When people talk about having lots of money they can get from their home, they are usually referring to equity — the difference between what the home is worth and what you still owe on it. David Akeman and his wife, Estelle, literally had their money in the bricks of their house. That’s what burglars were after the night they were killed.
Akeman, known to country music fans as “Stringbean”, was a musician and comedian who frequented the Grand Ole Opry and the set of Hee Haw. Stringbean was known for his stage costume, a very long shirt paired with very short jeans. The jeans buckled around his knees and the shirt tucked in, making it look like Stringbean an outrageously long torso and very short legs.
Almost 41 years ago, in November, 1973, the 57-year-old Stringbean and his wife were returning to their rural Tennessee home after a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. When they arrived, they found their home ransacked and two men, John A. Brown and Marvin Douglas Brown, waiting for them. The two men were cousins, and they had heard that Akeman kept his money in his modest home because he did not trust banks since living through The Great Depression.
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals describes what followed:
“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.”
The following morning, Akeman’s neighbor and fellow Opry member, Grandpa Jones, came to join Akeman in a planned hunting outing. Jones discovered the Akemans’ bodies and called police.
The Brown cousins were arrested. They had only managed to steal a chainsaw and some firearms. They never found the money they were hoping to get. Court records tell that, “At their trial, each defendant blamed the other for the homicides.”
Akeman’s money was only found 23 years after the murders, behind bricks in his fireplace chimney.
Marvin Brown died in prison. John A. Brown was denied parole six times, but was recently granted parole, having served only 41 years of the 198-year sentence he was given. Friends of Akeman are livid.
Country music legend Mac Wiseman called the parole decision a “great miscarriage of justice.”
“It makes me question the legal system,” he said. “I fully believe that the good Lord forgives us for our mistakes, but [the parole board] don’t have the authority, spiritually or otherwise, to forgive that man, I don’t think.”