The Good Doctor

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.

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Tim Fleck
Contact: Tim Fleck