COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A man serving a life sentence in Colorado for murdering a teenage girl has claimed responsibility for as many as 48 slayings across the country dating back more than three decades, authorities said Thursday.
Robert Charles Browne, 53, told authorities the slayings occurred from 1970 until his arrest in 1995. He was in court Thursday to plead guilty to one of those killings – the death of another girl in Colorado in 1987.
Authorities so far have been able to corroborate his detailed claims in six slayings – three in Louisiana, two in Texas and one in Arkansas, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said.
He said Browne’s claim of 48 murders could be credible.
“It’s possible he’s exaggerating, but I don’t think you can conduct business assuming he’s exaggerating,” Maketa said. “We’ll continue to pursue leads.”
If Browne’s claims prove true, he would be one of the most prolific killers in U.S. history.
Gary Ridgway, Seattle’s Green River Killer who in 2003 became the nation’s deadliest convicted serial killer, admitted to 48 murders but once said he killed as many as 71 women, according to interview transcripts.
Browne claims his killing spree began with a soldier in South Korea in 1970. The other claims include 17 murders in Louisiana, nine in Colorado, seven in Texas, five in Arkansas, three in Mississippi, two each in California, New Mexico and Oklahoma, and one in Washington state – 49 in all, the sheriff said.
Browne pleaded guilty in 1995 to kidnapping and murder in the 1991 death of Heather Dawn Church, 13, of Black Forest, a town north of Colorado Springs. He was sentenced to life without parole. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Rocio Sperry, a girl who was about 15 at the time of her death 19 years ago.
The confession came after several years of correspondence and discussion between the killer and cold-case volunteer investigators, authorities said. Browne himself sent the first letter in “cryptic and poetic prose” in March 2000 to El Paso County prosecutors, officials said.
A 44-page affidavit paints a picture of a killer who met his victims in everyday, even mundane, situations – a motel bar, an apartment complex, even a convenience store where he worked. In one case, Browne used ether to knock out a drunken woman he was seducing and then “used an ice pick on her,” the document says. In another case, he relied on ant killer to subdue a victim he stabbed with a screwdriver.
Browne grew up the youngest of nine children in the northern Louisiana town of Coushatta, officials said. He was married six times, and authorities said all his ex-wives are still alive.
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