Ex-inmate says suspect didn't confess to him

The Baltimore Sun

The man identified by German authorities as a cellmate of the former U.S. soldier from Baltimore who has been implicated by DNA evidence in the rape and murder of a young woman in Germany in 1984 vehemently denied yesterday that the accused man bragged to him about committing the crime.

Reached at his home in Lansdowne, Pa., the cellmate, Arnold J. Winder, disputed the account of German authorities. Those authorities say they interviewed Winder in 1988 at the federal building in Harrisburg, where Winder allegedly said that Robert L. Brown Jr. "admitted to him the charges against him and had boasted about it."

"I don't know Brown or where he came from," said Winder, who acknowledged that he was incarcerated in Pennsylvania in the 1980s but declined to specify where or for what crime. "They're telling you in 1988 ... that I went to the federal building in Harrisburg? Completely false. ... No, never been to Harrisburg. Nah, that's just not possible."

He added, "I know all my cellmates. I still write most of them. If he was ever in my cell, I would have remembered him."

Extradition proceedings in U.S. District Court in Baltimore began Thursday and will continue Tuesday for Brown, 46, a Baltimore maintenance mechanic. Brown is accused by German authorities of raping and strangling Nicola Stiel, a 19-year-old nursing apprentice, more than 20 years ago. He is being held by federal authorities and will be assigned a public defender.

Trace amounts of DNA left on the woman's pants have been linked to Brown through DNA testing on his daughter, Denise Brown, who still lives in Germany. In a German arrest warrant filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, authorities said Brown also made a confession to a Winder. The warrant said the two shared a cell from 1985 to February 1986 in a Pennsylvania jail.

Meanwhile, new details about Brown's incarceration and later financial problems emerged yesterday.

In 1985, Brown was arrested by Maryland State Police for an armed robbery in southern Pennsylvania -- five months after Stiel's murder -- according to a Sun article at the time. Brown and another man, Robert Everett Davis, had stopped two men walking in Springettsbury, Pa., days before, demanded money from them and fired shots.

Brown was committed to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections on June 9, 1986, to serve a five- to 10-year sentence for a robbery conviction, Sheila Moore, a corrections spokeswoman, said yesterday. Brown served his time at state prisons in Camp Hill and Graterford. He was paroled Sept. 28, 1991.

In 1988, German authorities said, they interviewed Winder. Brown refused to answer questions, they said.

A medical profile from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction rated Brown's intelligence as "above average" and said he earned a General Educational Development certificate. But it warned of past or present problems with "assault, suicide," and problems that were "sexual" in nature. It also mentioned a tattoo on the right side of his chest with the word "Playboy."

Brown was arrested Thursday in the rental office of an apartment complex in the 2400 block of Wellbridge Drive in Northeast Baltimore, where he lives and works. During a federal court hearing hours after his arrest, he told the judge that he underwent open-heart surgery last March to replace arteries and remains under a doctor's care and takes four medications.

A woman who answered the phone at the apartment complex -- Wellington Gate -- declined to comment on Brown's employment. His mother, Martha Ellison, who lives in West Baltimore, would not answer her door yesterday and hung up her telephone several times when a reporter called seeking comment about her son.

In 2003, Brown filed for personal bankruptcy, claiming his debts totaled $52,207.23, according to a summary filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore. He had $1.92 in a checking account at the SECU Credit Union and $14.80 in his savings account.

The bankruptcy filing listed his employment as a maintenance mechanic at Hersch-Lauren LLC for a year and seven months, earning $2,189.07 in net pay. A company representative did not return calls yesterday.

Brown owned a 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer that was valued at $17,315 at the time.

His credit card debts totaled more than $26,000. Melinda Gale Tell, the Columbia attorney who represented him at the time in his bankruptcy proceeding, said yesterday his case was routine and she met with Brown only a few times.

"My only recollection was he was a very nice, courteous young fellow," Tell said.


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