By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Delray Beach K-9 officer Skip Brown will never forget the day he entered a dark trailer and encountered two children sleeping among rubbish, rags and roaches.
There was no power in the trailer home, the meter had been turned off. He saw roaches crawling from a little boy and girl’s faces and into their hair. Brushing the bugs away, he said scooped up the kids who were no more than 7 or 8 years old, kicking down the trailer door on his way out.
“She was hanging onto my neck pretty hard,” Brown said of the little girl, Liz. “She asked me, ‘Are you going to leave me.’ I stopped and I said, ‘Never.’”
Ultimately, the two did go their separate ways until a few weeks ago. About 24 years after Brown met Liz and her brother for the first time, they reconnected over email and phone calls.
“Throughout the years I always wondered about him,” she said. “I tried to look him up in the past, but he was a hard person to find. There are a lot of Skip Browns out there in the world.”
The two met back on a winter day just before Christmas in 1995. Brown a Delray Beach K-9 officer was patrolling along Federal Highway when he saw a young lady flagging cars down.
“Federal Highway in our city was rampant with prostitution,” he said.
He made a U-Turn and confronted the woman asking several questions. She told him that she lived in a trailer park down the road with her husband and kids.
Barely making eye contact, Brown said he knew something with her story wasn’t quite right. So, he took down some information and warned her that if she kept doing what she was doing he would send her to the county jail.
He also decided to check out the trailer where she said she was living. It was then he discovered the deplorable living conditions.
“I wouldn’t put my dog in it,” he said. “I kicked the door off that trailer, I was so mad.”
Saving the siblings from the trailer was an act that earned Brown employee of the month from the police chief in Dec. 1995. It was also a story that stuck with him. He always wondered what happened to those children.
“It was a phone call I never thought I would get,” he said about reconnecting with Liz. “I still have their photo in one of my scrapbooks.”
Bartfield remembers the day that Brown saved her and her brother just as vividly.
“I remember him carrying us out,” she said. “I remember a lot of cop lights.”
When they made it to the police station, she said Brown gave her a stuffed animal dog that barked Jingle Bells when you squeezed its paw.
“I kept it for a long time,” she said.
Brown said the kids were sent back to the trailer for a few days because the shelters were packed to capacity.
“I said, ‘I will be there 7, 8, 10 times a day to make sure the mom is there,’” Brown said. “I wanted to make sure those kids got out of that garbage and never got back to it.”
He called FPL to have the power turned on for those few days and he made sure the kids had food and Christmas gifts.
One of those times, Bartfield said she was sleeping when she heard someone enter the trailer. It was Brown and his wife bringing in food.
“He went above and beyond,” she said. “He has always been ingrained in my mind.”
After those few days back at the trailer, a guardian ad litem came and the siblings were placed with a foster family who adopted them.
Brown said when the kids were adopted, their foster mom told him he did his job, and he understood what she meant and moved on with his life.
But he never stopped wondering what became of those kids. And Bartfield said Brown had always been on her mind as the years went by.
“I didn’t want years to pass without him knowing what a positive impact he made on our lives,” she said.
She said she would be strung out or dead, another statistic, if Brown hadn’t intervened.
So, when the new year passed and she found Brown on her mind again, she Googled his name.
She stumbled upon two articles in Shelby Living Magazine that appeared online about Brown receiving a Bronze Star. The articles had photos of Brown accompanying them.
“His photo popped up and I recognized him,” she said. “I was like holy crap I actually found him.”
So, she emailed the editor of the publication asking to get in touch with Brown. She figured the worst that would happen is she wouldn’t get a reply.
But she did. The publication asked Brown permission to share his information with her and he agreed. Soon, the two were reconnected.
“We have been talking ever since,” she said. “I got his first e-mail and I sat there and cried for 20 minutes. I can’t believe that I found him.”
They spoke on the phone for about 45 minutes and caught up between tears. She shared that she has a 3-year-old son and she lives in North Carolina.
After hanging up from that first call, Brown said he had to sit down and just chuckle.
“This is so crazy and so special that she would even remember me,” he said. “The good Lord sent her my way a second time and I won’t lose contact with her again. Never in my life did I expect to come across her.”
Bartfield said she would eventually like to meet him in person, again.