The house had been ransacked. The coffee table had been flipped and furniture was in disarray. Cindy Reese was standing outside her home after dialling 911 to report the break-in. She explained she’d returned from the grocery store to find the house she shared with her husband Michael had been burgled. But when police arrived, they found something in the kitchen that would take the crime to a whole new level.
Accountant Cindy Reese, 40, lived with her husband Michael, also 40, in Morris, Alabama. They’d been married six years, and had met after Cindy’s first husband had committed suicide. The couple had a seemingly normal and idyllic life in their picture-perfect white-painted house nestled under the shade of the trees.
The couple were religious and regularly attended the local Sardis Baptist Church, where Cindy was also head of music. But things were far from perfect. In 2013, Jeffery Brown, 36, became senior pastor at the church. Cindy was taken with the clergyman and they started an affair. When the leaders at the church found out about the betrayal, Jeffery stepped down before the scandal got out, but he continued to see Cindy, who gave him money for a car and cash towards his apartment.
Did Michael know what his wife was up to? It’s not clear. But they were still living together in 2015 when Cindy continued to meet up with her lover.
On 18 February, Cindy and Michael went to church together. Afterwards, Cindy went to the local shop. When she returned at 8pm, she called 911. She told the operator that she’d arrived home to find the house a mess and suspected there had been a break-in. Cindy had left the house while on the phone before exploring any further.
Shot in the head
When officers arrived, they made a shocking discovery. They went into the kitchen and found Michael dead on the floor next to the open back door. He’d been shot in the back of the head. Cindy hadn’t even mentioned her husband. Hadn’t she been concerned for his welfare? It looked like Michael had disturbed the intruders and had paid with his life.
But on closer inspection, investigators realised there were no signs of forced entry and nothing had been stolen. It was also an odd time of the evening for a break-in and police thought that the scene had been ‘staged’. They even suggested to local media that Michael might have known his killer.
It didn’t take long for investigators to find out about Cindy’s affair with Jeffery. Records even showed they’d called each other numerous times on the day Michael died. When Cindy’s 911 call was played back, she could be heard talking to someone else saying her mobile was about to die. Was that Jeffery?
A ‘heinous’ murder
Police were convinced that the couple had conspired to kill Michael – and the pair were brazen about spending time together now he was dead. A month later, Cindy and Jeffery had been on a lunch date when police swept in. They were both arrested and charged with murder. The local Sheriff told media that the duo had plotted to kill Michael and that the murder was a result of ‘dark hearts, stupidity and extreme selfishness.’ They were both held on a $100,000 (£80,000) bail.
In August 2016, Jeffery was facing murder charges but decided to make a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to a 20-year sentence in exchange for testifying against his former lover.
In the December, Cindy faced a jury. The prosecution said that she had broken her wedding vows in a ‘heinous, horrific, deadly way’.
Jeffery took the stand and testified that Cindy had often talked about killing her husband. ‘She would say things like, “I wish he was gone”.’ The former pastor said she’d even asked him to find someone to do it. He told the court he’d approached two co-workers and offered them his car if they completed the job. They’d both declined.
Shockingly, he also suggested that Cindy had mentioned the possibility of poisoning her husband and the fact she could plead insanity if she was caught, because she suffered from
PTSD from her first husband’s suicide.
The prosecution said that Cindy had shot her husband when they came back from church – just as Michael was letting the dog in the back door. She then went to the local Piggly Wiggly store where she bought ham and orange juice. Then she met Jeffery in a gas station to hand over the revolver, which he threw away on a highway. It was never found.
Records showed that Cindy called Jeffery 11 times on the day of her husband’s death and he’d called her seven times. There was also a $50,000 (£40,000) life insurance policy that Cindy would have been in line for and, instead of grieving, Cindy was happy to be seen
in public with Jeffery.
Jeffery insisted they’d never had sex during their relationship, a fact that Cindy denied when she took the stand. She said they’d been lovers on several occasions and that Jeffery had become obsessed with her when she’d cooled things off. Cindy insisted she loved her husband and didn’t tell anyone she wanted him dead.
Her defence team suggested that it was Jeffery who had lain in wait and shot Michael
in the back of the head because he was angry that Cindy wouldn’t divorce her husband. Who would the jury believe?
A week later, the jury found Cindy guilty of murder after just 90 minutes of deliberation. Michael’s family said that, although it wouldn’t bring him back, they were pleased with the judgement, but would never forget the tragic way in which he was taken from them.
In January, Cindy was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Michael was the victim of a tragic love triangle. He was killed so Cindy and Jeffery could be together, but in the end, the lovers turned on each other.Follow me on my Social media