Brown to fight extradition to Germany

Baltimore man remains in federal custody in 1984 rape, killing of nursing student

March 14, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

The Baltimore man facing extradition to Germany in the killing of a nursing student more than 23 years ago did not fight for his release from jail at a federal detention hearing yesterday but proclaimed his innocence.

Robert L. Brown Jr., who authorities said has been linked to the killing by DNA evidence, instead opted, through his lawyer in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, to direct his energies at mounting a vigorous defense against being sent back to Germany. He remains in federal custody.

"Although Mr. Brown asserts his innocence and although he intends to fight his extradition," he won't fight the detention at this time so "that he can give me additional time to prepare his defense," said Brown's court-appointed public defender, John Chun.

Brown, 46, a maintenance mechanic at a Northeast Baltimore apartment complex, was arrested Thursday by the FBI on charges that he raped and strangled 19-year-old Nicola Stiel in 1984 in Germany, where he was living after a stint in the U.S. Army. If convicted in Germany, he could face life in prison.

Brown, wearing a navy blue sweat shirt and pants and brown boots, spoke in hushed tones with his lawyer and smiled before mouthing "love you" to acknowledge about a half-dozen family members in the courtroom.

A date for Brown's extradition hearing, which will allow Chun and Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip S. Jackson to present their arguments and may include testimony from German authorities, will take place in about 90 days.

German authorities used a DNA sample from Robert Brown's daughter, Denise Brown, who lives in Germany, to match semen on Stiel's pants. Denise Brown, now 25, who has had limited contact with her father, provided the sample in 2005, according to her mother, who divorced Robert Brown.

German authorities had asked that American authorities collect blood and saliva samples from Robert Brown, but they were told they could not be obtained without arresting him. Afraid that he would flee, German authorities backed off.

The German nursing student and the suspect ate a meal together, according to her diary. Stiel was found dead four days later, on Aug. 5, in a grove of beech trees outside Frankfurt.

Brown left Germany days later. In 1986, he began serving a five-year-prison sentence for an armed robbery in southern Pennsylvania.

German authorities said they also have matched fibers from Stiel's shirt with fibers found in Brown's rented Volkswagen Golf, and the tire tracks discovered near Stiel's body match the Golf's tires. The authorities note a 1988 statement from a former cellmate in Pennsylvania that Brown had confessed to, and boasted about, the crime, although in an interview last week the cellmate denied the account.

After the hearing, Brown's family declined to speak to a reporter, but when asked their identities, one woman said: "His sisters. And we love him very much."

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