Browning indicted in killings

While medical staff at the Baltimore County jail continue to watch over the Cockeysville teenager charged with killing his family this month, Nicholas W. Browning was indicted yesterday on murder and handgun charges.

A Baltimore County grand jury indicted the 16-year-old on four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of using a handgun in a violent crime.

Browning is being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center, where he is on "special watch," said Jim O'Neill, the director of the county's corrections department and warden of the jail.

The warden said he could not explain what that meant without violating Browning's health-privacy rights.

"Within a week or so is our decision point if the medical people are going to take him off special-watch status," O'Neill said. Then, jail staff will decide whether to place Browning in protective custody or in the detention center's units for inmates under the age of 23. Inmates in protective custody have cellmates but are let out of their cells only one hour a day.

Browning, a Dulaney High School sophomore, is accused of fatally shooting his parents, John W. Browning and Tamara Browning, as well as his younger brothers, 14-year-old Gregory and 11-year-old Benjamin. All four were sleeping in their Cockeysville home when they were killed Feb. 2.

Nicholas Browning told police that he was playing video games at a friend's house late Feb. 1 - a Friday - and into the next morning when he decided to walk the nearly three miles back to his parent's large Colonial-style home, a source familiar with the investigation has said.

There, he found his father asleep on the couch. In his confession, Browning told police that he retrieved his father's gun, shot him in the head and then went upstairs, where he shot his mother and two brothers, the source said. The teenager said he tossed the gun in the woods and returned to his friend's house, where he continued playing video games.

Browning is charged as an adult.

Under Maryland law, anyone over the age of 14 charged with murder is initially prosecuted in adult court.

But defendants under the age of 18 then have a right to ask to be waived back to juvenile court. Defense attorneys who handle such cases often file transfer requests, which would be followed by an investigation and then a hearing on that issue.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger declined to comment on the indictment.

Defense attorney Joshua R. Treem did not return a phone message yesterday.

Funeral services were held for the victims Saturday - the day Nicholas Browning turned 16.