Late last month, Miami Beach Police swept into an $8.3 million mansion perched on the bay. As they climbed a marble staircase looking for the master bedroom, the house seemed empty.
But inside a cavernous closet, they found nearly $17,000 in cash nearby the bearded and sallow body of Texas' most notorious hand surgeon, Dr. Michael Brown. He was barely breathing. A suicide note lay nearby.
Brown's subsequent death last week ended an enigmatic life of mental illness, depression, brilliance, and hubris. For years, Brown was a stalwart of Houston's aristocracy. He'd arrive at parties wearing ivory suits and a deep tan. He inundated television with advertisements for his hand surgeon clinics, which made him an astoundingly wealthy man.
But a darkness pulsed inside Brown, who proclaimed himself bipolar and was married four times. In 2001, when his third wife was seven months pregnant, he mashed her face to a pulp with a broken bedpost and later wrote bizarre letters to their infant daughter, cautioning her that sex shouldn't take longer than five minutes and "make [her] see the stars."
Years later, in 2006, due to continued cocaine abuse, he lost his medical license. Then, his last wife, Rachel Brown, unleashed a flurry of allegations in Harris County Court: physical abuse, verbal abuse, and an incident when he hurled a humanitarian award at her.
Two years ago, embroiled in bankruptcy but acquitted of felony charges that he'd assaulted Rachel, the surgeon fled to Miami, buying an Allison Island mansion that had belonged to Marlins shortstop Edgar Renteria.
Problems soon closed in. When Brown got to Miami, a woman in New York sued him, alleging he had knowingly given her anal herpes after he "agreed to take whatever medical tests were necessary to determine that neither had any STD." Then the feds indicted him on charges of intimidating a flight attendant. According to court records, after "tweaking her right nipple," he said he wanted to "fuck" her at his South Beach pad or "take his clothes off and have [them] both in [his] flat bed."
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Facing those charges, an ongoing divorce, and bankruptcy, Brown began drinking wine on October 24. That afternoon, he seemed "happily intoxicated" to witnesses who had seen him that day, according to a Miami Beach Police report. But his girlfriend thought otherwise. He's distraught, she said when she called police. He's talking about suicide.
When police arrived, they found she was right.
Send your story tips to the author, Terrence McCoy.