David ‘Stringbean’ Akeman’s killer granted parole

David “Stringbean” Akeman
Yesterday, the Tennessee Parole Board granted parole to a man, John A. Brown, who was serving two life sentences for the murder of Kentucky native David “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife Estelle.  Needless to say, it has been a shock of news.  Only 5 of the 7 members of the parole board showed up for the meeting with four of those granting the parole.

One night in November 1973 after a performance of the Grand Ole Opry, Stringbean and his wife were shot and killed by cousins John A. Brown and Doug Marvin Brown.  They knew that Stringbean would carry large amounts of cash and plotted to steal the money from him.

John A. Brown has went before the parole board 6 other times over the years.  Many Grand Ole Opry stars and friends of the Stringbean would lobby and encourage the board to not grant the release.  Needless to say, they were not too please upon the results that his murderer would be released.  Doug Brown previously passed away while serving time in jail.

In a statement to the Tennessean newspaper, Jean Shepherd said, “I’m sure the Lord will forgive him.” Shepard said. “I don’t think any of us will.”

According to the Tennessee Parole Board, they reviewed his record of good behavior and psychological evaluation to see if he is prone to further violence or other special needs.  Based on those two items, members of the board granted his release.

Stringbean Akeman was born in Annville, a small community in Jackson County.  Stringbean was well known on the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw for his comedy and playing banjo.  He even played for Bill Monroe for a short time as well.  He would wear very long clothing and was nicknamed Stringbean for his tall lanky figure.  He and his wife were friends with fellow Kentuckian, Grandpa Jones and his wife Ramona.  In fact, Stringbean and Grandpa Jones were founding members of Hee Haw. 

According to the Dave Akeman website, the police investigation led to the double homicide conviction of the cousins.  
Marvin Douglas Brown fought his convictions in the Tennessee appellate courts. On September 28, 1982, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial judge’s order denying a new trial. Marvin Brown ultimately granted an exclusive interview to Larry Brinton of the Nashville Banner. In the interview, he admitted his participation in the burglary and murders, but contended that John Brown fired the fatal shots. Since Brown, by his own admission, committed burglary, and that burglary resulted in death, Brown is guilty of murder, regardless of who fired the fatal shots.”

At trial, it was revealed that the two had ransacked the cabin and then killed Stringbean. Estelle shrieked when she saw Stringbean hit with the bullets. A few moments later, after begging for her life, she was gunned down as well in the front yard. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals described the scene, ‘Upon their return, Mr. Akeman spotted the intruders in his home and evidently offered some resistance. One of the Brown cousins fatally shot Mr. Akeman, then pursued, shot and killed Mrs. Akeman. At their trial, each defendant blamed the other for the homicides.’

The thieves left with nothing more than a chain saw and some guns. In 1996, 23 years after their murders, $20,000 in cash was discovered behind a brick in the chimney of the Akemans’ home. The paper money had rotted to such an extent that it was not usable. (the United States Consumer Price Index indicates that the purchasing power of $20,000 in 1973 would be equivalent to the purchasing power of some $100,000 in 2010.)


Jessica Bray

Jessica Bray is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. Jessica has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite country music singers. She is a Kentucky Colonel, as well as a collector of Volkswagen and Gnome items. Most recently, she was named Laurel County's Ten Under 40 Award Recipients for 2018.

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