Cockeysville teen pleads guilty to killing family

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Local,Crime,Luke Broadwater
Nicholas Browning smiled meekly to family members before pleading guilty Monday to the first-degree murders of his parents and two younger brothers in their upscale Cockeysville home.

Browning, 16, admitted to killing his father, John Browning, 45; mother, Tamara Browning, 44; and brothers Gregory, 14, and Benjamin, 11, on Feb. 2 — shooting them one-by-one as they slept.

The Dulaney High student, wearing glasses, showed little emotion through the short hearing as he answered Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas Bollinger’s questions respectfully: “Yes, your honor.”

The guilty plea was a sudden about-face for Browning’s defense team, which had previously sought to have him tried as a juvenile.

Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Ann Brobst said prosecutors would no longer seek life without the possibility of parole against the teen, because Browning agreed to plead guilty.


Prosecutors are now asking Bollinger to impose two life sentences — meaning Browning will be eligible for parole in no less than 30 years.

Brobst read aloud in court an agreed-upon statement of facts that detailed the methodical nature of the killings. 

Staying the night at a friend’s house, Browning returned home to take his father’s car out joyriding, Brobst said.

“John Browning, a respected Towson attorney, was asleep on the sofa in the family room, wearing jeans and casual brown shoes. He was covered with a throw blanket. The defendant raised the pistol and shot his father in the head, killing him,” Brobst said. “The defendant … then climbed the stairs to the second floor. He entered his parents’ bedroom and found his mother asleep. He raised the pistol again and shot his mother twice while she lay in her bed.”

Browning then walked into the bedroom shared by his younger brothers, the prosecutor said.

Browning “shot his 14-year-old brother once in the head, killing him,” Brobst said. “The defendant’s youngest brother, 11-year-old Benjamin, was asleep in a different bed in the same room. Benjamin began to stir and the defendant raised the pistol yet again. He shot Benjamin twice in the face. … the wallpaper border was now splattered with the blood of his brothers.”

Browning then attempted to make the scene look like a burglary by moving the Xbox and Wii video game systems and tampering with his mother’s jewelry, prosecutors said.

The next day, as police were investigating the crime scene, teenagers began showing up at the house. Browning had invited them there for a party, Brobst said.

A psychiatrist hired by defense attorneys had previously testified that Browning’s parents were verbally abusive and that the teen was in a “trance-like state” during the killings.

“This was a deeply disturbed young man in a deeply disturbed family in which a gun was available and a tragedy happened,” psychiatrist Neil Blumberg said, adding that Browning suffers from dissociative disorder and alcohol abuse.

Blumberg said Browning fantasized about killing his family in the moments before their deaths.

“He was in a trance-like state,” the psychiatrist said. “He started fantasizing, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if they weren’t here? Wouldn’t it be nice if they couldn’t bother me anymore?’ ”

Bollinger has placed a “gag order” on the case, preventing attorneys from commenting. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 2.


To read more about the history of this case, click here.

lbroadwater@baltimoreexaminer.com


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