Houston television viewers are familiar with the congenial Dr. Michael Glyn Brown. In advertisements, he appears in immaculate attire, pitching his Hand Center that specializes in procedures for carpal tunnel syndrome. Until recently, he had every reason to be smiling.
That medical practice earned him an estimated $2.5 million annually. It's enough to travel the world on hunting trips and afford ranches, Woodlands- and Memorial-area residences, a stable of luxury autos and other trappings of immense wealth and public awe.
In the ads, he also displays another prized possession, his young daughter Sophie. Holding her in his arms, he tells the viewing audience soothingly, "We treat you like family."
But there's another image of this Baylor-trained surgeon that won't be seen on TV, unless it's a video monitor playing in a court of law. After first declaring that it's only practice for a Hollywood movie script, the self-shot video has the good doctor delving into his theory that air-conditioner repair work at his home is really a plot by his wife, Darlina, to kill him with cyanide gas. He waves a bottle of Jack Daniel's and points a pistol to his head, telling of excruciating personal suffering and flames all around him. In another segment, he's on the telephone berating his wife, from whom he was then separated, and lecturing her about religious precepts for being a good wife, including total submissiveness to the man.
Then there was January 24 of last year, when Brown returned to his Woodlands residence from a topless club and allegedly brutalized his wife, who was seven months pregnant. She told detectives the doctor dragged her by her hair, broke off a bedpost and beat her with it before pointing a gun at her head and screaming, "You're not having this fucking baby." The wife claimed that she locked herself in a bedroom and the husband fired several shots through the door. When he was arrested, police found a cache of firearms and illegal knives in his vehicle.
Such alleged actions have hardly affected the standing of Dr. Michael Brown. He retains hospital operating privileges, his clinics and medical license. His legal team -- which includes recently retired Houston city councilman Rob Todd, who once helped convince Darlina to drop a previous spousal assault charge -- have so far shepherded the physician through a legal thicket that would have ensnared a defendant of lesser means.
Montgomery County Sheriff's Detective Lynn Dottei, a veteran investigator of domestic brutality, says Brown's case is unusual in one important respect.
"This isn't your regular, everyday family violence case," says Dottei. "This is someone who's got the money and the power to do pretty much what he wants. And which, in my opinion, protected him."
At a swimming pool party on a humid August day in 1993, two very different people met by chance. One was searching for a fresh start to his personal life, the other was just beginning hers.
The party host, Houston-area native Michael Glyn Brown, was a 35-year-old surgeon hitting his professional stride even while in the midst of a messy divorce.
He'd finished Baylor medical school and a series of residencies specializing in hand surgery. Now, Brown was building a practice known as The Hand Center that would evolve into a 35-employee operation. He is the registered agent for Cypress Fairbanks Hand Ortho Center, North Houston Hand Center, the Rehabilitation and Pain Center of Pasadena, the Southwest Houston Hand Center and Texas Hand Therapy Center. His patents to several surgery procedures would provide even more income.
Brown was a self-styled adventurer as well. He had become an aficionado of big-game hunting during the late '80s. He safaried in Africa, traveled to Australia and wrote several vanity press books about his experiences. Earlier in 1993, the dynamic doctor even rated mention in the late Maxine Mesinger's Houston Chronicle gossip column. The item told of him dining at Cafe Annie with wife Deborah K. Jaramillo and former New York Yankee Jesse Barfield. Mesinger credited Brown with the wrist surgery that enabled Barfield to beat the odds and make a comeback, this time with the Tokyo Tigers.
The doctor and his first wife, Lisa Ruth Van Stone, divorced in 1984 after three years together. Before long, his seven-year union with Jaramillo would splinter, a breakup that would cost him a reported $2 million settlement.
If not yet a bachelor when he hosted the pool party, Brown still made for an especially handsome and successful newcomer into the life of Darlina Hoffman.
The attractive 20-year-old had graduated from C.E. King High School in 1991 and was working as a receptionist at a billboard company. She'd grown up in a Cypress Fairbanks subdivision as part of a family fractured when she was only five. Her parents, Charles and Linda Hoffman, divorced, and Linda married Jerry Muras. By her own description, Darlina "didn't know how to cook or do much else" when she met Michael.
She had an abortion at age 17, and had been living with her sister Carla in a Clear Lake apartment. Carla got pregnant and went to live with their father, so Darlina moved back in with her mother and stepfather. And she was more than willing when co-workers invited her to the swimming pool of Brown's posh home on East Wedgwood Glen in The Woodlands.
They engaged in long conversations, and by the end of the evening, she felt comfortable enough to sleep there that night. Both say they did not have sex then, although a whirlwind romance was on the way. By the end of that same week, Darlina moved her overnight bag into Brown's residence. She says she was willing but naive.
"I had had relationships before, but I had never lived with a man." In those early years, she says, Brown delighted in dazzling her with vacations in Europe, ski trips to Colorado and an African safari. She soon resigned from her job, saying Brown wanted her with him on the East Coast, where he was teaching a course on surgical procedures.
"He told me that he wanted me to quit my job, that he loved me, and that he would support me. And we would just go have fun, go travel, and everything would be great."
If it wasn't great or even tolerable, they had a prenuptial contract to fall back on. In the event of a split, she would receive a vehicle comparable to what she was driving, a flat $100,000, plus $60,000 for each year of the marriage. According to Darlina, Brown insisted on the pact "because his last wife had taken him for everything, and he didn't want me to do the same thing."
Darlina and the doctor spoke vows penned by Brown for their March 1995 wedding ceremony at the Bentwater Yacht Club. They departed for Hawaii, but the honeymoon was over almost as soon as they returned.
Darlina says her husband quickly became more and more controlling, insisting she drop plans for college and demanding she begin carrying a cell phone so he could reach her instantaneously.
Within a year, they had sought marriage counseling to try to work out mounting disagreements. Fights had become frequent. Romance, according to the wife, had been replaced by an increasingly oppressive routine.
"He would come home, do his work, talk on the cell phone. And when it was time to go to bed, okay. It was no loving and attention or compliments or anything like that It was just roll over, roll over here."
According to Darlina, the doctor had an overriding obsession: "He wanted sex morning and night, all the time. He was never happy unless he got sex I would give him sex, but I didn't want to do it every day."
The doctor's fascination with firearms also intensified, says Darlina. "He had guns in his attic, guns in his bedroom, he had guns in his vehicle," says her mother, Linda Muras. "Pistols galore, big hunting rifles, semiautomatic machine guns. He had them out at the ranch, and we were down there one weekend and he got to shooting them off."
According to Darlina, Brown habitually carried two permitted handguns, and demanded that she also carry a gun. She recalls that the only time he was unarmed was while he was in surgery. When they first began their relationship, she says, he told her his second wife was trying to kill him, and he occasionally wore a bulletproof vest and hired police for home and office security.
"He did tell me that he was scared for his life, and I asked why," says Muras. "He expressed it that it was people he had to deal with. Also, he said he was scared of his ex-wife's family."
Relations with his own wife continued to decline sharply. Darlina, in 1996, traveled to Cancun, Mexico, with 25-year-old Randy Hodde. That triggered a surreptitious affair that lasted nearly a year. When she eventually confessed to Michael, he filed for divorce and temporarily moved in with another woman.
The two eventually reconciled, and there was new hope for the marriage with the birth of daughter Sophie in 1999. Instead, the relationship began spiraling deeper into violence, as Darlina discovered on a particularly brutal night in November of that year.
Darlina told investigators that her husband came home drunk the previous evening, so she'd told him that she was taking their daughter and staying with her mother until he sobered up.
"When I picked up Sophie, he lost it," Darlina later told a courtroom. "To him, I was saying I was going to leave forever. He just started punching me, hitting my head up against the wood wall. Then he picked up Sophie; he was holding her with one hand and punching me on the head with the other. He put Sophie down on the floor underfoot and continued punching me." According to the wife, she stayed a virtual prisoner the rest of the night, sitting on the couch while Brown refused to let the daughter go.
Detective Dottei responded to the call made by the woman after Michael left for work the next morning. Her offense report said she found Darlina with a scratch on her neck, a bump on the left side of her head and a swollen right eye and left ear.
Darlina told the officer she knew the stakes involved in contacting the authorities. Her husband had assaulted her several times in the past, and told her he "was wealthy enough and had the contacts to have her killed if she attempted to leave him with or without the baby," according to the offense report.
Dottei conferred with Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Mike Valdez. Assault and terroristic complaints were issued against the doctor. The investigator also got a court order that would keep Michael in jail for at least 24 hours so Darlina could find safe haven before he was released.
However, as officers began to look for the doctor, Darlina started to have doubts. First, Dottei says, the wife pleaded not to have her husband arrested at his business as "he will kill me for sure if he is arrested in front of his peers."
Darlina had even phoned her husband at his office to tell him that arrest warrants had been issued. She told Dottei she was afraid and she "fucked up." The turnaround was complete when the wife, after talking by phone with her husband, agreed to drop the charges.
To make sure that happened, the doctor summoned up an old ally: attorney Rob Todd, who left Houston City Council last month because of term limitations. Todd had represented Michael since the early '90s on various legal matters. Darlina says Todd accompanied the Browns on at least one ski trip and was a frequent guest at pool parties.
Three days after Darlina reported the attack, Todd showed up at her residence to escort Darlina to formally retract her allegations.
"I told Todd I'd meet him at the courthouse, and he said, 'No, no, I'll come pick you up,' " recalls Darlina. "I told him at that time, 'I'm gonna tell them that he hit me. I'm going to tell them I don't want to press charges. But I'm not going to lie about it.' "
According to her, Todd replied, "If you do that, then they're not going to drop the charges."
Darlina says the councilman never once asked her whether her husband beat her. "Rob acted like my best friend," she recalls. "He could see the bruises on me, on my neck. But he didn't want to know what happened. He didn't want to hear it. It's like he didn't care."
(Contacted by the Houston Press, Todd cited both his attorney-client relationship with Brown and a judge's gag order in declining comment.)
Darlina says Todd told her that if the charges stood, her husband would lose his medical license and she would be left penniless. With Todd on hand, Darlina signed an affidavit retracting her story. The following Monday, Todd again picked her up for a meeting with Assistant D.A. Valdez.
"I had to sit there and lie through my teeth," recalls Darlina.
Detective Dottei knew it, too.
"Oh, yeah. Definitely. In the beginning, she was cooperative, and that's how I got the charge and called the cops. Then it was recalled after she went in and dropped the charges.
"Yeah, if he had left her alone, I think that would have gone through."
The investigator had her own exchanges earlier with Councilman Todd. According to Dottei's report, Todd warned her that she had committed a federal offense by personally contacting his client earlier about surrendering, and that he would get her in trouble with her superiors. Dottei says Todd admonished her that she was not to speak with Brown again.
More than two years later, Dottei still chuckles at the memory. "He was amusing to me," she says of Todd. "By telling me I had committed a federal offense by contacting his client. Puh-leeze. Pissed me off, but it wasn't threatening.
"When I get a case like this, it just makes me work that much harder," notes the detective. "You know, because they think who they are means they can't be arrested. I can't stand that."
By September 2000, the Browns were back together and Darlina was four months pregnant with her second child. They took her mother and stepfather along on a weekend trip to Las Vegas, ostensibly to buy cages for exotic animals stocked at one of the doctor's ranches.
One night, a moody Brown told Darlina he was going out to get some food. At six-thirty the next morning, Darlina said, he came back smelling of alcohol.
"This is not good for the marriage," she later testified about that day. Brown allegedly exploded, punching several holes in the hotel room wall and crying that Darlina didn't love him. According to the wife's testimony, Brown pulled a knife, held it to his throat and threatened to "end it all."
Darlina testified that she called her mother at a nearby hotel and asked, "Can you come over? It's fixing to get bad." She tried to get Michael to talk to Muras on the phone, a tactic she'd used before during marital confrontations because he was intimidated by the older woman.
The wife says Brown smashed the phone into a glass tabletop, fell and started sawing on several of his fingers with the knife.
"Part of his finger flew up on the wall," Darlina said in her testimony. "There was blood everywhere. I was begging for him to put a towel around it so it would stop the bleeding."
In a deposition, Brown admitted putting the knife to his throat and threatening suicide, but claimed he cut his fingers accidentally when he fell.
Hotel security arrived minutes later, Darlina testified, and she told Brown to leave or they would take him to jail. After bandaging the wounds, he left, promising to meet his wife at the airport for the return flight, she said in court. He never showed, so the family boarded the plane without him.
Back in The Woodlands, Darlina testified, her husband called her from Vegas saying he was bleeding, that people were following him and that he'd taken 30 Vicodin tablets. She and the boyfriend of the doctor's office manager flew back and found him in his room at Caesar's Palace.
" Mike was telling me I was the devil and to stay away from him," Darlina testified. She told a courtroom the boyfriend coaxed the doctor out by telling him they needed to leave because "they are coming to get you."
During the last full year of the marriage, Michael Brown began making homemade videotapes that provide a window into his thoughts. The cassette segments, found in his safe, were shot using a propped-up camera and occasional audio from a phone speaker. Most of the taping apparently was done during sporadic separations from his wife.
Near the beginning, Brown offers a disclaimer that "this is a Hollywood movie script I'm practicing and has no basis in truth whatsoever, I'm not suicidal." If he intended a script, the narrative then becomes indistinguishable from his life in the near future.
In one sequence Brown holds a bottle of whiskey and points a pistol to his head, all the while musing on the possibility of suicide as salvation from the hell he claims his wife has put him through. After speculating that repair work on an air conditioner was really a plot by his wife and mother-in-law to poison him with cyanide gas, Brown addresses his infant daughter, warning her to fear her mother.
"I want to believe she's a good person, a little wayward," Brown says of Darlina, "but in order to do that, I have to believe that she's stupid. Well, no, she's not stupid, but if you don't believe she's stupid, and she's doing these things, then she's deceitful at best, and at worst she's evil.
"You get away from your mother. She's got a bond with her mother that has ruined my life, and she'll ruin yours too Your mother is making me hurt so much that it's like I am in an oven being burned, and the flames are all around me."
In a segment that records a phone conversation with Darlina, Brown's nasal voice is insistent as a petulant child as he chides his wife for failing to live up to biblical standards. The doctor quotes a passage: "You wives will submit to your husbands, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church." He pauses, then adds sarcastically, "Doesn't say anything about arguing your point ad infinitum. What's your response?"
When Darlina asks whether Brown thinks he's treating her properly, he replies, "Is that response on here? No, it doesn't say cross-examining your husband. No, I don't see that in here."
Brown warns his wife that he's "not going to have another man raising my babies."
He refers again to the biblical passage, then states, "The best I can do is beg you to come home, and try to live that kind of marriage Now, do you want to try to come home and have a normal life or not?"
In a tired voice, Darlina answers, "What you are talking about, Mike, is not a normal life."
"So get your shit, get your baby, and come home," he continues. "And be nice. And stop running to your mother. And learn how to say 'I'm sorry' for the sake of the relationship."
Incredibly enough, she returned.
The bizarre actions, coupled with the alleged violence, raise an obvious question: How could a spouse -- especially this successful surgeon -- be capable of it?
Brown did not talk with the Press. But in legal proceedings, he and his lawyers strenuously denied the accounts put forth by his wife and others. He argued that she was the attacker, and he merely tried to defend himself.
(His attorneys have gained a gag order from a judge barring discussion of the allegations, and they cited that ruling in declining comment. All Press interviews with participants in the case were conducted before that order was issued.)
Brown has been treated in the past by several doctors for suspected bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression. Medication can enable those with the condition to lead normal lives. Brown took lithium, although he said in a deposition that he was uncertain if he had the condition, but didn't think he did.
A letter addressed to a daughter was found in his office safe. It was titled "The Brilliant Sensitive Personality Exposed (Formerly, bipolar) Michael G. Brown, M.D."
Darlina speculated that a contributing factor to the violent incidents was his combining lithium and alcohol.
However, hard questions focused on Darlina as well. If her husband was as brutal as she claimed, why didn't she just leave him?
She says she had learned the way to stop the violence was "telling him I was sorry, that it was all my fault, 'I'll be better, you're right, I am a bitch.' All the times he would hit me, as long as I would say something like that he would stop."
Darlina says the Las Vegas incident finally opened her eyes.
"I became very depressed. I didn't see things getting better. Mike wasn't trying to get help [for his problems], and he didn't even acknowledge he had a problem."
The clincher came when she found her husband's brother-in-law changing the locks on the Woodlands house. Brown later explained to her that he wanted new deadbolt locks for which only he would have the key. According to her, the exchange provoked Brown into punching her. The brother-in-law helped pull him off, Darlina testified, and she fled with Sophie.
Yet she went back to her husband again after he repeatedly called her, apologized and promised it would never happen again.
Her rationale indicates classic battered wife syndrome.
"When you're in that kind of situation, it's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been there, but I was there and I believed everything he said. It's crazy, now that I'm out of it and looking back," Darlina tries to explain. "It's not that I'm naive or stupid; he just had so much control over me that I believed him."
Whatever the reasoning, the marriage roared toward a violent conclusion on a late night in January 2001.
Darlina testified Brown came home after visiting a Rick's topless club in the area. He later offered the novel explanation that he'd run out of good wine at his home and went to Rick's to get some. Even though she was seven months pregnant with their second daughter, the physician began slugging her in the face and clubbed her with a post he'd ripped off a bed, she says.
This time, her usual tactic of saying, "You're right, honey, I am a bitch," didn't help.
Darlina would later tell deputies that the doctor dragged her downstairs by her hair, pulling out clumps along the way. Tufts of hair were later recovered from the bedroom.
After he shoved her onto a dining room coffee table, Darlina told deputies, she managed to break free and flee upstairs. She locked herself in her nanny's bedroom, she says, as Brown pursued her and fired several shots through the door. Between holding down the inner knob of the door to keep her husband at bay and making frantic calls to 911, Darlina says, she prayed for her life and that of her unborn child.
Brown would deny that he had beat his wife, and claimed she was the aggressor who attacked him with the strength of a "wild woman" and tried to shoot him. In his scenario, the doctor repeatedly wrestled the gun away from his wife after she fired the shots.
"The bedpost broke," Brown told Tommy Fibich, Darlina's lawyer. "I dropped the bedpost, turned around. She says, 'I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch. I'm going to kill you, you motherfucker.' "
Brown claims he struck her in self-defense but she kept grabbing the gun from him. "The same thing happens again and again, about six times through the house, with her crashing into furniture."
The sequence was hard to reconcile with some of the evidence. Darlina had called police from inside the bedroom, and the shots had been fired from outside it. And then there was the series of recorded 911 calls with Mrs. Brown's terrorized voice pleading for help.
Darlina says he left only after she shouted through the door that she'd summoned police. Montgomery County deputies arrested Brown at a nearby shopping center parking lot. He smelled of alcohol and was out of control, according to the officers. Inside his vehicle, they found a cache of guns and illegal knives.
Darlina was delivered by ambulance to a hospital.
"My daughter didn't even look like my daughter," says Linda Muras of Darlina. "It was awful what he did to her. It's unspeakable, especially her being pregnant. It's a wonder she didn't lose the baby."
After spending most of the next month in bed, Darlina gave birth prematurely to Layla. So far, the rocky entry into the world has had no visible effect on the ten-month-old child.
The baby's father, released on $50,000 bail, was indicted for aggravated assault. He left for a monthlong stay at the Sierra psychiatric and substance abuse rehab center in Tucson, Arizona.
The surgeon had amassed several experts to help him with his mounting legal problems. They included attorneys Rocket Rosen, Earle Lilly and Michael Sharp and psychiatrist George Glass, who had treated Brown.
And one order of business, even from the Sierra rehab center, was a lengthy letter from the doctor to what he termed his "dream team." Brown thanked Rosen for springing him from jail a day early. Glass was lauded "as the cornerstone and conduit for translating my experience here to something beneficial to me legally and medically."
Brown's letter acknowledges "intense shame, guilt, sadness, and hurt for my actions leading up to and including what I did to my wife who I dearly love and still do.
"There are no good excuses, for I am accountable."
However, what sound like excuses begin in the next sentence. Brown, "for legal reasons," cites a drugged drink and a theft of $2,000 the night of the beating. "My actions en route and in the home and loss of memory are all indicative of an hallucinogenic drug for which the police would not test me despite my repeated insistence."
That loss of memory was later replaced by a detailed account of his wife's alleged "attack."
Brown reminds his attorneys of his goals. He wants his felony charges reduced to prevent revocation of his medical license. He seeks unlimited access to his daughters and reconciliation with his wife. And Brown also wants his Bentley, his Ferrari and his golf clubs taken to his Houston condo to await his release. To take care of all that, he suggests getting an appropriate letter from the hospital director.
"Remember," notes the doctor, "Sierra Tucson is a business."
He needn't have worried, at least about keeping his medical privileges.
Three months later, the Houston Northwest Medical Center Credentials Committee requested a medical opinion on Brown's application for reappointment to their medical staff. Committee chairman Gary Urano noted that Brown spent time in a rehab center followed by treatment from a psychiatrist. Hospital officials wanted assurances that he had completed the therapy, and the panel wanted answers to several questions. They needed to know if Brown's treating psychiatrist had seen his patient exhibit any behavior as the result of physical, mental, alcohol or drug impairment that might interfere with the exercise of his clinical privileges.
On May 17 Brown's medical staff forwarded Urano's letter to Glass, Brown's psychiatrist, with a note that "you must call Michael Sharp He would like to discuss the report with you."
Five days later, attorney Sharp faxed Glass the questions as well as a set of suggested answers, prepared by Sharp's law partner. "These are not intended to be directive in any way but it is due tomorrow and I am trying to help in any way that I can in facilitating this reply ," read an accompanying note from Sharp. "Thanks for all your help for Dr. Brown."
A day later, the psychiatrist sent a letter to the hospital committee stating he had never observed Dr. Michael Brown exhibiting any behavior that might interfere with his clinical privileges. It was word for word a duplicate of the "draft" he had been sent by Brown's attorney the previous day.
While Brown has been fighting to keep hospital privileges, the wheels of justice in other legal matters have moved on different tracks at different speeds.
Darlina sued for divorce in a Montgomery County court last October. Brown's legal team, headed by flamboyant Houston attorney Rocket Rosen, attacked Darlina's morals -- particularly the extramarital affair early in the couple's marriage.
During a pretrial deposition, Rosen equated Brown's alleged assault with her affair. He suggested that Darlina was guilty of attempted murder of her husband by having unprotected sex with another man. She responded that they had used condoms.
Darlina's attorneys, including Houston lawyers Tommy Fibich and Wendy Burgower, instead focused on the series of Brown's allegedly violent incidents against his wife.
The verdict left no doubt about whom jurors believed. Their verdict awarded Darlina $3.4 million and custody of their daughters, and it found that the doctor had committed violence against his spouse. Under the terms of a legal agreement, Brown can see his children only on supervised visitation in the presence of a social worker. He has appealed the verdict.
Presiding juror Greg Steiner says the entire panel found that Darlina was credible and the doctor wasn't. "My personal opinion is that he needs to be in jail," Steiner says. Jurors found it odd that the doctor had not already been tried for aggravated assault, he says.
Montgomery County District Attorney Mike McDougal put off criminal action against the physician while he awaited the outcome of the civil case -- the reverse of the usual course in such proceedings.
Initially, prosecutors had offered the doctor a plea bargain with deferred adjudication that would expunge the assault from Brown's records and allow him to keep his medical license. Brown at first refused the plea. The civil verdict in Darlina's favor fueled public pressure for McDougal to toughen his stance.
By then, Brown had replaced his legal team headed by Rosen and hired top-ranked Houston defense attorney Jack Zimmerman. The lawyer secured a gag order from state District Judge Suzanne Stovall to keep those involved with the case from talking to the media.
The next criminal court date is in February, although McDougal says he is still mulling over whether to take the case to trial -- he calls it "a complicated situation." Asked if Brown's money and influence had gotten the defendant special treatment, the district attorney replies tersely, "We don't see it that way."
It's the week before Christmas, and Darlina Brown's new Woodlands home is packed with holiday decorations as well as family keepsakes and photos that once adorned her far more spacious Wedgwood residence.
The woman so bruised and battered in police photographs a year ago is now an animated, almost childlike blond guiding visitors to the den of what she calls her "little home." The location and phone number were supposed to be secret to protect Darlina from Brown. But she says the doctor has called the house -- and in September, the physician had a spray of flowers delivered to the door to mark Sophie's second birthday. Darlina took it as an implied warning.
Once a week Brown gets supervised overnight stays with the girls at a safe house. Darlina says she's afraid to let the children play outdoors regularly because Sophie's mosquito bites once prompted Brown to accuse her of child abuse.
Darlina has been in therapy since last January, and says she only now is learning to cry about the experiences of the past few years. Previously, her lawyer Wendy Burgower says, the woman would describe the violence as if it was happening to someone else, and would laugh at odd moments.
She's still a long way from living a normal life.
"I don't trust men. I don't want to be with a man," Darlina said in the civil case. "I don't want a boyfriend. These girls mean everything to me, and without them I would be lost."
Brown is now living with a 27-year-old woman and her three-year-old daughter in a new home in the Memorial area, and Darlina says she accepts the fact that he'll haunt her life until their children reach adulthood.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"If he's going to come get me, there's nothing I can do about it," she says in the same tone of resignation as her conversation on the doctor's homemade video. "If I kept thinking about it, I'd go crazy."
"Darlina is a consummate liar," stated the doctor before the last trial. "This marriage has been a fraud And my little girls don't need to be in the custody of a woman who is capable of doing that. You don't know her like I do. She's a con artist, and she's probably conning you-all too."
"I'm stronger now than what I ever was with him," concludes Darlina. "I hope he gets help, but I don't think he's gonna get it. He hasn't taken responsibility for anything he has done yet."
With a criminal trial still uncertain, it remains to be seen whether any entity, even the Montgomery County district attorney's office, is capable of making the doctor face up to that task.