BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — Above all, DeLois Brown was a caretaker. The grandmother ran an in-home day care, women at her church considered her their "second mom," and just last week she moved her aging parents from the St. Louis area to her Minnesota home so she could care for them.
Her parents were just settling in when they, along with Brown, were fatally shot inside her home in Brooklyn Park on Monday. A day later, police were still searching for a lone suspect and family members were struggling to figure out why anyone would want to harm Brown or her parents, James and Clover Bolden, who were in their 80s.
"This doesn't make any sense," Brown's brother, James Bolden, said during an interview with The Associated Press at his nearby home in the Minneapolis suburb. "I mean, old people, almost helpless ... what is the purpose?"
No arrests had been made by Tuesday evening. Police have released little information, but said they were looking for a man in his mid-20s who may have fled the shooting scene on a BMX bicycle.
Authorities were called to the home about 6:30 a.m. Monday by a woman who discovered the three victims. The woman had dropped off her toddler for day care several minutes earlier and everything seemed fine, but after seeing a suspicious man near the house as she was leaving, she decided to call the day care, police Inspector Todd Milburn said.
But the phone went dead while the woman was talking to someone at the house, and when she went back to the house, she found three people had been shot. She grabbed her child and called 911, Milburn said. The toddler was the only child there and was unharmed.
"This is clearly a tragic situation," the police Inspector said. "We are doing everything we can to solve this case."
Police have not released the identities of the victims, but James Bolden confirmed they were Brown, his 59-year-old sister; his 83-year-old father James Bolden, who had diabetes and used a wheelchair; and his mother, 81-year-old Clover Bolden.
"All of them are gone. In one day," he said. "This is devastating."
He described them as the anchors of his large family, recalling how his stern, hard-working father "gave his family his all" and even started a few businesses, including three barbeque stands in the 1960s he called Bolden's Barbeque. His mother was a sweet, Christian woman who taught her children how to cook, iron and sew, and led them through arts and crafts projects.
"She was a classy dresser. Very stylish," he added, then smiled and said: "My dad, he probably had to work all those jobs because she loved her shoes, her hats, her dresses."
He said his parents were excited to move to Minnesota from their home in the St. Louis area to live with Brown, a mother of two and grandmother of four whose caregiving spirit resonated around the community.
She ran Visions and Butterflies Child Care, which had a state license to care for a dozen children. Her LinkedIn profile listed her as follow-up coordinator for Pink Purse Project Inc., a women's and girls' empowerment organization, and she worked for nearly nine years in the nearby Osseo Area Schools system as a child care instructor and later child care site supervisor.
Brown was also a singer who belted out tunes on church albums and at her brother's wedding. She was a fighter, her brother said.
"Whatever it was in life, she dealt with it," he said. "She's an awesome girl."
She attended the Church of Minneapolis for the past 14 years. The Rev. Connell Lewis described her as one of the "main pillars" of the church, active in its children's ministry.
Lewis said Brown's husband, Joseph, died of pneumonia in February as she was recovering her strength from fighting breast cancer.
"She loved people," Lewis said. "I've had so many people, especially women, say she was like a second mom to them. ... She cared about people, she wanted to help people."
Associated Press writer Doug Glass contributed to this report.