Man draws 2 life terms for gun shop murders

October 22, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Kenneth Robert Brodt, the 20-year-old Bel Air man convicted of brutally murdering two elderly sisters in their Havre de Grace gun shop last year, was sentenced yesterday to two consecutive life terms in prison, a punishment the victims' family declared "greater" than death.

Brodt, who pleaded guilty to the crimes, admitted his involvement but yesterday denied killing Bessie Urban Mitchell, 73, and her sister, Emily Urban Hamby, 75. He said a 25-year-old friend conceived the robbery and did the killings.

"I don't want anyone to think that I am capable of taking another person's life," he said. "I never wanted anyone to get killed."

Joseph I. Cassilly, state's attorney for Harford County, dismissed Brodt's contention. He said evidence gathered during the investigation concluded that Brodt alone planned and committed the crimes. Though the friend was questioned, no evidence was ever found to indicate anyone else's involvement, he said.

The case was tried in Towson because of the crime's widespread publicity in Harford County.

The two women were shot to death on Oct. 18, 1991, during a robbery that netted several guns and about $150. Mrs. Mitchell was shot 10 times in the head. Her sister was shot once.

Brodt was arrested in January, after his father made an anonymous phone call to state police to see if a gun he had been shown came from the robbery. A state trooper recognized his voice. Police searched the home and found several of the stolen guns and bullets fired from the gun used in the crime in the back yard and in Brodt's room.

Yesterday, a surviving sister of the two victims lamented that she now has no place to go "but to the graveyard and cry." A nephew, Duane Urban, recounted his Aunt Emily's life, her early struggle with poverty, her years of hard work, sacrifice and her violent death. He said she didn't want to help run the store, but her sense of family drove her to help after her sister's husband died.

Judge Dana M. Levitz said "the crime in this case is horrible beyond words," and that the deal Brodt received was "a gift beyond value; the greatest gift he could get." In exchange for Brodt's guilty plea, Mr. Cassilly agreed not to seek the death

penalty or life without parole. As their part of the Oct. 5 deal, Brodt's lawyers agreed not to force Mr. Cassilly to disclose the names of five informants who helped state police.

Judge Levitz also said people would be mistaken if they thought Brodt would "be released in the near future, or in 11 or 12 years. That's a fairy tale."

He predicted Brodt would spend the rest of his life in prison. Mr. Cassilly said Brodt would be eligible for a parole hearing in 25 years but agreed that Brodt most likely would never be freed.

During yesterday's sentencing hearing, much was made of Brodt's upbringing, especially his relationship with his father.

"This defendant has been raised to steal and lie," said Mr. Cassilly.

Defense attorneys Luther West and Jim Wyda argued that Brodt was merely the pliable, misdirected product of a violent, abusive father. Ronald Howard Brodt Sr., the father, did not attend the sentencing. Mr. West described him as a "vicious, brutal" man who "teased [Kenneth] for being a sissy in front of his friends."

Mr. Cassilly portrayed Brodt, 19 at the time of the killings, as his father's willing student. He said Brodt cased the gun store before the robbery and was determined not to make the same mistake as his brother: leaving witnesses behind. Brodt's brother is imprisoned for armed robbery.

The pale, dark-haired Brodt, dressed in a dark blue suit and tie, expressed remorse for his crimes and for the victims' family, and sadness that his 2-year-old son will not know him as a father.

Mr. Cassilly rejected Brodt's sentiments, saying his only remorse was for himself.

Mr. Urban said the victims' family initially wanted Brodt sentenced to death, but then concluded that the plea bargain "would be the quickest way to justice."

"The judge was very fair," he said. "Lifetime in prison will be a much greater punishment."

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