Toronto Sun , March 12, 1998

By Scot Magnish and Ian Timberlake

Chris Brown fled from Robert Land Academy less than two weeks before he ran away again and died on railway tracks in Burlington, The Toronto Sun has learned.

Niagara Regional Police confirmed Brown, 16, was reported missing on Feb. 22 from the military-style private boys' school south of Grimsby.

Sgt. Ivan Madronic said Brown, mourned at a funeral service yesterday, probably left the rural school some time after 6:30 a.m. that Sunday.

Nearby, he apparently met an adult acquaintance who tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to return. The teen continued to Niagara Falls, where an officer spotted him about 8:15 p.m. in the border city's tourist area, Madronic said. He then returned to the school.

Twelve days later Brown ran off again, along with fellow student Matt Toppi. Still on the run, both were killed by a train last Saturday night.

Brown's troubled past was on the minds of more than 300 mourners who attended a funeral mass for the boy at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Stouffville yesterday.

A bus from the Robert Land Academy dropped off about 40 of Brown's classmates, including eight in full-dress uniforms who acted as an honor guard.

"In my priesthood of 38 years this is the hardest funeral I have ever had to do," Father Leslie Tamas told the family and friends who packed the church.

"Chris... did not have an easy life. But he tried. He tried to help himself under the most difficult of circumstances. And he tried to help others."

Meanwhile, Halton Regional Police met with regional coroner Dr. Peter Clark, who later said several more weeks of investigation are needed to examine circumstances leading up to the deaths.

Toppi's funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. today in Northern Ontario.

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