Mother of man slain while in River Edge program files wrongful death suit

Suffering from schizophrenia and seizures, Antonio Brown was a patient in a mental health program at Macon’s River Edge Behavioral Health Center.

As part of his treatment, Brown reportedly was assigned and required to live at Cherry Tree Hill Apartments on Old Clinton Road in east Macon in January 2012.

A short time later, on Feb. 3, police found the 28-year-old man dead on his bed. He’d been beaten, stabbed three times in the neck and strangled. Authorities aren’t sure whether the strangling or a cut to Brown’s jugular caused his death.

His roommate, 39-year-old Bobby Lee Rozier, pleaded guilty in November to killing Brown and was sentenced to life in prison.

Brown’s mother, Teresa Howard, filed a wrongful death lawsuit March 30, alleging that River Edge shouldn’t have placed Brown and Rozier as roommates.

Rozier also was a patient, according to the suit.

“In our opinion, the defendants should have known, or did know, of (Rozier’s) violent tendencies and should not have placed them together,” said Neal Graham, Howard’s lawyer.

The lawsuit, filed in Bibb County Superior Court, names River Edge, the center’s community service board, Cherry Tree Hill Apartments, Phoenix Residential Management LLC and Rozier as defendants.

“Antonio Brown’s death at the hands of his roommate, Bobby Lee Rozier, was sad, sudden and unexpected,” River Edge CEO Shannon Harvey said in a statement. “River Edge has no idea what caused Mr. Rozier to commit this crime.”

Harvey said the facility wasn’t aware of anything in his background to suggest that Rozier had violent tendencies. He seemed satisfied living with Brown and hadn’t made any threats to harm him.

“It was at their request that they changed roommates to live together,” Harvey said.

While Harvey said the facility shares in Brown’s mother’s grief, it denies any negligence or responsibility in Brown’s death.

Attempts to reach the apartment complex’s manager and Phoenix Residential Management were unsuccessful Friday.

The lawsuit contends that the defendants were negligent and owed Brown “a duty to warn, protect and to keep him safe from others while enrolled in an inpatient program which placed him in mandatory housing beyond his control.”

State prison records show Rozier was incarcerated from January 1995 to September 1999 after being convicted of burglary, attempted burglary, vehicle theft and car break-ins.

Participating in the River Edge program was a condition of Brown’s receiving Social Security disability benefits, according to a notice filed in the case.

River Edge maintained the lease for the Cherry Tree Hill Apartments unit, not Brown, according to the notice.

Howard filed a previous lawsuit making the same claims Feb. 4, 2014, but the case was later dismissed for procedural reasons, Graham said.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.