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Long IslandCrime

Lawyer: Riverhead man charged with killing his wife may have dementia

Robert Brown is escorted to Riverhead Town Justice

Robert Brown is escorted to Riverhead Town Justice Court on Wednesday morning. Credit: John Roca

A Riverhead man accused of fatally shooting his wife  may have developed dementia in recent years, his defense attorney said Wednesday morning. 

Robert C. Brown, 65, was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder in the killing of his wife, Sarah Brown, 71, after he barricaded himself inside their home on Doris Avenue, resulting in a five-hour standoff with police.

Riverhead Town Justice Allen M. Smith ordered Brown held without bail at his arraignment Wednesday morning. The judge also assigned an attorney to Brown, who initially told the judge he wanted to represent himself. The judge also ordered Brown to undergo a mental health screening in jail.

"No attorney needed," Brown, wearing a white medical-grade jumpsuit and paper slippers, muttered to himself. 

Brown told the judge he didn't have an attorney but said "I do" when asked if he had money to pay for one. 

"I think he's been suffering from some dementia," said Brown's attorney, Ian Fitzgerald of Central Islip, after the brief hearing. "His brother tells me that he's been exhibiting symptoms for the last couple of years." 

Fitzgerald, who spoke to his client only briefly before the arraignment, said Brown is a lifelong resident of Riverhead and has no criminal record. 

"It seems very sad at first impression; a very tragic situation," said Fitzgerald.

Prosecutor Kerriann Kelly, the Suffolk district attorney's homicide bureau chief, said in court that the evidence against Brown, which she did not detail, would be presented Thursday to a grand jury for indictment. The prosecutor did not comment on a possible motive during the hearing. 

Allen told Brown in court that police alleged "You shot your wife with a pistol" on Tuesday. 

Riverhead Town police responded to the Brown home at 9:20 a.m. after receiving reports of a man carrying a handgun. 

The Suffolk County Police Hostage Team and Emergency Service Section officer responded and found that Brown had barricaded himself in the house. Police knocked down the door after a nearly five-hour standoff.
Police found the body of Brown’s wife inside.

Several members of Robert Brown's family attended the arraignment, including his sister, but declined to comment. 

Riverhead police removed several guns from the Brown home late Wednesday morning and photographed them under a white tent on the front lawn.

It’s unclear whether Robert Brown had permits for any of the guns, including the weapon police said was used in the slaying.

Arthur Coone, who lives across the street from the Brown’s home, said he went to high school with Robert Brown and once attended the same church as Sarah Brown.

“He was a nice person; she was a nice person,” Coone, 67, said, adding that he wasn’t close with them.

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