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Man Sentenced in Death of Friend

For killing a man, Russell Lorenzo Brown was sentenced to just six years in prison. Brown appeared in court in Alexandria, blamed in the killing of Kevin Lavon Friend.

Brown, who was homeless at the time of the incident, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter. “He was originally charged with murder, but the facts of the case indicated that he stabbed at Kevin as opposed to intending to stab him in the heart,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elliott Casey. “That is the reason for the voluntary manslaughter plea.”

According to court testimony, Brown and Friend knew each other because they had both spent time in the same homeless shelters. On May 18, 2002, Brown approached Friend in the 5700 block of Edsall Road and offered to sell him a bag of steaks. According to testimony, Friend simply took the steaks and began to walk away. Brown pulled out a knife and lunged at Friend, stabbing him in the heart. Friend was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he underwent surgery and was stable for a time. He developed a blood clot, however, and died.

“There was very little media interest in this case, and there were people who seemed to imply that because both the victim and the defendant were homeless that it just wasn’t that important,” Casey said. “The defense attorney introduced the victim’s criminal history, and the judge allowed it into evidence over my objection.”

THE COMMONWEALTH asked for the maximum sentence of six years and four months, arguing that Brown had shown no remorse for killing Friend. “It is very easy to look upon the death of a homeless man as a tragic, but largely academic event,” Casey noted at sentencing. “The lack of media coverage and the public’s callous lack of interest encourage us to forget that Kevin Friend was a human being, who, like all of us, enjoyed the brief gift of life.

"Kevin was only 45 when the defendant killed him. He was homeless but often worked simple jobs. He and Clyde Barr, the other person on the scene, became friends when they worked at Alexandria Hospital. He also worked as a delivery man, security officer, car washer, utility worker, truck driver, fork lift operator and a mover at Mayflower Movers on Pickett Street…”

Casey wanted the court to see Friend as a person and to understand that there was a real impact on his family. “Kevin’s brother wanted to be there for sentencing but got stuck in the snowstorm and couldn’t make it,” he said. “He wrote a victim impact statement, but it’s not the same.”

After Casey testified that Brown had shown no remorse, Brown stood and expressed his sorrow with tears in his eyes. Judge John Kloch sentenced him to six years in prison and five years of supervised probation. He must also undergo drug and alcohol treatment and attend anger management classes.