is scheduled Friday for a felon facing a murder charge filed more than 17 years after he allegedly gunned down a teenage boy following an argument in Desert Hot Springs.

Joseph Ray Messer, 38, of Desert Hot Springs was charged in March with murder and a sentence-enhancing gun use allegation in the July 27, 1996, death of 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Brown in the 13000 block of Ramona Road.

Messer was taken into custody last Friday at Folsom State Prison, where he was serving time in another case, and was booked into the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in lieu of $1 million bail.

On the day of the killing, several boys and young men, including the victim's younger brother, were in the siblings' front yard for a birthday celebration when a man later identified as Messer approached and asked if anyone had a cigarette. He then "stared down the group and said with an attitude, 'I'll smoke you, fat boy,"' according to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant.

Messer, who had his right hand at his waist and partially concealed, allegedly added that he would "smoke all of you guys," according to the declaration.

Someone ran into the house and asked Brown to come out, telling the teen there was a "crazy guy out front starting (trouble), threatening to fight for no reason." The victim and several others followed Messer, who was allegedly screaming that he would "smoke all of you right now," the affidavit says.

When Brown and the others were 10 to 15 feet behind him, Messer allegedly pulled a weapon out of his waistband and fired a shot into the air, then three or four shots at the people following him, striking the victim.

Later that day, someone found a revolver wrapped in a shirt on Caliente Street and told sheriff's deputies that Messer came to his door, asked for a ride, then fled when he saw a sheriff's patrol car go by, according to the sworn statement.

An examination of the revolver showed it was the one used to kill Brown, according to the affidavit.

Messer told an investigator about a month later that he was walking home the day of the shooting when a youth at the party asked him for a cigarette. He said he had a gun at the time and heard one of the kids say, "let's kick this dude's (butt)."

Messer said he saw 10 to 15 people chasing him with "bats, bottles, everything." He said he fired a warning shot, then a few more at the teens, one of which struck "Jamie," according to the declaration.

"Messer said he warned the kids by saying, 'Look man, it's loaded -- back off, dude, I ain't playing around with you guys,"' the document states.

In September 1996, Messer told an El Dorado County sheriff's detective who arrested him on suspicion of a fatal stabbing in Northern California that he was wanted in Riverside County for a shooting death, according to the declaration.

Messer, who was 20 at the time Brown was killed, was identified as a person of interest in that case, but detectives couldn't get enough evidence to make an arrest at the time.

Brown's death investigation was eventually turned over to the sheriff's Cold Case Team, which dug back into the case, found Messer in Folsom and interrogated him.

Messer "did not deny being responsible for shooting Brown. Instead, he claimed it was the 'scariest thing' he had been involved in and that his actions were in self-defense," the declaration stated.

— City News Service.


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