David ‘Stringbean’ Akeman and his wife were murdered in 1973 by John Brown. Photo submitted
Nashville radio personality “King” David Haley recently went to his grave wanting confessed Music City murderer John Brown to serve his life sentence in prison.
In his last media interview given to me for a book I’m researching on country music personalities, “King” David was emphatic about keeping Brown imprisoned for the slayings of country music comedic icon David “Stringbean” Akeman and wife Estelle.
Police reports confirm Stringbean, who was at his height of performing popularity due to television’s nationally-syndicated “Hee Haw,” was gunned down on a cold winter night in 1973 when entering his modest cabin home on the outskirts of Music City after appearing on the Grand Ole Opry.
Haley’s interview came before Tennessee’s Board of Pardons and Parole recently ruled to have convicted killer Brown mentally evaluated about his present-day propensity for violent acts if they grant a parole. That ruling is expected later this summer.
Haley shared that he got “physically sick” back in 2008 when the Nashville news media initially disclosed that the parole board had been holding hearings about Brown without public input.
“It was a Saturday afternoon, when dining at Sylvan Park Restaurant, when I learned Brown was about to be paroled in 2008, due largely to the influence of a Nashville preacher who said he would hire both Brown and his wife for employment if the Tennessee Parole Board ruled to parole the convicted murderer,” Haley noted.
The preacher Haley mentioned is a parolee himself from Texas where published public records verify he stabbed a woman to death for spilling paint on his boots.
“I remember saying out loud, that ‘SOB,’ there at the restaurant,” Haley added. “I called the parole board on Monday before they were scheduled to officially parole the convicted murderer.
“I also penned a letter. It was short, but emphatically to the point: ‘Don’t parole the man who not only shot and murdered Stringbean, but killed Stringbean’s wife (Estelle) execution style.’”
Detectives verified that Estelle Akeman was shot in the back of her head while on knees begging Brown for her life. Brown had already killed Stringbean in a robbery attempt.
Haley acknowledged that Brown has repeatedly claimed in Nashville media outlets that he’s a repentant Christian since being imprisoned.
“I hope he (Brown) has repented in the most sincere sense and made his peace with God,” Haley confirmed. “But, I think God can live with the repentant Brown remaining behind prison walls. What he did, murdering those poor sweet souls for a few dollars, was unforgivable by society, as far as I’m concerned.”
Unbeknownst to the public, not one, but two parole board votes had already been cast in 2008 regarding Brown’s release. When the media disclosed this action, Nashville’s tight-knit “country music family” launched a blitz of letters and testimonies to keep Brown locked up, which the parole board ultimately did.
Noted Grand Ole Opry photojournalist Les Leverett (now retired) echoed Haley’s sentiment to the parole board.
“I also sent a letter to the parole board,” Les confirmed. “I think just about everyone in country music did the same.”
The photographer shared his letter publicly: “My plea to this board is that you do not release John Brown from prison. He does not deserve to draw another free death.”
Like Haley, Leverett’s strong emotion was evident.
“I knew and loved Stringbean and his dear wife, Estelle, for several years. I shared Estelle’s popcorn back stage at the Opry the night of their murders,” Leverett confirmed. “One of the saddest days in me and my family’s lives was the following da, when we got the sad news that those two lovely wonderful people had been mercilessly murdered by unconscionable thieving intruders.”
Hundreds of similar letters from within the ranks of country music professionals remain on file with the parole board against Brown’s possible release.
“King” David died earlier this month after being found comatose from a stroke at his home in native Oxford, Miss.
He was laid to rest with his loyal dog that died a few hours after his human friend passed.
“‘King’ David and Buddy, his aged dog pal, both went to heaven at the same time,” noted Smyrna resident Jennifer Stuart, sister to country star Marty Stuart and lifelong friend to Stringbean and “King” David. “Buddy had loyally stayed by ‘King’ David’s side for three days before anyone found David comatose in his home. It is right they rest forever together.”
Mississippi native “King” David was a frequent guest on The Marty Stuart Show on the national RFD Network that is filmed in Nashville.
Should Brown be released from prison? I think not. If he does have his life right with God, let him minister to the other prison inmates to help them find divine forgiveness for their crimes.