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LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR

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During this time, the Browns met Heidi Harris and her then-husband through mutual friends. The Harrises had two small children, Tina--born in 1979--and a son born in 1982. In 1983, the Harrises rented Mrs. Brown's Denver home.

After Brown's investment firm broke up in 1983, he spent about a year as a financial consultant for a wealthy Texas family. Heidi Harris says Jack Brown often baby-sat for her kids during this time.

The Browns moved to Phoenix full- time in 1985. That year, they had their only child together, a daughter. They lived in the rich, white, insulated world of Paradise Valley, but their security was deceptive. Jack Brown tried to start a software company in Phoenix, but it never got off the ground. It seemed that everything he touched turned sour. The family was living mostly off Mrs. Brown's investments.

The change of scenery to Phoenix had done nothing to improve Jack Brown's failing marriage. In March 1986, the couple went to Phoenix psychologist Sandy Mazen for help. But they separated a few weeks later, and Mrs. Brown filed for divorce. Jack Brown moved into a condo at the Biltmore Estates while Mrs. Brown and her daughter remained at the sprawling Paradise Valley home.

Now divorced, Heidi Harris with her children visited Phoenix numerous times in 1986, maintaining friendships with both Browns. She trusted Jack Brown, and often let her kids stay overnight with him at his condo. Now and then, Brown's own daughter also spent the night. Tina Harris had a special friendship with the girl. She also loved to go horseback riding with Jack Brown.

It was during this period, 1986 and early 1987, that Brown molested Tina at least three times. He tried to explain his behavior during a 1989 court deposition: "This was an extremely compressed stress period for me. Financial, family separation, relocation to Phoenix, not really knowing very many people down here. I had come from a position of financial stability, multiple houses, a high opinion from my peers of my work in Denver and in Washington . . . I feel that I had a substantial detachment from my normal environment."

Mrs. Brown moved back to Denver in early 1987. Her divorce from Jack Brown was final that summer. She frequently let Heidi Harris and her kids stay at her Paradise Valley home; they were there on a visit in April 1987 when Tina revealed the molestations.

On that trip, Tina knew it would be only a matter of time before Jack Brown came around. The thought frightened her. The night before Tina pulled her mother aside, she watched a television show called The Molester, a Friend of the Family.

She then demonstrated great courage in talking to her mom, especially because of the secrecy pact--typical of child molesters--that Brown had forced on her.

"He told her she wouldn't be able to ride his horses anymore and that Mommy would be very angry with him," Heidi Harris says. "`None of us will be able to be friends anymore, and it will be horrible, and you know your mommy and daddy aren't very good friends right now anyway. It'll make them worse friends.'"

It was months before Tina spoke to her mother again about what Jack Brown had done to her. "`There was something I hadn't told you,'" Tina whispered to her. "I said, `What's that, honey?' She said, `He stuck his finger up me, too. It hurt so much.'"

THE DAY AFTER Tina first confided in her mother, Jack Brown and Heidi Harris visited the office of Phoenix social worker Cynthia Morse. Harris says she went with Brown after his estranged wife warned he'd lie to the social worker in a one-on-one situation. Morse says she thought at first that Brown and Heidi Harris were a married couple, so unusual was a joint visit from a molester and the mother of a victim. Brown again confessed his crimes, though he was vague about details. Morse told them she'd have to turn the case over to someone with more experience.

Harris, however, wanted Brown to surrender to authorities. "I said I thought it was much better that he take this on his own, be a man about it," she says.

After they left, Morse says she telephoned the state's Child Protective Services (CPS) for information on what to do next. Reporting such criminal activity is mandatory for Arizona's mental-health professionals, but Morse doesn't remember if she gave Brown's name to the CPS caseworker on the other end.

Five days after Tina told the truth about Brown, he typed a one-page letter to the girl and her mother.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin