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Who Killed Betty Gail Brown?Who Killed Betty Gail Brown?

Murder, Mistrial, and Mystery

Robert G. Lawson

Narrated by Ernest G. Sprance

Available from Audible


Book published by University Press of Kentucky


On October 26, 1961, after an evening of studying with friends on the campus of Transylvania University, nineteen-year-old student Betty Gail Brown got into her car around midnight—presumably headed for home. But she would never arrive. Three hours later, Brown was found dead in a driveway near the center of campus, strangled to death with her own brassiere. Kentuckians from across the state became engrossed in the proceedings as lead after lead went nowhere. Four years later, the police investigation completely stalled.

In 1965, a drifter named Alex Arnold Jr. confessed to the killing while in jail on other charges in Oregon. Arnold was brought to Lexington, indicted for the murder of Betty Gail Brown, and put on trial, where he entered a plea of not guilty. Robert G. Lawson was a young attorney at a local firm when a senior member asked him to help defend Arnold, and he offers a meticulous record of the case in Who Killed Betty Gail Brown? During the trial, the courtroom was packed daily, but witnesses failed to produce any concrete evidence. Arnold was an alcoholic whose memory was unreliable, and his confused, inconsistent answers to questions about the night of the homicide did not add up.

Since the trial, new leads have come and gone, but Betty Gail Brown’s murder remains unsolved. A written transcript of the court proceedings does not exist; and thus Lawson, drawing upon police and court records, newspaper articles, personal files, and his own notes, provides an invaluable record of one of Kentucky’s most famous cold cases.

Robert G. Lawson has been a law professor for fifty years at the University of Kentucky, where he served twice as dean of the college of law. He is the author of The Kentucky Evidence Law Handbook and Beverly Hills: The Anatomy of a Nightclub Fire.

REVIEWS:

“This book is a must-read for several reasons. First, it’s a straightforward account of a famous Kentucky murder case, written in Robert Lawson’s no-nonsense style. Second, it’s a good example of lawyers’ pro bono representation of an indigent defendant charged with a serious crime. Finally, it’s the story of a confession, never retracted, that might or might not be true.”

Kentucky Bench & Bar

“I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes stories true crime, legal nonfiction, or Lexington history. Lawson tells a great story from the perspective of his own involvement in the story, and his own uncertainty about who actually killed Miss Brown.”

—Her Kentucky Reads blog

“Readers intrigued by shows such as Dateline or the Netflix series Making a Murderer will be captivated by the story of Betty Gail Brown.”

Kentucky Living

“This is a fascinating book for two reasons. One, it reads for exactly what it is: a true crime mystery that captured the attention of Kentucky for several years in the early to mid-1960s and that has now been brought back to the public’s attention. Second, it is a look into the life and mindset of the times. Lawson should be commended for keeping the case of Brown alive in the public eye and contributing to the scholarship and history of Kentucky.”

Bowling Green Daily News

Who Killed Betty Gail Brown? is clear, well-written and accessible to the average reader. Mr. Lawson has done an excellent job of organizing the material to make the case easily understandable. He also keeps the action moving and the reader turning pages to find out what happens next.”

Lexington Herald-Leader





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