In 2004, Keysha Brown, 28, was found murdered in her apartment bathroom. She had been beaten, raped, and stabbed repeatedly before being strangled. Almost 20 years later, DNA evidence has linked serial killer Norman Flowers to her murder. A jury convicted flowers of murdering Sheila Quarles, Marilee Coote, and Rena Gonzales in 2005.
The Investigation into Keysha Brown’s Death
On October 19, 2004, Keysha Brown’s boyfriend discovered her body in her apartment on the 700 block of East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, Nevada. She had been beaten, raped, stabbed, and strangled. Police ruled her unnamed boyfriend out as a suspect from early in the investigation. Witnesses on the scene described a man that had arrived in a red sedan, entered Brown’s apartment, and then left after an undetermined amount of time. Witnesses said that the man left Brown’s apartment carrying a large duffle bag, which led to the theory that someone had burglarized her, as well. They followed every lead, but they discovered no new information. Brown’s case remained open but grew cold.
Almost 20 years later, in August 2022, investigators with the Las Vegas Police Department were doing cold case reviews when Keysha Brown’s case was reviewed. An investigator recalled another series of murders from 2005 that had similar details. Investigators arranged DNA comparisons between the DNA from Keysha Brown’s case and the 2005 cases of Sheila Quarles, Marilee Coote, and Rena Gonzales. Forensics found it to be a DNA match. Serial killer and rapist Norman Flowers was determined to be Keysha Brown’s murderer.
Norman Flowers was born on March 15, 1974, in Compton, California. His first conviction took place in 1993 when he was 19 years old. A jury convicted him of robbery, burglary, and arson. His next conviction happened in 1999 for burglary and the use of a deadly weapon in which he served prison time. The courts released him in 2003. On October 19, 2004, He murdered Keysha Brown by beating, raping, and stabbing her before strangling her to death.
On March 24, 2005, Sheila Quarles, 18, was found by her mother, Debra Quarles, in the bathtub of their apartment on Pecos Road in Las Vegas, NV. The medical examiner stated she had drowned but there was DNA evidence that showed sexual assault, and strangulation. Her autopsy showed signs of blunt force trauma to the head, petechiae in her eyes, bruising around her neck consistent with manual strangulation, and vaginal tears, lacerations, and seminal fluid. Her lungs contained fluids consistent with drowning.
Debra’s ex-boyfriend, Norman Flowers, had expressed his sympathy and had driven Debra to two counseling appointments because he had said that he wanted to support her in her dark times.
On May 3, 2005, Marilee Coote, 45, was discovered in her apartment on Russell Road, Las Vegas, NV. She had been raped and strangled. She also had burns on her thighs and her pubic hair had been singed. The medical examiner discovered seminal DNA from her vagina and anus, which matched DNA from the carpet in her living room.
Within eight hours, 9-1-1 emergency dispatch received a telephone call from a 9-year-old boy that reported that he had just found his friend’s mother unconscious. Police arrived at the Silver Pines Apartments on Eastern Avenue in Las Vegas, the same apartment complex where Marilee Coote had been discovered just hours earlier. Police found the body of Rena Gonzales, who had been strangled with a telephone cord. Her clothes were askew. The medical examiner determined that she also had injuries to her genital area.
Detectives began the interview process and linked Norman Flowers as someone who knew each of the 3 victims. DNA evidence linked him to each victim. It wasn’t until years later that Keysha Brown was discovered to be Norman Flowers’s first victim.
The Arrest and Conviction of Norman Flowers
On June 6, 2005, police arrested Norman Flowers for the murder of Marilee Coote. Once detained, investigators further linked Flowers’ DNA to the deaths of Coote and Quarles. Through a series of jailhouse confessions between Flowers and other prisoners, they were able to link Flowers to Gonzales’ death, which was substantiated through additional forensic evidence.
In the first murder trial in October 2008, Norman Flowers was found guilty of the murder of Sheila Quarles and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. In June 2011, Flowers’ trial for the murders of Coote and Gonzales was scheduled, but before it took place, Flowers entered an Alford Plea. As a result, the courts gave Flowers two additional life sentences for the deaths of Coote and Gonzales. Flowers is serving his life sentences at the High Desert State Prison near Indian Springs, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
A comprehensive account of the appeal, including judicial opinion, was filed on January 30, 2020, with the Supreme Court of Nevada.