Strangling suspect's diary may hold clues Police say journal describes encounters with children

March 05, 1996|By Michael James and Joe Mathews | Michael James and Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Marcia Myers and Kate Shatzkin contributed to this article.

A pedophile accused of killing two Baltimore youths is a former Maryland mental ward escapee whose attacks on children are partially detailed in a personal journal that police say may lead them to other dead victims.

In the loose-leaf diary seized after his arrest last week, convicted child abuser Shawn E. Brown describes his chance encounters with children on the street and in city buses, where police said he is suspected of stalking youths.

"The names he kept are mostly first names and nicknames," said city homicide Sgt. Steve Lehmann. "We're cross-referencing the names against all missing persons, thinking that we may find some matches there."

Two members of an FBI unit specializing in child exploitation and serial killings are arriving in Baltimore today to help with the investigation of Mr. Brown, once described by a judge as "a time bomb waiting to go off."

Mr. Brown served nine years in a New York prison for nearly strangling a 10-year-old Syracuse boy to death in 1986, an attack that followed a near- strangulation of a 7-year-old boy. At the time, Mr. Brown, who had run away from the Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatric ward in Baltimore, said in a confession that an alter ego named Philip LaBrought ordered him to molest young boys.

After being released from prison last summer -- New York authorities said that he served the entirety of his sentence and therefore that they could no longer hold or monitor him -- Mr. Brown returned to Baltimore and lived with his sister at the Flag House Courts public housing project.

Last week police charged him in the slayings of 8-year-old Marvin Douglas Wise Jr. and 16-year-old Obdul Richards. Both were apparently strangled in separate killings. Marvin's body was discovered Feb. 25 in a vacant apartment; Obdul's body was nTC found in a boarded-up school Friday. March 1.

Police wouldn't comment yesterday on whether the youths were sexually abused.

Allen Richards said yesterday that police told him that his son's name was in "the book" kept by Mr. Brown.

System criticized

Mr. Richards criticized the prison system in New York and law enforcement authorities in Maryland for permitting Mr. Brown to return to Baltimore without notifying the community.

"There should be notification of the police, and the community too," Mr. Richards said. "Somebody messed up. If New York knew there was this guy, how could he just come down here? Why was he let out after a crime like that?"

New York state prison records show that Mr. Brown was convicted of first-degree assault in 1988 in the case involving the Syracuse boy and served nine years of a three- to nine-year sentence. (He received credit for time served after his arrest in 1986.) He pleaded guilty to hitting the young boy in the face with a rock, choking him with a shoelace, and trying to drown him in a puddle.

Prosecutors said the crime was sexually motivated.

Onondaga County Court Judge J. Kevin Mulroy said at a March 18, 1988, sentencing hearing that he was frightened by Mr. Brown, a man whose own attorney described him as "a schizophrenic pedophile."

'A dangerous man'

"Part of me wants to take you outside and have you shot," the judge told Mr. Brown, as reported in an article in the Syracuse Herald-Journal. "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure you stay institutionalized. I think you're a dangerous man. You're a time bomb waiting to go off, and it scares me."

During his imprisonment at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., Mr. Brown was found guilty was convicted of more than 50 prison violations, including violent conduct, property damage, harassment and threats.

Mr. Brown first became eligible for parole in June 1989, but he was denied release parole at the time then, and also during in three subsequent hearings. He completed his sentence June 16, 1995, and was released.

Debbie Stuart, a New York state parole and probation official, said yesterday that by law Mr. Brown could have automatically left prison after serving two-thirds of his sentence. But he opted to stay in prison, she said. Maryland contacted

"I can't say why he made that decision. Sometimes inmates opt to stay because they don't want to be supervised after their release," Ms. Stuart said.

Inmates who serve their entire sentences are free to leave the state and don't have to keep in contact with probation officials, she said.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the Maryland Division of Correction, said yesterday that New York corrections authorities contacted Maryland officials last year about Mr. Brown.

They asked Maryland probation agents to consider supervising Mr. Brown upon his return to Baltimore. Such supervision would typically involve regular phone calls to probation agents and other check-in procedures.

"We told New York we did not want him," Mr. Sipes said. "In part, because of his violent criminal history, and in part because he is a pedophile who was proposing to live in a house that had children in it."

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