A Baltimore jury found Francois Brown guilty of beating his girlfriend’s baby to death, the verdict coming almost five years after he was convicted of killing his own young son.
The 36-year-old from Woodbourne Heights in North Baltimore faces life in prison after being found guilty Monday of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in a death.
His murder trial began last week in Baltimore Circuit Court and left jurors crying when they listened to a desperate 911 call from the baby’s mother.
Outside the courthouse, the mother, Whitney West, said she felt grateful Monday to see Brown put away.
“I’m just blessed that the verdict was guilty,” she said, before walking off.
Prosecutors say Brown was walking her 18-month-old son back from the playground last year when he took the boy behind an apartment building to unleash the fatal blows. Within hours, little Zaray Gray was unconscious. He never woke up.
Brown showed no reaction when the guilty verdict was read. During trial, prosecutors had described him as easily angered, someone exhibiting a pattern of violent and abusive behavior toward children.
“The defendant meets women. Within a few months, their children are injured,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michele Lambert told the judge last week.
Brown also served nearly three years in prison for the death of his own son in late 2012. At seven months old, Kendall Brown was hospitalized with rib fractures and bleeding in his brain.
In that case, Francois Brown submitted an Alford plea — a guilty plea without admitting culpability — to child abuse resulting in death. Circuit Judge Timothy Doory sentenced him to 15 years in prison with all but four years suspended. Brown served two years and 11 months; he was released December 2015.
About two years later, Brown allegedly hurt another child, this time the daughter of a girlfriend. Prosecutors told a judge this month that Brown had bruised the little girl’s ribs and broken her leg bone. She survived; Brown has not been charged.
Then Brown met Zaray’s mother last year on the dating website Plenty Of Fish. West had moved to Baltimore from D.C. with her three children for the affordable rents. They found a two-bedroom townhouse at the north end of Leakin Park. In testimony last week, West said Brown was an extra hand around the house at first.
She also told the jury that Brown had mentioned the death of his son. He had told her authorities tried to blame him, but he was cleared of the boy’s death, West said.
“He told me that he was not guilty,” she testified.
In July 2018, Brown walked West’s three children to the neighborhood playground while she stayed behind to clean. They all came back and Zaray went down for a nap. Later, West noticed, her son wasn’t waking up.
She listened, but he wasn’t breathing. West called 911 and performed CPR on her baby.
An autopsy found Zaray suffered a fractured clavicle, bruises to his face and internal bleeding. Doctors found tears to his bowels likely caused by blows to the stomach.
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“Zaray had been punched multiple times,” Lambert told the jury. “Blows so terrible that they tore his intestines. He lost so much blood in his bowel that he eventually died.”
Jurors deliberated about one full day before convicting Brown. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 7.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby released a statement Monday calling the crime “unfathomable.”
“Any person who outright abuses a harmless and indefensible baby lacks human decency and deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from society,” Mosby wrote. “We certainly hope this guilty verdict brings deserved closure and offers Zaray’s family a start toward healing.”
His conviction comes amid a series of recent cases that show the violence facing Baltimore’s children. Two weeks ago, family and friends laid to rest Malachi Lawson, the 4-year-old who was burned in a scalding bath, his body then tossed in a dumpster. Police charged his mother and her wife with his death.
Then a jury convicted Keon Gray of second-degree murder for shooting 7-year-old Taylor Hayes during a gunfight in the streets of West Baltimore last summer. A stray bullet hit the girl in her back.
On Wednesday, a Waverly gang member is to be sentenced in federal court for a wild shootout that left another child bystander, 3-year-old McKenzie Elliott, fatally shot in the head.