Frank Brown was shot and killed in his home in Castle Hayne on July 3 a dozen years ago.
For those who knew Brown, the pain over losing him had not subsided and it's made even more difficult knowing his killers are still out there.
Brown's neighbor, Laurie Guyton, said it's a night she will remember as long as she lives.
"My husband and I were sitting here just like we are right now," she explained as we sat in her living room.
Suddenly, officers swarmed their neighbor's home on Oakley Road.
"I could not imagine what in the world could have possibly happened," she said.
What happened that night remains a mystery to this day.
Deputies were called to Frank Brown's house around 9:50 at night by the victim's son.
The three told investigators when they got to the home, they saw Brown's truck pulling out of the driveway and followed it, thinking Brown was behind the wheel.
When they realized it wasn't him, they went back to the house, where they found Brown dead.
Investigators later found the truck a few blocks away; however, they never found out who was driving it.
According to the medical examiner's report, Brown was in bed when someone shot him in the head with a shotgun.
"For somebody to walk in his back door, and literally blow his head off with a shotgun, I couldn't believe that," his best friend and Laurie's son, Alton Guyton said. "Nobody deserves that."
Still, all these years later, Alton sleeps with this picture next to his bed. He's haunted by the death of his best friend. The two lovingly called one another "Bubba."
"I see him every night and every morning," he said. "He is my brother. He always will be my brother."
Today, a plaque remains outside the Food Lion in Castle Hayne, honoring Brown who worked at the store as an assistant manager. Seven years ago, that is where one of our reporters met and interviewed Alton about his friend.
A day after that interview aired on WECT, someone cut down the tree that mourners planted here in Brown's honor.
"I believe whoever cut down that tree, knows who did kill Bubba," Alton said.
Investigators said they have their suspicions but they don't have the smoking gun that points to who killed Brown.
"It's a mystery," Detective Steve Blissett with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office said. "I have some concerns about some people. It's not where I would say, ‘That's who did it.'"
He said recently, investigators from the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office got together and reviewed the evidence in this case, something they're doing with all cold cases. However, he said, some witnesses in this case stopped cooperating with the investigation and now they need someone to come forward to help crack this case.
Alton said in his heart, he feels his friend's killers will be brought to justice soon.
"They're so close now, I can feel it," he said. "They're going to get them and I believe that in my heart and my soul. That day, he and I will both rest in peace."
If you have information to help crack this case, call the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office at 910-798-4261910-798-4261. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-531-98451-800-531-9845. Your identity will be protected and you could get a reward of up to $5,000.
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