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Published: October 28, 2008
Smiths Station man’s remains are expected to be returned from Vietnam
to his family this morning, but questions remain about how and why he
was killed in far off Ho Chi Minh City.
Kenny Ray Brown, 35, of Smiths Station, known as Ray to his family,
left for a trip to Asia on Sept. 15. His plan was to tour Thailand,
Cambodia and Vietnam. On Oct. 8, he sent an e-mail to family members
about his trip to that point.
“He was prior military (U.S.Navy and Marines) and liked to go
touring different countries,” said Dennis Brown, Ray older brother. Ray
had served in the U.S. Navy and as a Marine before being honorably
discharged for medical reasons.
The funeral service has been scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. at Ft. Mitchell National Cemetery.
The Oct. 8 e-mail would be the last message the family received from Ray.
“The U.S. Consulate notified my parents on Oct. 15,” said Dennis
Brown. The consulate official told the Browns that Ray’s body was found
on Oct. 10. That was the the only concrete answer they got, Dennis
“The consul said that he’d viewed the body from the head up, and
that he’d already started decomposing, and later, we got an e-mail with
two photos that seemed to be from the crime scene police photos,”
Dennis Brown said. “There was no darkening of the skin but he appeared
to have quite a bit of head trauma. Earlier the consulate told us that
his death appeared to be of natural causes and the photo obviously
shows something else.”
From then on, the family has searched for answers.
“We want to get to the bottom of this, no matter what we have to do,
as quickly as possible. Waiting to get to the truth is making this
family more heartbroken each day,” said Robert Brown, Ray’s younger
After seeing the photos on Oct. 17, the Browns expressed their
concerns to the U.S. Consulate and were told that those were the only
images available via Internet and by phone. The photos were from the Ho
Chi Minh City Police Department.
“We cannot even obtain a police report from Ho Chi Minh City
police,” Robert Brown told the Opelika-Auburn News last week. “We do
not have the name of the motel he had his belongings at, but as we’ve
heard, it was in a tourist attraction area of Ho Chi Minh City.
“He was supposedly found by the police department in the lowest of
the lowest parts of the city, where murderers and drug dealers hang
out. My brother was clean and didn’t like even one piece of dirt on the
floor, so we know the area he was found in isn’t an area he would’ve
been by himself.”
The family turned to other agencies for help, including the State
Department, Congressman Mike Rogers’ office and Franco Vietnamese
hospital where Ray’s body was taken, among others.
“This is the hell you’ve got to go through to get some answers,” said Johnny Brown Sr., Ray’s father.
A State Department spokesperson told the Opelika-Auburn News last
week that she could not release any information about the case due to
privacy laws. At that time, the office did not have a waiver from the
Brown family to speak to anyone about this case.
However, the spokesperson said: “When a U.S. citizen dies abroad,
the family is notified and given time to decide what they want done
with the body of the deceased. Many families opt for cremation, when
they take into account the shipping costs, which the U.S. government
does not pay for.”
The Brown family had wanted to have X-rays as well as blood samples
from Ray’s body before the cremation, but were turned down on that
request, according to Robert Brown.
The family, ultimately, decided to move forward to get Ray’s remains home for burial.
Ray was cremated this weekend, Dennis Brown said. His remains were
expected to arrive at 7:20 a.m. today at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta
Tuesday, Dennis Brown said his family’s unanswered questions remain.
“The only thing more we know now is that they did go forward with an
autopsy that revealed his lungs had fluid in them,” said Dennis Brown.
“We did not get the X-ray’s of his head or blood samples we’d hoped
Ray’s belonging have also been shipped home. Andrew Posner,
Vice-Consul of the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, told the
family the belongings may take up to three weeks to arrive, Dennis