Judy Knight

A former Hillsdale College student was among the six victims mur­dered in a shooting spree in Kala­mazoo on Sat­urday night.

Dorothy “Judy” Brown, 74, of Battle Creek attended the college from the fall of 1959 to the winter of 1962.

Jason Dalton, 45, allegedly shot and killed Brown, 74, of Battle Creek, along with five other people in Kala­mazoo, Michigan. 

He has been charged with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight counts of felony firearm use. He was arraigned on Monday morning, without the pos­si­bility of bail. 

“When you were in a room, you knew that she noticed you,” Rev. Jim Ashby said of Brown. Ashby, a retired min­ister, attended Unity Christian Church in Battle Creek with Brown. “If you were a stranger to her, she wanted to get to know you. She wasn’t very inter­ested in talking about herself — she was much more inter­ested in who you were.” 

As a freshman at Hillsdale in October 1959, Brown  — then Dorothy Jean Knight — became a pledge of the Pi Beta Phi women’s fra­ternity. She was ini­tiated the next spring. 

“In high school, you have a little homework and you do it, but in college you have a lot and you do enough to get by,” Brown com­mented to the Col­legian during her first semester at Hillsdale. 

In April 1961, Brown trav­elled with four of her Pi Phi sisters to a small school for local children in the Appalachian Moun­tains of Ten­nessee, which the national fra­ternity helped establish in the 1910s. She also visited Fort Laud­erdale, Florida, for a vacation. 

Brown trans­ferred to Western Michigan Uni­versity after com­pleting her fall 1962 semester at Hillsdale.

According to Hillsdale’s alumni mag­a­zines, she married Edwin Reynolds, and the pair had two sons, Jeffrey and Robert. 

Rev. Ann Ashby, Ashby’s wife and pastor of Unity Church is meeting with Brown’s family to prepare for her memorial service later this week. 

A long-time member of Unity Christian Church of Battle Creek, Brown served as trea­surer on the board of trustees until her death. 

“Whatever needed to be done, she would ask how she could help,” Jim Ashby said. “She was a minister’s dream con­gregant. She was always willing to roll up her sleeves and get to work. There was a great will­ingness in that woman.” 

Brown went to dinner with three friends at Cracker Barrell in Kala­mazoo on Sat­urday night, Feb. 20. Brown and her com­panions, Mary Jo Nye, 60, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68, both of Battle Creek, and 14-year-old Abigail Kopf were shot while sitting in Nye’s Chevrolet Cruze in the parking lot of the restaurant. 

Brown, Nye, and Hawthorne died on the scene. Kopf is still “fighting for her life” at Bronson Chil­dren’s Hos­pital, according to a statement from her parents released to the Battle Creek Enquirer. 

“We are cur­rently reeling in the aftermath of the tragic loss of life for six of the res­i­dents of our Battle Creek/Kalamazoo com­mu­nities; two of them were beloved friends and active members of our Unity family,” the Unity church posted on its Facebook wall. 

Detec­tives say Dalton has con­fessed he “took people’s lives,” according to national media sources. 

According to the Kala­mazoo Department of Public Safety, Dalton “was coop­er­ative,” and his demeanor was “even-tem­pered upon arrest.” 

Dalton will appear in court again on March 10 for a pre­lim­inary exam­i­nation hearing.

Mean­while, the victims’ fam­ilies mourn their loss. 

“She always gave a sense of high pos­itive regard — you felt like you mat­tered when you were with Judy,” Ashby said. “You felt acknowl­edged, you felt embraced, you felt special.” 

Brown’s memorial service will be held this Friday in Battle Creek.