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Mother accused in murder-for-hire plot to kill witness who saw her son strangled, stabbed in pot rip-off

Ashley Brown, left, Korey Allen Barnette, center, Mason Scott Dubois, right (Sullivan County Sheriff's Office)

L-R: Ashley Brown, Korey Allen Barnette, Mason Scott Dubois (Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office)

A woman is facing charges after allegedly tried to hire a man to murder a witness testifying against two men accused of killing her son, who was hit, kicked, strangled and stabbed in a pot rip-off last year.

Ashley Brown, 42, was arrested after a confidential informant allegedly tipped off investigators with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee that she had been trying to hire him to kill a witness to the November 2022 murder of her son, Gavin Brown, authorities said in a news release.

Prosecutors wouldn’t reveal why they believed Ashley Brown would want a witness to her son’s murder killed, but she allegedly told the informant she did not want to be tied to the slaying — or go to jail.

She also allegedly told the informant she knew the witness’ work schedule, workplace location, and vehicle, and that she wanted the death to look like a suicide, officials said.

“Brown stated that if she committed the murder that she would have to leave town, and it would appear as if she was guilty,” authorities said in their news release. “By soliciting the murder from someone that had no ties to her son’s murder, the informant would not have anything to worry about.”

Ashley Brown was booked into the Sullivan County Jail on charges of soliciting first-degree murder. Her bond was set at $500,000. She does not have an attorney, but prosecutors said she will likely be appointed one at her first court appearance, set for Tuesday.

Affidavits obtained by Law&Crime outline the probable cause for the arrests of two of Gavin Brown’s friends — Korey Allen Barnette and Mason Scott Dubois, whose criminal cases are pending — and spell out the murder-for-hire allegations against his mother.

It all started on Nov. 4, 2022, when Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office patrol units were dispatched to respond to reports of a suspicious death at the Brown home in Blountville, Tennessee.

Once there, officers found Gavin Brown’s body face down in a pool of blood in the entryway. He had what appeared to be blunt force trauma to the back of his head. Blood spatter was found on the door and wall, the affidavit said.

Detectives interviewed several individuals, including Ashley Brown, who said her son’s friends Barnette and Dubois, along with a third person, had stopped by the house the night before as Ashley Brown and a friend were leaving the residence. Law&Crime is not naming the third person, who is the witness targeted in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Those interviews reportedly revealed that the three friends had gone into the residence and that Barnette killed Gavin Brown, the affidavit said. Barnette allegedly told investigators he went to Gavin’s residence the night of the murder to buy drugs, according to the document. While there, he became upset with him, struck him with his fist and knocked him to the floor, the affidavit said.

“Korey stated he kicked, strangled, and stabbed Gavin,” the affidavit said. “Korey stated the knife he used to stab him belonged to Gavin. Korey advised Gavin had a knife, and he took it away from him and stabbed him two times.”

Dubois, meanwhile, had lied about what had happened at the house in order to keep law enforcement from charging him and Barnette with murder.

After the killing, Barnette allegedly took the knife from Gavin Brown’s home and put it in his room. Detectives said they found that knife in his room while searching his home. Authorities said they also found Gavin Brown’s backpack containing baggies of pot.

Barnette faces first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery charges. Dubois was charged with especially aggravated robbery and accessory after the fact. The suspects in Gavin Brown’s murder are expected in court on July 7. Their attorneys did not return emails seeking comment.

The murder-for-hire plot came to light this week, authorities said, after the informant came forward and agreed to use an audio and video recording device to capture statements from Ashley Brown.

Ashley Brown allegedly said she knew she would be questioned about the witness’ death, so they would have to “do their homework, and study on it and make a good plan,” the affidavit said.

“When the confidential informant stated he would not be able to leave the area, Ashley Brown told him he wouldn’t have to worry about that because he had no ties to her son’s murder case,” the affidavit also said.

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