Nicholas Browning

Shown in the 2007 Dulaney High School yearbook is Nicholas Browning, age 15. (Matt Roth / Patuxent Publishing / February 5, 2008)

A Baltimore County judge on Friday denied Nicholas Browning's motion to reduce the four life sentences he received for murdering his parents and two younger brothers at their Cockeysville home.

Browning, now 21, was sentenced five years ago after pleading guilty to four counts of first-degree murder. His attorneys have recently argued that his multiple life sentences were preventing him from getting mental health treatment at the Patuxent Institution, which works with youth offenders.

But Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. said he did not believe that the sentence modification would change the circumstances of his incarceration. Browning had asked that he be able to serve all of the terms at the same time, with all but 30 years suspended.

Browning's attorney, Joshua Treem, argued that reducing several of the murder counts "doesn't get him out any earlier" but would make him eligible for treatment. He said Browning still could not be released without the approval of a parole board.

"Nicholas Browning committed what I don't think words can adequately describe as an unfathomable act," Treem said. But Treem said mental health professionals who evaluated Browning had recommended treatment, which could potentially help answer the question of why Browning killed his family members.

Browning, who appeared in court with short, cropped hair in a light blue "D.O.C." shirt and lose-fitting jeans, spoke only briefly, thanking family members who have continued to visit him.

"Words can't describe what I did," he said. Browning asked the judge to reconsider the sentence "not for me but my family."

Deputy State's Attorney Robin Coffin said Browning's sentence was appropriate because he showed no empathy in the killing of his family.

"It was the state's position at the time of sentencing and the state's position today this crime was so heinous that Nicholas Browning should never get out of jail."

She added, "At the time of the murder, when he was speaking with detectives, the only thing he said about his parents was that they were harsh and strict."

Browning shot and killed his father, John, his mother, Tamara, his 14-year-old brother, Gregory, and his 11-year-old brother, Benjamin. Later, Browning told police, he tossed his father's gun into nearby woods and went to a friend's house, where he played video games.

The family was found dead on Feb. 2, 2008.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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