What started as a missing persons investigation for former NFL player Sergio Brown and his elderly mother in a close-knit Illinois town turned into a far more disturbing mystery after the woman’s body was found in a creek over the weekend.
Mr Brown, 35, had turned away from the spotlight following his retirement in 2016, but he made headlines again on 16 September when desperate family members reported him and 73-year-old Myrtle Brown missing.
“I’m not waiting another hour ... If you see them or one of them please let me or the Maywood Police Office know,” Nick Brown wrote in a frantic Facebook post along with images of his mother and brother.
Efforts to locate the pair safe and alive were interrupted when Myrtle was found dead just a day later, less than 100 yards from her home. Authorities have revealed that her death is being investigated as a homicide while the search continues for Mr Brown in the suburban village.
Now, neighbours of the Browns have claimed that surveillance footage captured the former NFL star, who is said to have been acting “out of his mind” in recent months, burning his mother’s clothes. Maywood Police have yet to name any person of interest or suspects in the probe.
As scant details about the tragedy begin to emerge, here’s everything we know about Mr Brown’s disappearance:
Who is Sergio Brown?
Mr Brown’s career in the NFL started in 2010 when he was signed by the New England Patriots. He also played with the Indianapolis Colts, Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills throughout his six years in the league.
Little is known about Mr Brown after he was released by the Jaguars in 2016.
Carlos Cortez, a neighbour of Myrtle Brown’s, told WBBM that family members had told him Mr Brown had not been acting like himself lately but did not elaborate on what type of behaviour had given that impression.
“They said he wasn’t himself the last few months. He was out of his mind,” Mr Cortez told the outlet.
Sergio Brown and his mother are reported missing
Relatives of Mr Brown and his mother contacted authorities on Saturday after they couldn’t get in touch with them for over 72 hours.
“Her family came and knocked on the door and was looking for her because they put out a police report because she was missing for 72 hours. So, we tried to help them as much as possible,” Mr Cortez said.
Myrtle’s sister Sheila Simmons told WGN-TV that she had last spoken with her on 14 September and neither she nor Mr Brown were answering calls. The Maywood Police Department then launched a missing persons investigation.
Ms Simmons, who lives out of state, said that she was informed by the department that her family members were nowhere to be found. She travelled to her sister’s home in Maywood and found that things looked out of place.
Ms Simmons said she searched the home’s surroundings but did not immediately find Mr or his mother.
Myrtle Brown’s body is found
Later on Sunday, family members and authorities found Myrtle’s dead body in the Addison Creek Reservoir, less than 100 yards from her home. The Cook County Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Myrtle’s death was a homicide.
According to records obtained by WGTV, she died from multiple unspecified assault injuries.
“We’re going to find out what happened because it’s not normal for my sister to not answer her phone, not to respond to text messages,” Ms Simmons told the outlet about her sister’s death. “People have been reaching out to her since Friday. No one was able to reach her. Now, I got the call this morning saying that she’s missing, so immediately I came out here and find out my sister is dead.”
Family members said that they have not heard from Mr Brown.
Locals told The Village Free Press that Myrtle was a staple in the Maywood community, famous for her “style and grace.”
“Myrtle, she was an outstanding woman, and I’m hoping she’s in the right place and she’s with God,” Mr Cortez told WBBM of his neighbour. “I never would’ve expected this in a million years.”
Mr Cortez also said that he had given authorities Ring doorbell video, in which Mr Brown is reportedly seen burning his mother’s clothes. Relatives of the Browns reportedly also confirmed the former NFL player’s actions to Mr Cortez.
“They seen him taking out the trash, and they seen him have a bonfire where he burned all her clothes,” Mr Cortez said.
The Maywood Police Department declined to comment on the allegations when reached out by The Independent on Monday.
In an Instagram post, Mr Brown’s brother thanked the community for their support and prayers.
“It’s a sad but hopeful time, and we will all get through this together. Mom always told me, ‘tough times don’t last’ and our last conversation about tough times being temporary is my beacon of hope,” Nick Brown recounted.
The grieving son also remembered his mother as “strong, caring, diligent, fancy and funny” and pleaded with his brother to return home.
“My brother Sergio is still missing. If anyone knows where he is I want him to know that I love you and please come home,” he wrote.
Brown’s bizarre social media posts
On Tuesday afternoon, an account linked to Mr Brown made a second post on Instagram stories referencing the movie Finding Nemo. Mr Brown is seen rambling and laughing on the post.
He also appears to be mocking reports that he is “missing.”
“Just keep swimming. Missing? What the f*** is going on?” he is heard saying.
The former NFL star had allegedly previously posted another story showing erratic behaviour and claiming he had been kidnapped by law enforcement.
“I thought my f****** mama was on vacation in Sinaloa. That’s f****** fake news,” he said. “Get the f*** out of my goddamn face. She’s retired, and you want to come to me? The FBI had to do it. They have some power to do some s*** like that. What the f*** is going on? That’s fake news.”
Maywood police told NBC in a statement that the department is aware of the video and is investigating.
“Currently this is an active investigation, and the department is unable to share any further details at this time. We appreciate your patience while our agency continues to investigate the matter,” the statement read.
Anyone with information regarding Myrtle Brown’s murder or Sergio Brown’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Maywood Police Department Anonymous Tip Line at 708-450-1787.