Boy, 15, charged with murder in killing of parents, 2 brothers

Monday, February 4, 2008
Jennifer Welsh, second from left, her daughter Sara Welsh, right, and a young neighbor mourned Sunday outside a Cockeysville, Md., home where John and Tamara Browning, and their sons Gregory, 13, and Benjamin, 11, were found dead Saturday. (STEVE RUARK ~ Associated Press)

COCKEYSVILLE, Md. -- A 15-year-old boy fatally shot his parents and two younger brothers as they slept, then spent more than a day with friends before returning home and calling 911 to report that his father was dead, police said Sunday.

Police went to their suburban Baltimore home and later charged Nicholas Waggoner Browning after he admitted to the slayings, Baltimore County Police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

Browning was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of his father, lawyer John Browning, 45; his mother Tamara, 44; and his brothers Gregory, 13, and Benjamin, 11.

The teen had not been getting along with his father, police said. On Friday night, he went into the house after other family members had gone to sleep and shot each of them. His father's handgun had been in the house, police said.

After the slayings, he threw the handgun into bushes near the house, police said. The gun was recovered, Toohey said.

When the friends took him back to his house at 5 p.m. Saturday, Browning went into the house and came back out to say that his father was dead.

Browning called 911, telling the dispatcher that a "45-year-old male was lying on the couch with blood coming out of his nose. He was not breathing," according to charging documents. Officers were sent on a "call of a cardiac arrest."

Police said Browning's father was found in a ground-floor room and his mother and brothers were dead in upstairs bedrooms. There was no sign of a confrontation, Toohey said.

The tall, gangly sophomore at Dulaney High School in neighboring Timonium was denied bail; a bail review hearing was scheduled Monday. He was being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center in a special section for juveniles.

Toohey said he didn't know if Browning had a lawyer.

Even if convicted as an adult of first-degree murder, Browning is too young under state law to face the death penalty.

Two of Browning's classmates drove past the family's house Sunday afternoon and wept when they learned from reporters that he was charged in the slayings.

"It's hard to believe someone could do this," Brooke Kebaugh, 16, said.

Liz Lazlawbach, 17, said Browning complained about fighting with his father, but "not about anything violent."

The grounds of the two-story home were neat and neighbor Mike Thomas said the Brownings would even pick up trash along the street. "These people would do anything in the world for you -- just incredible people," Thomas said.

Neighbors called each other throughout the night to discuss the killings, Thomas said. He said one of his sons had been in Boy Scouts with one of the Brownings' sons and was devastated when he learned of the deaths.

John Browning was a partner in the law firm of Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid in Towson, focusing on real estate law and commercial and corporate law.

The partners said Browning was an accomplished lawyer.

"He was also a person invested in his family and community," the partners said. "He led his local scout troop. He was a leader at his church. In short, John Browning was a great man. We will all miss him very, very much."

The Brownings' Boy Scout unit, Troop 328, meets at Timonium United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Frances Dailey said Sunday that the troop's leaders did not want to talk. He said John Browning was "beloved and well revered. I'm told this is not the kind of family that this could happen to."

Counselors were to be available Monday to meet with students at Dulaney High, said Charles Herndon, a county school spokesman. He declined to say where Browning's younger brothers went to school.

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