Mason Brown’s step brother had reported him missing Thursday when he spoke with a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy at the Country Store in west Bunnell. Karl Szulc, 32, told the deputy Brown had a scheduled court appearance that day at 10 a.m., and that he’d wait to see if Brown would turn up before filling out missing-person forms.
Szulc filled out the papers at 11:30 a.m. Deputy Kyle Gaddie entered Brown into the National Crime Information Center/Florida Crime Information Center databases (NCIC/FCIC) as missing.
Gaddie was still on the call when he heard the 911 dispatch center issue an alert about a water rescue in progress in a pond near Zonal Geranium Trail and Belle Terre Boulevard in Palm Coast. Dispatch relayed information about the tag to the silver 2002 Saturn found at the scene, and that was believed to belong to the man in the water: it was Brown’s car.
And it was no rescue. The man was lifeless.
The man in the pond was about 40 yards offshore, face down and unclothed. He would soon be identified as Mason Brown, 28, of Mahogany Boulevard in Daytona North, also known as the Mondex.
The sheriff’s Marine unit retrieved Brown’s body and confirmed his identity through markings and other physical features. “On scene empty inhalant bottles were located consistent with Mason’s drug of choice,” the sheriff’s report states. His clothing was located along the water’s edge, near the vehicle.
Brown was, in fact, scheduled to be in drug court, before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins, Thursday morning at 10 a.m. He joined drug court last August in a plea agreement after facing drug charges. But Brown, the father of a young son, was facing getting thrown out of drug court after prematurely leaving a treatment center, the revocation of his probation, and a sentence in state prison.
Brown on Thursday became the third member of drug court in the last four years to die, the second by overdose if, as officials suspect, inhalants were the reason. All three had been either in jail or in a rehabilitation program just days earlier.
Completion of drug court enables the participant to have his or her charges dropped at graduation. But it’s a demanding, grueling and often very lengthy process. Along the way participants often develop tight bonds, referring to each other as members of the same family. The judge conducts drug court sessions with all participants present. They witness each other’s successes and stumbles, encourage and root for each other–and react with powerful emotions when a member of drug court fails out, as some do, or worse. Not just the participants: the judges feel the losses too.
Perkins certainly did last year when, before a February session last year, he addressed the drug court participants in a more fatherly way, foregoing his judicial robe and seating participants around a table after the death of Anthony Fennick, a recent drug court participant. Perkins had actually failed the 23 year old out of drug court and sent back him to jail after Fennick tested positive for a drug, though Fennick–who had a young child–had been in drug court for over a year. Weeks later at the county jail, he developed a fever and an allergic reaction under spotty–his mother says a criminal lack of–supervision from the contracted health provider at the jail, was taken to the hospital barely conscious, and soon became brain dead. He died days later. A recently completed investigation found no criminal wrongdoing. His memorial at the beach drew several friends from drug court.
In November 2017, Savannah Deangelis, 23, died of a heroin overdose just days after she had been allowed to leave the lockdown treatment facility at Project Warm in Bunnell for five days during the Hurricane Irma emergency, even though she’d not been eligible for so much as a four-hour pass previously and was at very high risk of relapse. She had in fact used a drug while she was out, admitted to it, and led Judge Dennis Craig, who was presiding over drug court at the time, to kick her out. Those familiar with Craig said he took DeAngelis’s death extremely hard. (Drug court’s calibrated system of penalties is designed to tread a gray line between tough love and harshness toward repeat offender, so that permissiveness is not interpreted as license to re-offend. At times the punishment itself can lead to the worst unintended consequence: an overdose.)
The man who allegedly sold DeAngelis’s last dose of heroin, Joseph Colon, was indicted for first degree murder the following February. His case continues. He’s due in court on Aug. 18 for a pre-trial.
Brown joined drug court in the middle of August last year, after a violation of a probation term that was not to end until August 22, though he could shorten it by graduating from drug court. He did well for over six months. He got in trouble last January when a deputy found him passed out on inhalants at the wheel of his car in circumstances almost identical to the arrest in 2018 that eventually led him to drug court. When asked in his monthly probation report whether he’d had contact with a law enforcement officer, he wrote “None,” a lie neither probation officers nor the court suffer kindly. Brown was “adamant” the inhaling was a one-time thing, according to his violation report.
He’d been sentenced to a rehab program, to which he did not want to go: he wanted to go on with drug court. He pleaded his case to Perkins, writing him 10 days into his jail stint as a son would his father–as drug court participants often see their judge.
“I know I am here today because of my own actions and I take full responsibility for what I’ve done,” Brown wrote Perkins, but also as if addressing the entire drug court “team,” as he calls it later in the letter. “Sitting in jail I’ve had nothing but time to think about the stupid choice I made to get myself in the situation I’m in now with Drug Court. I know I messed up but your Honor, I just don’t quite understand why I’m getting such a harsh punishment like being up-rooted from my life and all the progress I’ve made in what’s going on to be six months now to be sent to a rehab center.”
He then described the sort of experience drug court participants often speak of, especially those who make it to graduation and speak of it at their ceremony: “Since I’ve been on drug court my life has completely changed, for the better. I finally got my job back working on the farm, y’all know that’s been one of my goals since day one in Drug Court. I finally got motivated to go back to school to get my GED, which we had just talked about me being ready to take the real test to get my GED.”
Brown then spoke of screwing up his mother’s plans: he was supposed to help her move to Palm Bay. He got in trouble instead. He insists that his violation was the only time he’d done something wrong. “I’ve got so much good going on for me that the last I want to do is mess it all up for myself,” he wrote in a neatly legible script. He wondered why other drug court participants who had “hick-ups” either got mere sanctions, had to write an essay, re-start drug court or at worst get a few days’ jail time. “I’ve yet to see anyone get sentenced to rehab?” He feared losing all he owned.
“Your honor please please please hear me out today,” Brown continued. “I’m begging you to find it in your heart to give me just one more chance before I’m just shipped off to rehab. There is a hundred punishments out there you could do, restart me in the program, take all my clean days, put me on residential challenge, make me call to see Mr. D. every day.” (All participants refer to John Dioguardi, the drug court coordinator, as Mr. D.) “If a police officer so much as waves at me I will stop what I’m doing to call and report contact with law [enforcement]. I will put this on everything I love, my son, my mother. I promise you’ll never ever have me in front of you again for such a stupid, dangerous, childish and unh-honest choice again, only for doing the right thing and doing what I’m supposed to do.”
To the drug court “team,” he wrote: You all have my word on that. If I so much as slip up one time on anything you tell me to do then hands down, no arguments about it, I deserve it. Please just give me one more chance to prove I learned from this one and only mistake. I know I can do this. And I know I can impress the Drug Court Team.”
Brown was sent to Orlando Bridge, a residential treatment program in Orlando. Court documents point to Brown still participating in drug court, at times through Zoom or through his attorney, Bill Partington.
Less than two weeks ago–on July 7–he left Orlando Bridge before completing the program “for non-compliance with Bridge rules and regulations,” according to a violation affidavit. It was another probation violation. He returned to his home on Mahogany Boulevard, according to the violation report. On July 9, the court sentenced him to three days in jail. He was booked in just after 5 p.m. that day and released last Saturday.
In a report filed with the court on Monday, Kevin Vanness, Brown’s probation officer, recommended that a warrant be issued for Brown’s arrest, that his probation be revoked, and that he be sent to state prison.
“This officer is making this recommendation,” Vaness wrote in his violation report, “due to the fact that this offender had made little or no effort while enrolled in residential drug treatment at the Orlando Bridge and was unsuccessfully discharged on 7/7/20. This officer has spoken to the treatment provider and they are amenable to this offender serving time within the Department of Corrections.”
The next time an officer of the law had contact with Brown was when he was on Thursday, when his lifeless body was pulled out of the water. Mason Dillon Brown was 28 years old.
RIP mason you will be missed by many.. I pray for your family and your sons mom for them to have peace threw this horrible time! My heart breaks for all of them! May your memory live in your son 😇💕
Sheila M says
May the Lord rest your beautiful soul .may you find peace dear Mason .prayers to your mom n sister n all the family. .
Tara Painter says
Mason was such a kind, sweet person from an amazingly caring, good family! May God cover them in his protective arms and help them find peace! Rest In Peace Mason! Lots of prayers for your family! We love you all!
People who choose inhalants often start when they are quite young and their brains are still developing. They suffer pretty severe neurological effects from their brains being starved of oxygen while they are high on inhalants. Recovery is difficult but not impossible. My condolences to his friends and loved ones, I feel especially bad for his young son.
Ms. E says
It breaks my heart to hear of the news about Mason. Mason was one of my students’ at Heritage Academy in 2009. Mason always had a passion for fixing things, and he was good at it. Years later he fixed my a c while working for a local company, and again, he knew what he was doing. I wish things could’ve ended differently for Mason’s life, however, it didn’t. May you RIP young man. My thoughts and prayers to his family, son and his son’s mom. It’s a travesty to see so many young lives taken too soon.
Sorry buddy the system failed you. May you RIP YOUNG MAN god be with you.
mary fusco says
How exactly did the system fail him? He made his own choices.
What did he personally do to hurt anyone other than himself? Addicts need support and rehabilitation. Jail and prison is not rehabilitation.
He could have been a witness to a car accident and his PO still would have violated him. It’s happened to me. So don’t act like the systems perfect because if anything it makes people worse. It’s designed to do that so they can monetize people.
Mom of 3 says
Drug addiction is a terrible disease. It’s so sad to see another sufferer has died. May he rest in peace and may his son and mom find peace somehow.
A Friend says
RIP Mason you will be truly missed man. You were a great friend to a lot of people. Helped a lot of people out best you could. I pray for your family man. God Bless.
Another one lost says
This young man was obviously distraught realizing he was going to prison. I’m sorry but it seems to me he took his own life. I’m not an expert but I think that had it been overdose they would have found him in his car. Not in the middle of a pond with no clothes on. Heartbreaking..
It mostly definitely was an overdose I feel he might of got to high got hot and took off his clothes to try to cool down and in the middle of that didn’t come back up from the water! Either way he was an awesome person he helped everyone and anyone. He struggled for a long time!
This is so sad that I have no words…other than May God cradle him in his arms and soothe and watch over his children, wife, Mom and family. The daily unresolved American Drug Tragedy.
Trailer Bob says
So Damn Sad. Good looking young man that appears to be bright and polite. We are losing SO many young people to these deadly drugs and their addiction. I do believe that officials tried to help, but the addiction, usually coupled with psychological issues, if far more insidious than many want to admit. Been there, done that as a teen in the 60’s. Now I am approaching 65, I made it, barely.
I can tell you this…in order for treatment to work, it needs to be intense, long rather than short, and based on science and reality. Just because someone goes through a 30 or 90 day treatment plan doesn’t mean the deep rooted problem is solved. Addiction is an insidious disease. We can’t continue to lose our young people to this. Seems like “all lives matter” but those with drug addictions.
I suggest the Flagler County puts their heads together and comes up with a more successful program to stop the heartless deaths of these kids. ALL LIVES MATTER.
Trailer Bob says
I went to this young man’s home, met his brother for the first time, and left some plastic flowers in front of the house where he and his brother live(d). Just so damned sad. Good looking kid with a smile to light up a room. It is hard to get my head around the tough love aspect of his treatment. Of Course I don’t. know much about his treatment or the quality of the programs offered. But, just maybe, there. could have been a little more compassion and understanding for this young man with regard to his lapses in compliance. Drug addiction sucks, people also make mistakes, but this boy pleaded with the system to give him another chance. New he did wrong and pleaded for compassion. Now he is dead because he felt he had no other choices.
When someone is addicted to drugs, there are many other issues that come into play. Maybe he truly no longer wanted this way of life? Obviously he was losing the battle with drugs. Seems like he was a decent person from what others have t0ld me. So, as a conservative I will go out on a limb here. Maybe, just maybe, the professionals who were trying to “help” him could have been a little less lenient, as they should know from what should be required education to be counsellors, stopping an addiction is NOT easy.
He didn’t kill anyone, didn’t burn down historic monuments, didn’t burn down a city, didn’t even throw rocks at police officers.
He was sick. He was Addicted. Make many of us wonder if there was another way to let him know he was off course without making decision for him that put him over the edge. I look at his picture and ask myself…what if that was my son? What is that was my friend? Just saying. But in the end, all I can say is rest in peace Mason. Rest in peace now.
See something say something... says
They do have a plan but they need everyone’s help by reporting the drug dealers in our neighborhoods. Law enforcement can’t be everywhere so they need our eyes and ears to eliminate the suppliers. The war on drugs comes down to everyone doing their part to save our youngsters and adults that have fallen into addiction. I’m glad you maintained your sobriety as many are weakened and succumb to substance abuse. While I never did get addicted, I’ve easily lost 95% of my childhood friends to drugs. I strongly believe that eliminating the suppliers by whatever means, many won’t even start drugs. Everyone knows who the dealers are in their neighborhood but are too scared to do what’s right. Everyone is a potential client to the dealers including young children that grow up and can easily be lost. Husbands, wives, visiting family and friends are targets and while dealers stuff their pockets, they ruin the addicts life and their families.
Cheyenne Lemon says
RIP Mason Brown so many lives lost to such a horrible situation now you’re up there with my brother looking down on all of us may God Rest Your soul
May you Rest In Peace Mason Brown. Condolences to your family and friends. May your soul finally find peace.
The pressure of drug court makes getting sober 5 times this hard fear is never a good motivation for permanent change love wins every time
Trailer Bob says
Sorry for all the typos and poor grammar. That happens when some of us get emotional. But I think you will know what I was trying to get across.
Reinhold Schlieper says
Portugal decriminalised the personal possession of all drugs in 2001. This means that, while it is no longer a criminal offence to possess drugs for personal use, it is still an administrative violation, punishable by penalties such as fines or community service. May 21, 2020 [https://transformdrugs.org/]
Jails and police have nothing to do with it all. Addicts receive their dose with clean needles in supervised facilities. Illegal distribution continues to be a crime and is treated as such. Threats don’t work as educational tools.
Why cannot we learn from what works???
Kelly Kotze says
There just simply are no words! My heart aches for you and your family for I certainly understand what they are going through. For I too must deal with a child who also suffers from addiction. Mason you were loved by many. To your family I honestly don’t know what to say other than I truly am sorry. RIP
E. Hoffa says
So SAD! May he RIP! Please pray for him and his family! Also, offer help to his young family, they will need a lot of support!
Mason’s letters evidently fell on blind eyes and deaf ears .
The system revolves too heavily on punishment rather than help .
We as a nation have the highest incarceration rates in the world .
Our justice system today commits crimes against humanity by separating and caging children at our southern border . We are talking about CHILDREN !
Notice how no one from the sheriffs office or other components of our local justice system is on here offering condolences or pledging their best to make sure other Mason’s have an opportunity to live .
Ask yourself if you find any of this as “ acceptable “ ?
If not VOTE and demand change !
I’ve lost 2 family members to drug abuse, this is extremely sad and I definitely will pray for his family
Concerned person in recovery says
I believe Drug Court needs some reform. Instead of encouraging the participants to go play softball they should be shown a way of recovery . Encouraging to participate more with the 12 step programs that could change their whole lives. They should be given incentives for finding and using a sponsor and working through the 12 steps of NA, AA Or Celebrate recovery instead of just attending meetings. These fore mentioned fellowships will be there after their time in drug court is completed.
See something say something... says
It comes down to taking responsibility for the poor choices. Quit blaming others for the failures one chooses…repeatedly.
They encourage them to play softball so they’re not at home or other places doing these drugs. They go out there to have fun and get their minds off that crap. Go out there sometime and actually watch their team. You wouldn’t think their minds are on the drugs then. Just out there having fun…
Tessa Lilly says
Mason…we grew up together as kids …never would guess we would struggle with addiction back then …my heart was absolutely broken as was my entire family..mom, my bros, sis..ect. Prayers go out to Rashel and your lil mini me… Your story will be heard bro..Love u Always! R.I.P :( I was just on the phone with u a few wks ago reminiscing about goofin off as kids ugh I can’t believe ur gone!