Esme Barrera

Tragedy can strike at any time.

Austin’s music community was painfully reminded of that lesson when a mainstay of the local music scene, Esme Barrera, was murdered at her home in the West Campus during the first hours of the New Year.

Nearly a whole year later, the District Attorney's office says sufficient cause exists to arrest her alleged murderer, if he hadn't killed himself soon after Barrera's murder. APD is now declaring the case closed. 

In the early morning of Jan. 1, Barrera was returning to her home on West 31st Street, near Guadalupe Street, from a celebratory evening of live music. Shortly after entering her house, she was killed.

A man suspected of killing 29-year-old Esme Barrera on New Year's Day has died from an apparent suicide, according to the Austin Police Department.  Based on DNA evidence, investigators believe the suspect was also linked to a series of attacks that occurred in South Austin over the summer. 

James Loren Brown's body was discovered by his roommate  on January 12. Their apartment was a few blocks from where Barrera was killed.  

"We consider Brown a suspect [in Barrera's murder], but there is a considerable amount of investigative work to be completed," APD said in a statement. 

More details in the full news release from APD: 

At a hastily called press conference this afternoon, the Austin Police Department confirmed they had a suspect in the New Year’s murder of Esme Barrera, a widely known, well-liked member of Austin’s music community.

They also said that their suspect, James Loren Brown, is dead, apparently of a suicide.

The Austin Chronicle reports more details:

Photo courtesy of

A 29-year-old woman whose New Year’s Day murder shocked Austin’s music community will be laid to rest today following a funeral in El Paso. Esme Barrera’s body was found by police early January 1 inside her home on King Street near 31st Street. Two other women said they were assaulted nearby the same evening.

Austin police provided an update on the investigation last night at the Heritage Neighborhood Association's regularly scheduled meeting. Barrera’s friends, acquaintances, and others who were disturbed by the seemingly random nature of the crime packed into First English Lutheran Church at 3001 Whitis Blvd.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The shock and disbelief at Esme Barrera’s murder early New Year’s Day – shared in a stream of social media updates – is giving way to questions about the police investigation.

As the young and vibrant Barrera was friends with dozens, if not hundreds in Austin’s close-knit music scene and beyond (including, I should note, this reporter), the news of her death spread rapidly over Facebook and Twitter.

But while many posts are links to tributes and fundraising initiatives, many others are pointedly questioning the Austin Police Department’s response that morning, and the subsequent manhunt.

Photo courtesy of

The death of 29-year-old Esme Barrera has prompted a public outpouring of grief as family, friends and members of Austin’s music community come to terms with her unexplained murder. Barrera was found dead inside her home on King Street around 3 a.m. on January 1, according to KXAN, after ringing in the New Year at the 29th Street Ballroom & Spider House just a few blocks away.

University of Texas police have released a composite sketch of a man believed to be responsible for at least one other sexual assault in that area early Sunday morning. 

"We do not know yet if the three incidents are related, but we are releasing information on all three incidents in hopes of alerting the public and also receiving information from the public," UT police said in an alert issued Monday night. 

UT police describe the suspect as:

  • Black Male
  • Aged 30 to 40
  • Approximately 6″, muscular build
  • Large, dark brown eyes
  • Last seen wearing a grey hooded jacket over dark-colored t-shirt and blue jeans

You can report information at APD's Homicide Tip Line at 512-477-3588 or Crimestoppers at 512-472-TIPS.

Barrera was active in Austin’s music community. She was a Girls Rock Camp Austin counselor and mentored bands. She was a regular at Waterloo Records, which posted the single word, “Heartbroken” on its Facebook page early this morning.