BEL AIR -- Standing in the garage of his Harford County home, Ronald Brodt predicted yesterday that his 19-year-old son will be cleared of charges that he murdered two elderly sisters during the robbery of their Havre de Grace sporting goods store.
Kenneth Robert Brodt, a pudgy-faced graduate of Edgewood High School, couldn't have gunned down Bessie Urban Mitchell, 73, of Havre de Grace, and Emily Urban Hamby, 75, of Aberdeen in the Oct. 18 robbery of the Sportsman's Center, his father said.
"My son's not capable of doing that," said Mr. Brodt, who himself faces a charge of obstruction of justice in the case. "He gets upset when he sees a dead rabbit or squirrel in the road."
The unmarried father of a 15-month-old boy, Kenneth Brodt drives a truck for an Edgewood company and was planning to enroll in Harford Community College in the fall to study criminal justice, his father said. He wanted to be a state trooper.
The elder Brodt said Kenneth will be able to prove he was working the afternoon of the robbery, though the father wasn't certain where. At the time, Kenneth was doing temporary work, his father said.
"I know he didn't do it, and the cops know he didn't do it," Mr. Brodt said. "But they're under tremendous pressure to get this case solved, and they're looking for a scapegoat. They're using my son as a scapegoat."
Capt. John Hughes, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, said investigators did not know whether Kenneth Brodt would produce an alibi, but they are confident that he committed the murders. The captain noted that Ronald Brodt was charged with hampering the investigation and questioned the credibility of some of his statements.
L It was Mr. Brodt, in fact, who led investigators to his son.
The 44-year-old independent insurance salesman decided to call police Thursday after his son showed him two guns he said he had found in a field off Singer Road. Both of them wondered if the guns were stolen, said Mr. Brodt, who lives with his son and their Rottweiler dog in a small rancher in the Creswell section southeast of Bel Air.
Mr. Brodt told the duty officer at the state police barracks in Bel Air that he was considering buying a handgun and wanted to make sure it wasn't stolen. The officer ran the gun's serial number through a computer and discovered it had been stolen from the Sportsman's Center.
He transferred the call to Tfc. Jeffrey McCormack, who was investigating the murders. Trooper McCormack knew Mr. Brodt and recognized his voice.
"I'll give him credit for that," said Mr. Brodt, a big, baby-faced Vietnam veteran wearing a camouflage shirt and jacket and silver-framed glasses.
Although he refused to reveal his identity over the phone, Mr. Brodt insisted that he had planned to take the guns to the police Friday morning. But the police came to his house in the 2800 block of Henley Drive in Creswell Thursday night and took Mr. Brodt, his son and Travis Leon Everist, 27, who rents a basement apartment from the Brodts, to the barracks for questioning.
Mr. Everist also was charged with obstructing justice and released.
On Friday, police obtained a search warrant for the Brodt house and recovered a handgun. They also went to a house in Edgewood Thursday night and recovered two handguns from a man who said they were given to him for safekeeping by Kenneth Brodt.
Mr. Brodt said he still believes his son found the three guns, which police acknowledge represent only a small portion of the handguns stolen from the Havre de Grace sporting goods store.
He said he saw no signs that his son had more money than usual in recent months and denied that Kenneth ever used drugs.
"He drinks an occasional beer now and then," he said. "But what teen-ager doesn't?"
Mr. Brodt's other son, Ronald Jr., was arrested in 1987 for a series of Aberdeen robberies in which he wielded a toy gun. He is serving a 20-year sentence at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, his father said.
Kenneth Brodt is being held without bond at the Harford County Detention Center until a bail review hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
"My son's up there being crucified," Mr. Brodt said. "It's not right. The kid's 19 years old, and they're trying to destroy his life before it even starts."