In August 2014, Melissa Brown was cleared of charges by Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland. Mayflower police officer Mark Winchester was terminated after it was determined he had withheld evidence regarding this case.
MAYFLOWER (KATV) - A Cabot woman is arrested after allegedly pretending to be a Mayflower tornado victim and collecting hundreds of dollars worth of donations.
For the past few weeks, Melissa Brown, 33, has been claiming to be part of the organization "Misfits for Mayhem Relief."
People who helped the woman said, "It's just disgusting that someone would pretend to be a tornado victim just to score some free stuff, taking away from those who really need it."
What's became known as the "Interstate Relief Tent" along I-40 in Mayflower has been operating for the last few weeks since the tornado hit. For about the same length of time, multiple times a day, Brown reportedly told volunteers different stories.
"She initially come in here and said that she was in here to help out some people and that she was a disaster hit by the tornado and she needed some help, then she come back in here the next day and said she had some people needing help but they couldn't come in here, so she was picking up stuff for them," said volunteer Mary Jane Ward.
Brown had been staying in two tents next to the Lumber One Home Center. She was arrested on Saturday, during an undercover operation. This, after Mayflower Police Officer Mark Winchester noticed a suspicious pickup truck earlier that morning loaded with donations driven by James Glover, an acquaintance of Brown, who has a history of theft.
"Run the plate, the plate didn't come back to that vehicle so that gave me probable cause to stop the vehicle," said Officer Winchester.
According to the police report, Glover said the truck was Brown's and that both of them were going around handing out donations. Although at 1 am, Officer Winchester said he wasn't buying it. The clues quickly led police to Brown and the "Interstate Relief Tent" where volunteers confirmed that Brown had been picking up supplies, but never brought tornado victims with her besides Glover.
Police then recovered items in front of 21 Oak Street, where Glover was staying. Items in the back of the truck were also recovered.
"You're taking away from individuals in need," said Officer Winchester. "It's really crazy I mean because people like that make it bad for everybody else for people who really need it," added Ward.
Brown has bonded out, but is facing one count of theft of property, a Class D Felony because more than $100 was taken from a disaster area.
Police are still trying to figure out how much involvement Glover had in this. Glover was arrested on one count of driving on a suspended license. Officer Winchester also added that Brown will be facing more charges related to this. Brown also had a warrant out for her arrest from the Greenbrier Police Department.