tampabay.com

Killer's claims of prolificacy are making many wonder

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 30, 2006


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Robert Charles Browne's claims that he killed 49 people have generated a flood of more than 100 anguished calls from families and friends of people missing around the nation, some for years.

"They want to know if their family member or friend could have been one of his victims," El Paso County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Clif Northam said Saturday. He said authorities have stopped keeping track of the number of calls. Investigators looking into unsolved cases also were calling.

The calls poured in after Colorado authorities made public Thursday that Browne, 53, claimed to have committed scores of killings between 1970 and his arrest in 1995. He has pleaded guilty to two slayings and is serving a life sentence for murdering a Colorado girl in 1991.

Investigators so far have been able to corroborate Browne's claims in six slayings - three in Louisiana, two in Texas and one in Arkansas. Investigators have been unable to confirm some cases and lack details to check out others.

Investigators have been interviewing Browne and communicating with him through letters since 2002, the sheriff's office said in a news release.

Browne would be one of the nation's worst serial killers if all or most of his claims prove to be true. Gary Ridgway, Seattle's Green River Killer, the nation's deadliest serial killer, admitted to 48 murders but once claimed to have killed as many as 71 women.

Investigators have said the variety of ways Browne killed and the apparent random selection of victims at multiple locations might have contributed to his ability to elude arrest. It was his own taunting letter to authorities six years ago that eventually led to him being tied to the other killings.

The Army veteran strangled some victims, shot others and killed at least one with an ice pick. A rag soaked in ant poison was placed on one victim's face before she was stabbed nearly 30 times with a screwdriver.

Mike Church, whose daughter Heather Dawn Church was killed in 1991, guessed that Browne spoke to investigators to get attention.

"He feels like he has control over us. ... He's wanting to become a Charles Manson or a Ted Bundy. He wants us all to think how smart he is. But he's nothing but a coward," Church told the Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs on Friday.