New Details In Homeless Woman’s Murder

Sonny Delong was bound over to stand trial following a preliminary hearing Friday morning in Douglas County Court. He’s accused of starting a fire that caused the death of Amanda Brown on May 6th.

Judge John Huber made the decision after lengthy testimony from Omaha Police Officer Derrick Mois. According to that testimony, Brown and her boyfriend had left the downtown library between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. before heading to get food near 16th and Farnam, finally walking to 14th and Mason where the two had been living in a “makeshift shelter.”

According to the boyfriend’s testimony, after he and Brown were winding down for the night, which included Brown taking her prescribed sleeping medication, Delong had ventured into the area where Brown and her boyfriend were living. Witness interviews described a past history between Delong and Brown that included a brief time of dating, verbal and physical abuse.

Amanda Brown

When Delong approached he made demands that they get up and get out of the structure, otherwise he would set it on fire. Brown’s boyfriend tried waking her, but flames had already ignited in the far corner and quickly grew. Detective Mois was told the structure was made of railroad ties, cardboard and other pieces of wood and blankets. The flames grew quickly and the intensity caused debris to collapse in the front entrance. By this time, the boyfriend was able to escape but not with Brown.

That is when, according to Mois, the two men tried to make their way to Brown who was trapped inside, who by now was awake but screaming. They couldn’t get to her and she eventually grew quiet. Mois described that autopsy report indicating Brown died of thermal burns.

Delong’s defense attorney Cindy Tate alluded to the fact that the state’s star witness, the boyfriend, was a weak connection and it wasn’t strong enough to pin the murder on Delong. Judge Huber decided against her.

Delong was bound over to stand trial on felony murder in the first-degree, which is slightly different than a regular first-degree murder charge. In this case the state alleges that Delong set fire to the structure causing Brown’s death. The death penalty is still the maximum charge, although prosecutors made no indication if they would seek that sentence.

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