Sylvia Browne (born Sylvia Celeste Shoemaker October 19, 1936) is an American author who describes herself as a psychic and spiritual medium. She has made several appearances on Larry King Live, was a weekly guest on The Montel Williams Show, and hosts her own hour-long show on Hay House Radio, discussing paranormal issues and giving callers advice in her role as a psychic. She has made millions of dollars by manipulating and exploiting thousands of people with her false predictions. Many families of missing or murdered loved ones have contacted Sylvia in a bid to get some closure only to find out that her predictions were nothing more than her own assumptions, theories and guesses.
In 1992, Browne was convicted of investment fraud and grand theft. Her claims and predictions have caused numerous controversies and reports of her failed predictions have appeared in several newspapers. Critics such as James Randi, with whom she has had a long running feud, say that she is a cold reader whose readings are indistinguishable from those achieved by mentalists using cold and hot reading techniques. Recent press coverage has asserted that she is inaccurate overall.
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The most extensive study of alleged psychic Sylvia Browne’s predictions about missing persons and murder cases reveals a strange discrepancy: despite her repeated claim to be more than 85 percent correct, it seems that Browne has not even been mostly correct about a single case. To many she is an obvious fraud yet she is allowed to continue and make a fortune over exploiting and defaming emotionally fragile people.
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Browne’s predictions have a history of being wrong or unhelpful. In the course of this research, we examined a variety of sources to study Browne’s involvement with law enforcement. Browne was sometimes paid by families of the victims, charged at least one police department $400, and received money as well as publicity from her appearances on television. She is a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and, as reported in 2004, earned a minimum of $847 for each talk show appearance. Yet in all these cases, Browne has never supplied independent proof that she has ever helped law enforcement. More than that, she is repeatedly wrong. During the Sago Mining Disaster, she claimed the miners were alive when they were actually dead. She also said Richard Kneebone was alive in Canada, but his decomposed body was discovered a few days later in California. More recently, she predicted that a 9/11 firefighter was alive, but his body was found in the World Trade Center rubble two weeks later.
Browne’s tendency to mess with the emotions of family who have missing/murdered loved ones never fails, using their suffering and pain for her personal gain. Read below for more.
Browne is not only wrong in many of her ”guesses,” but also tells suffering families horrible things. In 1999, Browne did a reading for Opal Jo Jennings’ grandmother, who wanted to know what happened to Jennings, a six-year-old abducted from her front yard in Texas. Browne told the grandmother, “She’s . . . not . . . dead. But what bothers me—now I’ve never heard of this before, but for some reason, she was taken and put into some kind of a slavery thing and taken into Japan. The place is Kukouro. Or Kukoura.” Browne was wrong. Child molester Richard Lee Franks was charged with the kidnapping that same year and convicted the following year. Jennings’ remains were discovered in 2003. Medical examiners concluded that “Opal was killed by trauma to the head with[in] several hours of her abduction.”

Photo of Opal Jo Jennings (November 24, 1992 – March 26, 1999) – Victim of child abduction and murder. Opal’s loved ones were a victim of Sylvia Browne’s false ”predictions”

Missing person Holly Krewson was a similar case, one in which Browne needlessly tainted the memories of a family’s loved one on national television. In 2002, Browne told Holly’s mother, “She is in Los Angeles, and when she was calling you, she was on drugs. But she’s still alive.” Browne also said that the girl was a dancer in an “adult entertainment nightclub,” and “you might get a Christmas card postmarked Los Angeles.” Holly’s family made regular visits to the Los Angeles area, scanning the clubs for their missing loved one, but to no avail. Holly’s mother, Gwendolyn Krewson, died of an aneurysm in 2003. Three years later, Holly’s body was identified. As it turned out, Holly was murdered, and her body was discovered in 1996. The remains were only identified as Holly in 2006, after sitting in the medical examiners office for ten years. Needless to say, Browne was completely wrong in every aspect of the case and hurt an already devastated family.
Photo of Holly Krewson – Murder victim who was slandered and defamed by Sylvia Browne’s false ”predictions”
In a 2006 appearance on Montel, Browne did a reading about Robert Hayes, who was serving in the Army National Guard when he was killed at an ATM. Browne told Hayes’s crying fiancée that he met a man at a casino who “took Hayes,” then robbed him to get the casino winnings. The police later found that although Hayes told his fiancée he was going to a casino, he actually went to meet another woman, and there are no reports in the press about him being at a casino. In fact, Hayes was the victim of a conspiracy by four people, including a local beauty queen, who lured Hayes to meet her so they could rob him. Browne said Hayes was shot three times “in the head, chest, and over to the side,” to which the fiancée replied, “I didn’t know he was shot in the head. The police never said that.” The fiancée then added, “The police said he got shot in the hand.” When asked if the case would be solved, Browne said, “Yeah, but it’s gonna take them at least a good two years.” However, the police announced they arrested four people in connection with the murder on April 11, 2006. The first airing of Browne’s predictions occurred on April 26, 2006. Browne was wrong about who did it, the conspiracy, where he was shot, who was involved, and when the case would be solved. By October 2007, three of the suspects pled guilty and were sentenced for Hayes’s murder. The Montel Williams Show and other media outlets have been silent about this and other cases. In fact, a full transcript of this show no longer exists on LexisNexis; instead, there is only a brief summary that excludes the aforementioned details. The authors had to seek the transcript and video by other means to include the details in this article.
Browne’s failures are too extensive to explore in detail here, and more famous ones, such as the Shawn Hornbeck case, have been explored in this magazine before. Below is a list of names of people Browne has performed readings about. Some of the cases marked “unknown” were already de facto solved by law enforcement. They know who most likely committed the crimes, but the suspects were never brought to justice and the cases went “cold,” so they are still officially unsolved and open. In other cases, Browne was consulted to confirm the families’ suspicions, determine how to bring the likely perpetrator to justice, or provide more information. This makes her predictions even less impressive, as she is “solving” exhausted cases that the police have already in large part solved and about which she can say almost anything, since any new developments are highly unlikely. On the other hand, some are official accidents and suicides that the families feared were actually murders.
 
Among the many harmful things that Browne does is convince the loved ones of victims of untimely deaths that foul play was involved and, conversely, convince the loved ones of murder victims that no foul play was involved. However, if the families are correct in their suspicions and these are actual murders, the last thing they need is a psychic involved in the case.

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STOP SYLVIA

If you’re a skeptic of Sylvia Browne then I think you might like James Randi Foundation – James Randi is a very smart man and retired magician who knows all the tricks Sylvia uses to fool victims. He has offered Sylvia ONE MILLION DOLLARS in a ”$1,000,000 challange” and all Sylvia would need to do is prove her abilities. Years later, the one million dollars remains on hold.

If you believe Sylvia Browne should be stopped and/or would like to read other false predictions then you will enjoy stopsylvia.com – a website created by an individual who believes Sylvia should face legal action and her victims should be entitled to a refund for every failed prediction she makes. She of-course will not adhere to this for obvious reasons (psst. she’d be out of a job.)

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PREDICTIONS SYLVIA BROWNE WAS WRONG ABOUT

Handful of cases Sylvia Browne made  predictions about that turned out to be false. The names are given in alphabetical order with brief descriptions of Browne’s predictions and the facts of the case.
  1. Erica Baker. November 19, 2003, on Montel. Browne told Erica’s mother “she’s not dead” but in Michigan. Furthermore, Browne claimed someone “sold her for drugs,” and “there was a black woman” who helped “throw” her in an “old truck.” In 2005, Chris­tian John Gabriel was convicted of moving and concealing Erica’s body in Kettering, Ohio. Her body was not found, but Gabriel claimed to have buried it after hitting her with his “van.”1
  2. Jamie Barker. In February 2001 on Montel. Two months after Barker fell from a bridge while working, Browne told his widow he died “quick” and his body is “on the site, there’s no doubt about it,” but they won’t find it “unless they dig and I don’t think they will.”2 Two months later Barker’s body was discovered downstream in LaSalle. An autopsy discovered he “suffered no broken bones or head injuries in the 15-storey fall,” but instead drowned.3
  3. Eve Brown. September 30, 1999, on Montel. Browne told the family “that Eve Brown is well and living in Florida.”4 This was not true, as Eve’s body was found a year later at a Brooklyn, New York, construction site thirteen miles from where she was last seen.5 The murder remains unsolved.
  4. Terrence Farrell. Browne told a woman that Farrell, a firefighter involved in 9/11, was alive.6 She was wrong. His body was found in the rubble one month later.7
  5. Erica Fraysure. September 24, 1998, on Montel. Erica went missing in 1997. Browne did a reading for her mother, saying she was in water and someone named “Chris” killed her. The following day, Erica’s ex-boyfriend, Chris Mineer, killed himself. Police said Chris’s alibi checked out, and he was not a suspect. Chris’s mother sued Montel Williams, his producers, Paramount Pictures, and Viacom Inc., but the case was eventually dismissed. After the broadcast, the police searched the nearby lakes and found nothing. Police say Erica is still a “missing person” and continue to investigate.8
  6. Robert Hayes. April 26, 2006, on Montel. (See description in this article.)
  7. Shawn Hornbeck. February 26, 2003, on Montel. Browne told Shawn’s parents he was dead, but he was found alive in 2007.9
  8. Sharon James’s son. Discussed January 19, 2007, on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. Browne claimed she located James’s son, but James was not so positive and would not have used Browne’s service in hindsight.
  9. Opal Jo Jennings. April 29, 1999, on Montel. (See description in this article.)
  10. Ryan Katcher. February 11, 2004, on Montel. Katcher went missing and Browne told his mother “two boys got terribly frightened” then “dropped him” in “a metal shaft of some kind.” Browne further said he is “still in the shaft” “close to twenty-five, twenty-six, maybe twenty-seven miles from where you would be.” On July 25, 2006, police found Ryan in his truck under water in a pond, and an autopsy showed he was under the influence. According to a discussion with Ryan’s mother on StopSylvia.com, Browne got more details wrong, but those parts were edited before the broadcast.
  11. Richard Kneebone. According to Teresa Kneebone, Browne “said she feels he’s not dead and that he could be traveling in Canada . . . and have partial amnesia.”10 His “badly decomposed body” was found July 7 a “few blocks” from the tavern where he was last seen in San Jose, California.11
  12. Holly Krewson. November 27, 2002, on Montel. (See description in this article.)
  13. Angie Lee. March 28, 2007, on Montel. Browne told Angie’s mother, “It’s a serial killer” who killed a college girl that was responsible for Angie’s stabbing death and “there’s a knife somewhere in that immediate location that may have DNA, may have some sort of evidence on it.” In 2008, Anthony Ashby pleaded guilty to her murder, and the motive for the crime was “home invasion and residential burglary.” Furthermore, a knife was not part of the evidence. DNA evidence from Ashby’s gun and witnesses caused him to plead guilty.12 The law enforcement involved remarked, “The psychics did not provide any substantive leads.”13
  14. Chandra Levy. July 17, 2001, on Fox News. Browne said Levy’s body was in “some trees down in a marshy area.” She made this prediction when it was public knowledge that police were searching Rock Creek Park since someone used Chandra Levy’s computer to find directions to that park.14 Benjamin Radford noted, “The remains were found across a steep incline in a heavily wooded area—perhaps near some trees but clearly not ‘in a marshy area,’ since a marsh located on an incline is geographically impossible.”15
  15. Lynda McClelland. March 13, 2002, on Montel. Browne said McClelland “is not dead” but in Orlando, Florida, taken by a man with the initials “MJ,” and her family would find her soon. One year later, in March 2003, McClelland’s body was discovered near her home in Pennsylvania. David Repasky was convicted of the murder after witnesses testified Repasky strangled her.16
  16. Ashley Ouellette. In February 2000 on Montel. According to the Associated Press, “Browne said Ouellette’s killing will be solved within a year and two months.”17According to the Scar­borough Police Department, the crime is still unsolved.18
  17. Lori Pleasants. September 10, 2003, on Montel. Browne said Pleasants was “killed by a stalker” who got “kicks out of that,” but there was “not necessarily DNA” at the scene and “he was wearing gloves.” In 2006, William Gutersloh, Pleasants’s friend, admitted to killing Pleasants after the police found DNA that linked to him.19 While on the stand, he told jurors he wiped the knife clean to avoid leaving fingerprints.20
  18. Scott Renquin, Dan Nelson, and Roger DesVergnes. March 1999 on Montel. According to the Associated Press, Browne “told the families their loved ones had died in a boating accident near the Everglades in a hovercraft. She gave them the name of a man who allegedly owned the boat.”21 Police followed Browne’s leads and found nothing. Later, their bodies were discovered in their SUV in a drainage retention pond. Authorities believe they missed a sharp turn at the unlighted corner and their car flipped into the water.22
  19. Weyman Robbins. May 7, 2003, on Montel. On Robbins’s murder Browne said, “This was other kids. They were playing this stupid game.” She further claimed, “There were two or three other kids that did it,” but “I don’t think the kids meant to” and “one of the—the kids is named Danny.” Weyman’s uncle strangled him in front of his sisters and was convicted of murder.
  20. Sago Mining Disaster. Browne first said she knew the miners would be found alive. During the live radio broadcast she appeared on it was announced all except one were dead.23,24 After the announcement, she later said, “I don’t think there’s anybody alive, maybe one.”
  21. Dana Satterfield. February 1997 on Montel. Browne said the murderer was an out-of-state construction worker that “has no connection to Satterfield, choosing her on a whim.”25 Nine years later, Jonothan Vick was convicted of the murder following witness and DNA evidence. Vick was a local high school student who attempted to go on dates with Satterfield, but she rejected his advances.26
  22. Shannon Sherrill. November 19, 2003, on Montel. Browne claims Sherrill, who went missing in 1986, was “brainwashed and raised in a different family” but “is alive,” and the case will “break open” soon. As of 2009, Sherrill’s whereabouts are unknown and the case is unsolved.
  23. John Slayton. May 14, 2003, on Montel. Browne said “indigents” killed Slayton, and his body was disposed in water and would not be found. In June 2003, Slayton’s body was found in shallow grave. In 2006, his killers, a pawnbroker and his son, were found guilty of the murder.27
  24. Richard Torres. October 20, 2004, on Montel. Browne told Torres’s widow that she would have a healthy baby boy. The June 28, 2005, update on Montel reported the baby was a girl and died five months premature. However, the segment omitted Browne making any prediction about the pregnancy.
  25. Terry Webb. October 20, 1997, on Montel. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “His daughters said Browne told them she believes he was killed six months after he disappeared and that his body is buried somewhere at Fort Bragg.”28 At the time of the reading, Webb had been listed as AWOL and was missing since 1991. In 2004, his body was eventually found buried “under a shed in Fayetteville.”29 In 2006, the suspect pled guilty, saying “he shot Webb in self-defense when he sexually assaulted him” and was given three years in prison.30 After the arrest, Montel did a follow-up on September 15, 2004, but the segment omitted Browne giving any specifics, including the location of Webb’s body.