The Murder House

This story is true.

There is a plain little duplex at the corner of Linden and Woodrow in the Stifft Station area of Little Rock. The Post Office calls it 132 S. Woodrow St., but people in the neighborhood just call it…The Murder House.

On March 22, 2006, a tenant at a duplex notified her landlord that water was flooding in from the adjoining north-unit. The maintenance man entered the adjoining unit and found water streaming from under the closed bathroom door. He opened it to discover blood smeared walls and a fully clothed dead man in the bathtub, pink water pouring down the side.

Six months earlier:

One fall night next door, a bunch of thirty-something Young Democrats were having a get-together on the front porch; drinks and networking amongst the young politicos who gravitate toward this gentrifying neighborhood. An unfamiliar black woman approached and invited herself to join in on the fun. She was being festive; singing and dancing in the yard though this really wasn’t a singing and dancing kind of party. She was clearly drug addled and was being disruptive and erratic, though on the surface very friendly. She tried to sit on several people’s lap and made repeated, unwelcome advances toward both men and women. She was testing the patience of the usually tolerant Stifft Station crowd.

Then a familiar woman from the neighborhood approached the porch and began quietly whispering to the guests. She was saying that the stranger shouldn’t be trusted; there was something wrong with her, something frightening. And she said that she was also a regular prostitute for the man who lived next door.

One by one, the invited party guest sought refuge inside the house. Eventually nobody was left on the porch, the strange lady tried to talk her way in as well, but was rebuffed. The door was closed and the Young Democrats huddled inside, waiting for her to leave.

For months after this, the strange woman was seen on Woodrow street and carefully avoided.

March 2006:

When police arrived at the disturbing crime scene, they found a house full of dog excrement, and the body of 63 year old Jon David Harcourt in the bathtub. The victim’s van was also missing.

The break in the case came from an anonymous caller claiming to know the location of the van and the identity of the killer: Dale Roslyn Brooks of 4112 W. 21st Street.

Upon questioning, Miss Brooks claimed to be the dead man’s housekeeper and that she stabbed him because he refused to pay for her house cleaning services. Her assault on him started by jabbing at his legs with a box cutter, but the victim kicked at her so she went to get a long kitchen knife to continue the attack, stabbing him 6 times in all. The fatal wound was an 8 ½ inch deep gouge to his leg which struck the femoral artery. She said she then shoved him into the bathtub and closed the door.

Perhaps it was the victim who turned on the water to treat his wounds. The water, however, is believed to have inhibited clotting and accelerated blood loss. After leaving him to bleed in the bathroom, she stole his van and drove away.

Miss Brooks told police that she had a good relationship with the victim and that he paid her for sex and let her she stay with him when her electricity was shut off. According to a Dem-Gaz reporter, she told police “I just let him know you can’t have me in here being a maid then don’t give me nothing in return. So that’s why I just went and did what I did.”

Her lawyer claimed that the killing was, in fact, committed by a phantom drug dealer named J.J. and that if she HAD done it, it was in self defense. He further claimed that she shouldn’t be held responsible for her actions because her psychiatrist had diagnosed her with mental illness on 24 separate occasion. A state psychiatrist, however, declared her fit for trial. Psychiatrist Dr. Ed Stafford, testified for the prosecution, admitting that she might be mentally ill, but that her mental problems were probably drug-induced. Her lawyer, Bobby R. Digby II, maintained “She has mental problems; she sees things; she hears things,”

Miss Brooks was a large woman, especially when compared to the feeble victim, this probably influenced the jury regarding the self-defense argument. And J.J., the mysterious drug dealer, was widely regarded as imaginary. Jurors deliberated for 15 minutes before they found her guilty of 2nd degree murder and recommended 40 years in prison, which she is now serving at the McPherson Woman’s unit at Newport, AR. She will be eligible for parole in 2017.

Today, the House at 132 S. Woodrow is a bland little place, nothing special. One wouldn’t expect it to be anything unusual, and certainly not a place called…The Murder House.

Credits: source information for this story came from witnesses, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Arkansas Dept. of Corrections and David Jukes.

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