Kansas City man sentenced to life in prison, plus 15 years, for leading cyberstalking conspiracy that resulted in murder

Murder News Graphic

 A Kansas City, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court for leading a cyberstalking conspiracy that utilized GPS tracking devices to carry out the murder of another Kansas City, Mo., man by tracking him and shooting him to death in front of his minor daughter.

Lester E. Brown, also known as “Lucky,” 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays to life plus 15 years in federal prison without parole.

On May 5, 2023, Brown was found guilty at trial of one count of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking, one count of cyberstalking resulting in death, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court sentenced Brown to life in prison for cyberstalking resulting in death, 10 years in prison for illegally possessing a firearm, and five years in prison for conspiracy, all of which must be served consecutively.

Co-defendants Michael Young, 32, of Independence, Mo., and Ronell Pearson, 36, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, have each pleaded guilty and were sentenced in June 2023 for their roles in the cyberstalking conspiracy. Young also pleaded guilty to cyberstalking resulting in death. Young was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison without parole. Pearson was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole.

The court also ordered Brown, Young, and Pearson to pay $19,012 in restitution to compensate the murder victim’s family for funeral and burial expenses, for which they are jointly and severally liable.

Murder of Christopher Harris

Brown, Young, and Pearson participated in a conspiracy to engage in the cyberstalking of Christopher Harris. Brown deployed multiple GPS devices on vehicles used by Harris to track his location. Brown tracked Harris for an extended period.

In January 2018, conspirators surveilled Harris’s girlfriend at her place of employment and followed her to the residence she shared with Harris. In February 2018, they deployed a GPS tracking device on Harris’s black Nissan Altima and used a tracking service to determine his real-time location. Another tracking device was deployed on Harris’s vehicle on March 12, 2018.

On March 14, 2018, Brown tracked Harris to a dance studio in Raytown, Mo. With Brown driving and Young and Pearson passengers, they followed Harris’s vehicle as he drove his daughter home from dance class and dropped her off at her mother’s residence in Independence. Brown pulled up behind Harris’s vehicle, blocking Harris in the driveway. Brown got out of the car and shot a firearm multiple times into Harris’s vehicle, causing Harris to scream, “My daughter’s in the car!  My daughter is in the car!” Brown fired several more rounds at Harris as he ran, shielding his daughter with his body, to the front door of the house. Harris’s daughter was able to make it inside the house unharmed, but Harris fell to the ground before he reached the house. Brown stood over him and fired two last rounds at him while he lay on the ground.

Before his murder, conspirators had been sending threatening messages to Harris using the social media service Snapchat. These messages included photographs of GPS devices and demands for a $10,000-per-month payment to Brown.

According to court documents, while in custody Brown bragged to multiple individuals about killing Christopher in front of his daughter and told them he should have killed her, too. Brown also took multiple concerted actions to obstruct the investigation and prosecution in this case. He obtained and utilized smuggled cell phones, by which he threatened the life of an FBI task force officer who was a lead investigator in his case. Brown also posted messages on Facebook in an apparent attempt to intimidate co-conspirators and others so they would not testify at trial.

Brown’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm is related to him illegally possessing the Glock .45-caliber pistol used to murder Harris. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to have any firearm or ammunition. Brown was on supervised release following his conviction and incarceration for being a felon in possession of a firearm when he stalked and murdered Harris.

Murder of Ryan Cobbins

Evidence was also presented during Brown’s trial regarding the murder of Ryan Cobbins, a friend and associate of Harris. One of the Snapchat messages sent to Harris threatened, “Man, you … are gonna end up like Ryan,” which Harris took to be a reference to the murder of his friend Ryan Cobbins in 2013.

Cobbins went missing on Oct. 24, 2013, following a haircut appointment. In November 2013, Brown accepted $20,000 from Harris and another person as a “ransom” payment for the return of Cobbins. Brown claimed he could act as the middleman between the kidnappers and Harris, and that he could arrange the safe return of Cobbins. On Dec. 31, 2014, Cobbins was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew P. Wolesky and Nicholas P. Heberle. It was investigated by the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, and the FBI.