Tenant charged in women's deaths

Bodies of bar owner, daughter-in-law found in car trunk

January 16, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County man was charged yesterday with murder in the fatal shootings of his landlady and her daughter-in-law after a police search for the women ended with the discovery of their bodies in the trunk of a car.

Kenneth E. Abend, 39, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. A woman who lives in a Glen Burnie apartment complex spotted blood seeping from the trunk of a parked car Monday night. Anne Arundel police - who had been searching for the women since Monday morning - opened the trunk and found the bodies of Laverne May Browning, 70, and 36-year-old Tamie Christine Browning.

Abend, who has a history of drug arrests dating back two decades, has been held at Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center since Sunday night, accused of breaking into an acquaintance's duplex in Brooklyn. Abend will probably be transported to Anne Arundel County and arraigned on the murder charges today, said Lt. Joseph E. Jordan, an Anne Arundel police spokesman.

Police did not know of a motive for the killings.

Laverne Browning, longtime owner of Captain Buck's, a tavern in the Orchard Beach area of Anne Arundel County, had been renting a room on the first floor of her split-level home in Glen Burnie to Abend for about two months, police said.

When Randy Browning, the woman's son, reported her missing Monday morning, investigators found a pool of blood and trail of blood in her home, indicating that bodies might have been dragged toward the carport, police said.

Detectives also recovered several shell casings at the house Monday morning, but no gun, police said.

Randy Browning called police after discovering the blood when he stopped by his mother's house Monday.

He told investigators he had last seen her on Saturday afternoon at the house.

Although Tamie Browning, his wife, had been missing since Saturday night, Randy Browning told investigators he didn't believe the women's disappearances were connected, Jordan said.

He told police he had last seen his wife, a homemaker, Saturday night, when she left their white cottage in the first block of Stevens Road in her 1991 Oldsmobile.

The couple has a daughter who turned 6 yesterday.

Bodies discovered

Tamie Browning's white sedan was discovered by Brandi Edinger, a 21-year-old sales clerk who lives in the Gateway Apartments, about 10 p.m. Monday when she went outside to walk her dog.

As her pit bull tugged her toward the trunk of the white sedan, Edinger, who'd heard news reports about the missing women, spotted liquid beneath the back of the car.

"I knew it wasn't leaking antifreeze from there," said Edinger, who went inside for a flashlight and, after convincing herself that the liquid was blood, called police.

She and neighbor Mark Scott, 29, an after-school care coordinator, watched as police opened the trunk and found the women' bodies inside.

"It makes you sick to your stomach that someone would do this - kill two women and dump their bodies here," Scott said. "It's very disturbing - something that happens on TV like NYPD Blue - not something that happens in front of your house."

Neighbors who lived near Laverne Browning's house in the 200 block of Margate Drive said they heard two gunshots Sunday night after the Ravens football game. But no one called police about them, Jordan said.

"I couldn't tell where the shots came from," said Pat Gorsuch, who lives across from Laverne Browning's house. "With the windows closed, it was muffled. But it sounded like it was off in a distance. I would never have imagined this happening just two doors away."

Homicide detectives were trying to determine exactly when the women were killed, Jordan said. Autopsies performed yesterday showed both women had been shot in their upper bodies, he said.

While police tried to determine a motive, neighbors and friends struggled to make sense of the killings.

Karle Barnes, an 83-year-old retired foundry worker, who lives a few doors down from Laverne Browning, recalled that Randy, Tamie and their daughter visited him on his birthday in October, singing "Happy Birthday" as they presented him with a cheesecake Tamie Browning had made.

"It was the best cheesecake I ever had," Barnes said. "They were good people."

Signs of mourning

At Captain Buck's, the Fort Smallwood Road bar owned by Laverne Browning, friends planted two large white crosses in buckets filled with flowers. "We love you" was painted on both crosses, along with the anguished message, "Only God Knows Why."

Anne Arundel liquor board records show Browning had been involved in operating the bar since at least 1978.

The bar's liquor license has never been suspended, according to liquor board records, which also show that Captain Buck's received permission to hold a Toys for Tots fund-raiser in 1994.

Abend has been the defendant in more than a dozen criminal cases, court records show.

In many of them, such charges as drug possession, vandalism and felony theft were dismissed, according to the records.

The records also show that he was sentenced in 1996 to a year in Worcester County jail after being convicted of attempted burglary in Ocean City.

Baltimore City police said Abend was arrested for and charged with breaking into an acquaintance's house on Second Street in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

Anne Arundel police were looking for Laverne Browning's 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo last night.

Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

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