COCKEYSVILLE, Md. (AP) — A 15-year-old boy has been charged in the shooting deaths of his parents and his two younger brothers as they slept at their home in a suburb north of Baltimore, the Baltimore County police said.
The boy, Nicholas W. Browning, of Cockeysville, was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder in the slayings Friday of his father, John W. Browning, 45; his mother, Tamara, 44; and his brothers Gregory, 13, and Benjamin, 11.
A police spokesman, Bill Toohey, said the boy was formally arrested at 1:05 a.m. Sunday after he admitted to the killings.
Nicholas Browning had not been getting along with his father, according to a police news release. On Friday night, he went into the house after other family members were asleep and shot each of them using one of his father’s guns, which was in the house, the police said.
After the slayings, he threw the handgun into bushes near his house, the police said. The gun has been recovered, Mr. Toohey said. He said the boy then spent Friday night and Saturday with friends. When the friends took him home at 5 p.m. Saturday, he went inside and then went back out to say his father was dead. He called 911, and officers responded to “a call of a cardiac arrest,” according to the charging documents.
The police officers found the boy’s father dead in a ground-floor room and his mother and brothers dead in upstairs bedrooms. There were no signs of confrontation in the house, Mr. Toohey said.
The boy, a tall, gangly sophomore at Dulaney High School in a neighboring suburb, Timonium, was denied bail Sunday morning at a hearing. He was being held in a special section for juveniles at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson.
It could not be determined if he had a lawyer.
His bail will be reviewed Monday in District Court in Towson.
Even if convicted as an adult of first-degree murder, the boy is too young under state law to face the death penalty.
Police say Maryland Boy Scout killed his family while they slept
COCKEYSVILLE, Md. -- Police say a 15-year-old Boy Scout charged with killing his parents and two younger brothers shot them as they slept, then returned a day later after spending time with friends to stage the discovery of their deaths.
Friends of the Browning family, many of whom held a candlelight vigil Sunday evening at the half-million dollar farmhouse-style home where authorities say the killings happened, said they were shocked. Someone hung a small, silver-colored crucifix on the mailbox.
The father, John Browning, was "beloved and well-revered. I'm told this is not the kind of family that this could happen to," said the Rev. Frances Dailey, pastor of Timonium United Methodist Church, where the Brownings' Troop 328 met in the suburban Balitmore community.
Officials believe the teen, Nicholas Browning, had shot his father, mother, and brothers with one of his father's guns Friday, then tossed the handgun in some bushes and left.
Authorities said friends dropped Nicholas off on Saturday, and soon after, he came out of the house to say he had found his father's body on the ground floor. He then called 911.
"A caller reported to 911 that a 45-year-old male was lying on the couch with blood coming out of his nose. He was not breathing," charging documents said.
Shortly before 5 p.m., officers found Nicholas' father dead in a ground-floor room and his mother and brothers' bodies in upstairs bedrooms. They also found the gun. The victims were John, 45; Tamara, 44; Gregory, 13, and Benjamin, 11.
Police said Nicholas confessed early Sunday and was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.
Nicholas had not been getting along with his father, police said in a news release, but investigators offered no other details. There was no sign of a confrontation Friday at the house, police said.
John Browning, a real estate lawyer, had worked in Baltimore County's oldest law firm for nearly 20 years. He was a scoutmaster and a church leader.
Nicholas, who was tall and gangly, was working toward becoming an Eagle Scout, and had built a prayer garden at his church to meet one of the requirements. His high school was one of the best in the county.
Browning led camping, rock climbing and whitewater expeditions for his Boy Scout troop. The family also hosted meetings for scouts' parents at their home.
"John was a wonderful man. He and his wife, Tammy, were very much in love. Together they were caring and loving parents to their children," Browning's law partners said in a statement. "John was also a man of much faith. And he so much enjoyed the outdoors."
Two of Nicholas Browning's schoolmates drove past the house Sunday afternoon. They wept when they were told Nicholas was charged in the killings.
"It's hard to believe someone could do this," said Brooke Kebaugh, 16.
Liz Lazlawbach, 17, said Browning complained about fighting with his father, but "not about anything violent."
Nicholas was formally arrested at 1:05 a.m. Sunday after admitting to the killings, Baltimore County Police spokesman Bill Toohey said. He was denied bail Sunday morning at a hearing. He was being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson in a special section for juveniles.
His bail will be reviewed Monday in Towson, the county seat, six miles from the family's home.
The county had 37 homicides last year, compared with 282 in nearby Baltimore. Toohey said there had not been a similar incident in the area since 1995, when a man killed his wife and three children before killing himself.
Resident Mike Thomas said one of his sons had been in scouts with one of the Brownings' sons. The Brownings would go out of their way to help others, even stopping to pick up debris in the street, he said.
"These people would do anything in the world for you — just incredible people," he said.
Thomas said he recently sold John Browning a trailer that Browning planned to use for Boy Scout outings. It was parked Sunday in the family's driveway.
Police say 'no explanation' why Browning family murdered
by Luke Broadwater - The Examiner
Feb 6, 2008
Baltimore County - Despite a confession, police say they still have no motive for why Dulaney High School sophomore Nicholas Browning allegedly killed his parents and two brothers as they slept Friday night.
“We have no explanation for it,” Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey said Tuesday. “We have not established a motive.”
While police say the teen had been arguing with his father, “he did not have a confrontation with his dad that night,” Toohey said.
“There was something boiling up inside this boy.”
Police may be confounded by the boy’s actions, but students who rode the school bus with Browning say the teen recently began talking about killing his parents, but none of them took him seriously.
“He talked about how rich his father was, how he wanted some of that money,” said one middle schooler, whose father asked The Examiner not to publish her name. “He didn’t like his father because he used to always yell at him and stuff. He called his mom a ditzy, dumb blonde. We thought he was kidding.”
The students said Nicholas Browning used to pick on his younger brothers on the bus — and would punch Gregory, 14, when he wouldn’t listen.
“We thought he was weird,” the girl said of Browning. “He was really mean.”
But students like Shana Cayle, 17, a junior at Dulaney, say Browning appeared completely normal at school.
His father, John Browning, 45, along with mother, Tamara, 44, and brothers Gregory and Benjamin, 11, were found dead in their Powers Avenue home Saturday around 5 p.m. by Nicholas Browning as he returned home, police said.
Police said Nicholas dumped the gun in nearby bushes and spent Friday night and all day Saturday with friends, before contacting police later that day after returning home.
Browning’s former attorney, Steve Silverman, told a Baltimore County judge Monday that the teen is “traumatized” by the death of his family and might have falsely confessed to the killing.
Browning, an “honors student,” was close to becoming an Eagle Scout and also plays the cello, Silverman said.
Baltimore County appointed Cynthia and Mark Warnecki, of Sterling, Va., as the teen’s guardians Monday. Although the county said the guardians hired an attorney for Browning, no lawyer entered an appearance in the case Tuesday. Cynthia Warnecki, reached at her home Tuesday evening, declined to comment.
Called an “all-American family” by neighbors, John Browning practiced law with the Towson firm Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, and Tamara Browning was a PTA president.
“John was a wonderful man,” his fellow lawyers at the firm wrote in a statement. “He and his wife, Tammy, were very much in love. Together they were caring and loving parents to their children.”
Cockeysville murder suspect portrayed as 'arrogant, rude'
by Luke Broadwater - The Examiner
Feb 7, 2008
Cockeysville - For days, friends and family of Nicholas Browning, the teen charged with murdering his brothers and parents, have painted him as an all-American boy. He was an honors student with lots of friends, they said. He played golf and lacrosse. He was close to becoming an Eagle Scout.
But now, a different, darker picture is starting to emerge — that of a teen who bullied those younger and smaller than him and spoke openly about killing his parents.
One mother, who spoke to The Examiner on the condition of anonymity, said Browning bullied her 15-year-old son for three years.
“Those in his social group consider him to be the class clown,” she said. “Those that are not in his social group — who are on the receiving end — consider him to be an arrogant, rude young man.”
Students who rode the school bus with Browning say the teen recently began talking about killing his parents, but none of them took him seriously. The students said Browning used to pick on his younger brothers on the bus — and would punch Gregory, 14, when he wouldn’t listen.
Browning’s lacrosse coach, John Kenneally, urged people not to jump to conclusions about the teen, who police say shot his father, John Browning, 45, along with his mother, Tamara, 44, and brothers Gregory and Benjamin, 11, as they slept Friday night.
“I coached Nick, and I wouldn’t believe anything until it’s been confirmed, because Nick wouldn’t hurt anybody,” Kenneally told a group of about 500 people gathered Tuesday night at a candlelight vigil. “It’s totally out of character. Something snapped. Something went wrong. Nick wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Baltimore County police say they still have no motive for Browning’s actions, though Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said Wednesday that the teen did give a taped statement to detectives that could shed light on his motivations.
Meanwhile, more than 600 people have joined an Internet group on Facebook.com honoring the family. A prayer service for the Brownings was scheduled for 6:30 Wednesday night at Church of the Nativity on Ridgley Road in Timonium.
John Browning practiced law with the Towson firm Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, and Tamara Browning was a PTA president. The boys’ grandmother, Margaret, serves on Howard County’s Republican Central Committee.
At the vigil Tuesday evening, Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who lives in the community, said he hoped neighbors could forgive Nicholas Browning.
“I’m going to challenge everybody here tonight to forgive Nick,” Stover said. “I don’t know why Nick did that, and it puts chills down my spine.”
Student: Nicholas Browning joked about killing family
By Luke Broadwater and Stephen Janis - The Examiner
Feb 11, 2008
BALTIMORE - Nicholas Browning, the Baltimore County teen charged with murdering his parents and brothers in their sleep, joked about killing his parents several times before their deaths, several students said.
“He often complained about his father, and I specifically remember him saying he would kill his family one day in a joking manner,” Browning’s Dulaney High classmate John Lockwood told The Examiner in an Internet message.
Lockwood’s statement appears to corroborate previous statements from students who rode the school bus with Browning and said the teen recently began talking about killing his parents -- but none of them took him seriously.
“He talked about how rich his father was, how he wanted some of that money,” said one middle schooler, whose father asked The Examiner not to publish her name. “He didn’t like his father because he used to always yell at him and stuff.”
Lockwood said Browning had “another side to him away from school where he would beat up his younger brothers really badly, steal from his dad’s liquor cabinet, and steal their car without a permit or license.”
He said Browning was “a spoiled kid” who mocked minorities and people with disabilities.
“He got away with everything and thought he ran the world,” Lockwood said.
Called an “all-American family,” successful lawyer, John Browning, 45, along with his wife, Tamara, 44, and sons Gregory, 14, and Benjamin, 11, were found dead in their Cockeysville home last Saturday around 5 p.m. by Nicholas Browning as he returned home from a friend’s house, police said.
Police said Nicholas, an honors student close to becoming an Eagle Scout, dumped his father’s gun in nearby bushes and spent Friday night and all day Saturday with friends.
A source with knowledge of Browning’s actions that night said John Browning had wanted his eldest son to accompany the family to western Maryland Saturday, but Nicholas wanted to stay home and party with his friends. The night of the killings, Nicholas abruptly left a friend’s house and walked more than two miles to his parents’ home, returning five hours later, the source said.
Browning then began inviting friends to a party at his house on Saturday night, before returning home and faking surprise at finding their dead bodies, several sources, including police, said.
As police worked the crime scene that Saturday night, officers were repeatedly interrupted as students, unaware of the horror inside the home, kept arriving expecting a party, law enforcement sources said.
Browning did not immediately confess to the crime, but claimed a botched robbery led to the murders, sources said. After about six hours of interrogation, he admitted to the murders after police found inconsistencies in his story, the sources said.
Nicholas Browning marked his 16th birthday behind bars in the Baltimore County Detention Center Saturday, the same day about 1,300 people attended a funeral for his family at Trinity Assembly of God church in Lutherville.
In a statement released after the funereal, family members expressed support for Nicholas.
“Our concern and love goes out to Nick,” they wrote. “Whatever else lies ahead, he is a member of our family and he will have our support.”
Nicholas Browing indicted in Cockeysville family’s slaying
By Luke Broadwater, The Examiner
Feb 12, 2008
BALTIMORE - A Baltimore County grand jury indicted 16-year-old Nicholas Browning on Monday in the shooting deaths of his parents and two younger brothers.
The eight-count indictment charges Browning with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of illegal use of a handgun in commission of a violent crime.
“At this time there are no additional suspects and no additional indictments are anticipated,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said in a statement.
John Browning, 45, his wife, Tamara, 44, and sons Gregory, 14, and Benjamin, 11, were found dead in their Cockeysville home around 5 p.m. Feb. 2 by Nicholas Browning as he returned home from a friend’s house, police said.
Police said the honor student at Dulaney High School who was close to becoming an Eagle Scout executed his family — one by one — then dumped his father’s gun in nearby bushes and later confessed to the crime.
He faces up to life in prison. No trial date has been set.
Browning marked his 16th birthday behind bars in the Baltimore County Detention Center on Saturday, the same day of the funeral for his family.
Md. teen who killed family gets 4 life sentences
By Ben Nuckols - KansasCity.com
Jan. 23, 2009
Two days before he was sentenced to four life terms for killing his parents and younger brothers, an honor student from an upscale Baltimore suburb joked about escaping from prison in a jailhouse phone call to a friend.
Nicholas W. Browning took a different tone at his sentencing hearing Friday, sobbing and telling relatives, "I'm so sorry."
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger sentenced 16-year-old Browning to serve two of the life terms consecutively, meaning he could be eligible for parole in 23 years with good behavior.
The contrasting images presented by prosecutors and attorneys - a jovial jailhouse phone call and a tearful courtroom apology - strike at the heart of a question that remained unanswered even after Browning pleaded guilty in October to four counts of murder. Was the former Boy Scout a callous murderer who plotted the killing hoping to collect a hefty inheritance or, as defense attorneys say, an abused teen who acted out in the most tragic way possible?
In court Friday, Browning was too overcome by emotion to read a statement of apology to his relatives, so his attorney read it instead. It said, in part, "I so badly want to take away your pain."
But prosecutors played a phone call of a conversation Wednesday between Browning and a friend named Stephanie.
"I hate justice," Browning said. "You need to break in here and break me out."
He asked if she heard about a convicted killer who recently escaped from a Maryland prison and told her that would be him sometime next year.
"These are hardly the words of someone wracked with guilt and remorse," said assistant state's attorney Leo Ryan Jr. "These are the words of a dangerous killer."
Prosecutors also showed clips from Browning's videotaped interview with police the day after he killed his parents, John and Tamara, and his brothers, 14-year-old Gregory and 11-year-old Benjamin, then went to a friend's house to play video games.
The high school sophomore showed little emotion and confidently predicted that a jury would believe his story that burglars were responsible for the killings.
Ryan pegged money as the motive for the slayings, saying abuse would not explain why Browning also killed his brothers.
Browning ultimately confessed in the same interview. Asked why he killed his brothers, he said, "I thought if no one was there to say anything that my story would go, because I was the only one."
Browning's relatives - including his grandparents, aunts and uncles - stood behind him. Several wrote letters asking Bollinger to show leniency and backing up claims that Browning was abused by his parents.
"I have no doubt that Nick was mentally and physically abused for most of his life and that Tammy chose to become an enabler during the last few years of her life," wrote Harold Waggoner, Browning's maternal grandfather.
In the statement read by his attorney, Browning said, "My home life had become much more toxic to myself than I ever thought possible."
Browning's relatives declined comment after the hearing. Prosecutors bristled at the way the defense portrayed Browning's parents, who were respected in the community.
"They can't stick up for themselves," assistant state's attorney S. Ann Brobst said after the sentencing. "Everyone has been murdered except the one person who stands to gain by making the claims that were made in court today."
Defense attorneys had asked Bollinger to allow Browning to serve all of his life terms at the same time, meaning he would be eligible for parole earlier. Prosecutors asked for the consecutive life sentences, ensuring it will be at least 23 years before Browning can have his first parole hearing.
Even then, parole for an offender serving a life sentence in Maryland must be approved by the governor, and that hasn't happened since 1994.
Bollinger recommend that Browning be committed to the Patuxent Institution, a maximum-security psychiatric facility with a program for youthful offenders. He suggested that he was not entirely swayed by any of the explanations of Browning's motive.
"The question of whether his actions were just diabolically evil," Bollinger said, "is up to almighty God."