SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Kerri Brown was desperate and afraid of losing her fiancé and their son. In an act of love, Brown said she murdered her boss in order to clear the way for her relationship to continue.
But she was arrested, charged and eventually confessed to the murder of Mina Pajela.
“I definitely was not qualified for that position, I can tell you that,” said Brown speaking publicly for the first time of Pajela’s murder. “But I think Pajela wanted to pay me and help me out.”
It all began in 2001 when Pleasant Grove police responded to a 911 call. Inside a vehicle was the body of a prominent businesswoman.
“We found her body in the car,” said the unnamed officer. “Somebody had tried to set the car on fire by putting a rag in the gas tank.”
At the time, Pajela owned an assisted living center, was a devout Mormon and considered a successful businesswoman. She lived in an upscale neighborhood in Pleasant Grove.
But who wanted her dead and why? Back then police had a description of a possible suspect.
“Witnesses seen a woman leaving the area, believed to be a woman,” said the officer.
Within days, Pajela’s employee, Kerri Fae Brown was arrested charged with the murder, but the case took a detour.
Charges were dropped because investigators needed more time to develop the case. In 2005, she was charged again but this time Brown accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to prison for manslaughter.
After spending 15 years in prison, Brown is up for parole. Last week she appeared before a board of pardon’s hearing officer. Brown spoke of her rocky relationship.
“I became desperate, I became panicky,” Brown said. “I knew the only way I could get him to love me and to want me is by how much money I could give him and I let that determine what I did.”
She said they were in Pajela’s car where she confessed to stealing nearly $40,000 of Pajela’s money. She told her it was to save her relationship and even claimed she was suicidal. Brown said Pajela seemed sympathetic and wanted to work things out.
“We were driving to the care home and Mina was in the back seat and my baby was with Mina in her car seat next to her and I pulled out the gun and I was ready to do and I don’t know what I told myself at that moment but I was completely irrational. I don’t know but I shot the gun.”
Brown said she had no recollection of what happened next, even with her baby present.
She said the 15 years in prison changed her life for the better and took course to improve her life and stayed out of trouble.
But Brown told her hearing officer that she knows she let down a friend whose only fault was being nice to her.
“There’s no word big enough to say how sorry I am,” said Brown sobbing. “And all I can do is just try to live my life the way I should have in the beginning and the way Mina lived her life and that’s all I can do.”
Brown was sentenced up to 30 years in prison for manslaughter and theft. She has since served half of that sentence. This week, the board of pardons determined she was ready to be released and scheduled her parole for July.