In 1995, Brenda and Dennis Freeman and their son, Erik, were killed. Bryan Freeman, his brother David, and his cousin Ben Birdwell were the prime suspects. The three were quickly apprehended. Bryan confessed to killing his mother and received a life sentence. David received the same sentence. Birdwell was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Dennis Freeman and sentenced to life in prison.
Early Life and Neo-Nazi Background
The eldest of three sons born to Brenda and Dennis Freeman, Bryan Freeman had a strict Jehovah's Witness upbringing. Freeman and his brother, David, resented the religion's harsh rules and restrictions, and by the time they were teenagers had become active Skinheads. Though Bryan was an imposing six feet tall and 215 pounds, he was reportedly smarter and more polite than his younger brother, even making the school honor roll.
Still, Bryan Freeman had a dark, violent side and experimentation with drugs landed him in treatment facilities on more than one occasion. He, David and their cousin, Ben Birdwell III, were planning to form their own Neo-Nazi organization called "Berzerker." They threatened their parents and terrorized their 11-year-old brother. Brenda Freeman sought help, but there were no answers.
In February 1995, Brenda and Dennis Freeman and their youngest son, Erik, were found slain in their home. Bryan, David and Ben Birdwell were the prime suspects. The three were quickly apprehended in Hope, Michigan, at the home of a skinhead associate, Frank Hesse. Wrongly thinking they would be tried as juveniles, the Freeman brothers made a plan to confess to the murders so that Birdwell wouldn't be tried as an adult and face the death penalty. This pact was the beginning of a long line of lies and perjured confessions that would muddy the case.
In the end, Bryan confessed to killing his mother and received a life sentence. David received the same sentence. Ben Birdwell was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Dennis Freeman and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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