Killer Of Country Comic ‘Stringbean’ Gets Parole

The killer of Grand Ole Opry and “Hee Haw” comic David “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife, Estelle, was granted parole Wednesday after 40 years in prison.

John A. Brown, 64, was originally sentenced to 198 years, and the board has denied several previous parole requests.

His latest request came in April. Brown told the board then that he was truly sorry for what he had done.

“I can’t undo anything to change my past. I’ve committed the last 40 years to changing my life,” he said.

On the evening of Nov. 11, 1973, Brown and his cousin, Doug Marvin Brown, ransacked the Akemans’ cabin on their farm near Nashville, looking for the cash Akeman was rumored to keep there.

Police said the cousins were surprised by the Akemans as they returned home from the Opry. John Brown shot Stringbean Akeman as he walked into the cabin, then ran after his wife in the yard before shooting her in the back of the head.

The bodies were found the next day by fellow Opry performer Grandpa Jones, a close friend who lived nearby and had planned to go hunting with Akeman that morning.

Photo: AP Photo, file
With his wife Estelle in a 1972 photo.

Although police said the motive for the slayings was robbery, the Browns took only a chain saw and some guns. Not until 1996 did police find the cash the Browns were seeking, concealed in the walls of the Akeman home.

The cousins were each given two life sentences. Doug Brown died in prison in 2003.

Akeman, a Kentucky native, played banjo with Bill Monroe’s band before going solo in the 1950s. He was best known for a folksy comedy-music act he performed on the Grand Ole Opry and the “Hee Haw” television show.

After John Brown’s April hearing, the parole board asked for a psychological evaluation on his propensity for violence. Their Wednesday decision to grant parole came after the board had reviewed that evaluation.

Five of seven parole board members were present for the hearing. They heard testimony from Brown and his supporters via videoconference from the Lois Deberry Special Needs Facility, in Nashville, where Brown is currently incarcerated, according to an email from parole board spokeswoman Melissa McDonald. Board members voted 4-1 in favor of parole.

Those speaking against his parole included Grand Ole Opry member Jan Howard, who was a close friend of the Akemans.

McDonald said it could still be several weeks before Brown is released from prison because of paperwork.