State: Colorado killer claims responsibility for 49 slayings
Colorado Springs — A man serving a life sentence in Colorado for murdering a teenage girl is claiming responsibility for nearly 50 slayings across the country dating back more than three decades, authorities said Thursday.
Robert Charles Browne, 53, told authorities the slayings occurred from 1970 until his arrest in 1995. He was in court Thursday to plead guilty to one of those killings — the death of another girl in Colorado in 1987.
Authorities so far have been able to corroborate his detailed claims in seven slayings –three in Louisiana, two in Texas, one in Arkansas and two in Colorado, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said.
He said Browne’s claims of many more slayings could be credible.
“It’s possible he’s exaggerating, but I don’t think you can conduct business assuming he’s exaggerating,” Maketa said. “We’ll continue to pursue leads.”
Browne’s public defender, Bill Schoewe, did not return a call.
Browne, a high school dropout from a small town in Louisiana, claims his killing spree began with a soldier in South Korea in 1970 — Maketa said that has not been verified — and proceeded from there.
The sheriff said the other claims include 17 murders in Louisiana, nine in Colorado, seven in Texas, five in Arkansas, three in Mississippi, two each in California, New Mexico and Oklahoma, and one in Washington state — 49 in all.
Browne pleaded guilty in 1995 to kidnapping and murder charges in the 1991 death of Heather Dawn Church, 13, of Black Forest, a small town north of Colorado Springs. He was sentenced to life without parole. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Rocio Sperry, a girl who was about 15 at the time of her death 19 years ago.
The alleged confession developed after several years of correspondence and discussion between the killer and cold-case volunteer investigators. Authorities said Browne himself sent the first letter in March 2000 to El Paso County prosecutors.
“Seven sacred virgins entombed side by side, those less worthy are scattered wide,” the letter says. “The score is you one, the other team 48. If you were to drive to the end zone in a white Trans Am, the score could be nine to 48. That would complete your homecourt sphere.”
Authorities responded with letters, but Browne clammed up for a while, then opened a new dialogue with investigators. Asked why Browne would confess, investigator Charlie Hess said he believes the killer himself doesn’t know.
“Does he have a conscience? Is that what motivated him? I really have no idea and I’m not sure he knows,” said Hess, a retired police officer who also worked for the CIA and FBI.
Authorities said Browne grew up the youngest child of nine in the small northern Louisiana town of Coushatta, about 40 miles southeast of Shreveport. Maketa said Browne dropped out of high school and served in the Army from 1969 until 1976, when he was dishonorably discharged for drug use. He was married six times, and authorities said all his ex-wives are still alive.
Red River Parish Sheriff Johnny Norman, who was a school teacher in the 1960s, said Browne was in his physical education class in the eighth and ninth grades. He recalled Browne was smart, but aloof — and he had a short fuse.
“He was a loner, but not somebody you’d expect to do this. But he did have a hot temper,” Norman said. “In a pickup basketball game, somebody fouled him or hit him, he’d fly off the handle.”
Norman said the Browne family ran a dairy in the 1960s and had hard times. “He came from a tough family,” Norman said.
Browne’s father, Ronald, at one point served as a parish deputy before Norman was elected, the sheriff said.
The elder Browne was a deputy at the same time the department was investigating the death of a woman in her 20s, Wanda Hudson, the sheriff said. Browne has confessed to that slaying, authorities told The Gazette newspaper, which first reported Browne’s claims.
Norman said he has spoken with Colorado investigators and the Louisiana State Police about Hudson’s death and Browne’s possible involvement.
“We never close a case,” he said.
Browne allegedly told Hess he strangled, shot or stabbed men and women he met along roads, in bars or on the street. He dismembered one victim in a motel room bathtub so he would not be seen carrying the body from the room, then put the parts in a suitcase and dumped it beside a road, Hess said.
Investigator Rick Cole of the Fayette County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office said he has been working with Colorado officials for years.
The case of a woman found dead near Flatonia, Texas, about 85 miles east of San Antonio, in 1984, is one of the few open murder cases in the county, Cole said. And in the past two or three years, with the help of Colorado authorities, the case has been actively investigated.
“It looks like it’s going to maybe come to a close,” Cole said.
Associated Press Writer Chase Squires contributed to this report from Denver.
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