Man charged in woman’s death after police find decomposing body in basement

Bob Ryder
Courtesy photo
Bob Ryder
Posted July 15, 2011, at 6:26 p.m.
Last modified July 17, 2011, at 10:35 a.m.
Danita Brown appears in this 2008 photo provided by her fiance Mike Tibbetts.
Courtesy of Mike Tibbetts/Sun Journal
Danita Brown appears in this 2008 photo provided by her fiance Mike Tibbetts.
Danita Brown in a photo provided by her sister.
Courtesy photo
Danita Brown in a photo provided by her sister.
Police investigate the death of Danita Brown at 417 Main Street in Lewiston.  They arrested and charged Bob Ryder, 20, formerly of Litchfield, as a suspect in the case.
Amber Waterman | Sun Journal
Police investigate the death of Danita Brown at 417 Main Street in Lewiston. They arrested and charged Bob Ryder, 20, formerly of Litchfield, as a suspect in the case.

AUBURN, Maine — A Lewiston man has been charged with killing a 38-year-old woman whose decomposing body was found in the basement of his Main Street apartment earlier this week.

Danita Brown of New Gloucester died from blunt-force head trauma, according to a Maine State Police affidavit filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Friday.

Bob W. Ryder, 20, now faces a murder charge. Ryder has been held in Androscoggin County Jail on a charge of violating his probation since early Tuesday morning. His appearance in court to hear the new charge against him has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 19.

According to a sworn affidavit written by Maine State Police Detective Scott Gosselin, Ryder told his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor that he hit Brown in the head with a clock and killed her, then buried her body under wood in the corner of the basement under his first-floor apartment. That sponsor, Floyd Nadeau, told police Monday night about Ryder’s confession.

Nadeau told police that Ryder told him about killing Brown about 2½ weeks earlier when Nadeau was at Ryder’s apartment. Ryder identified Brown as a prostitute and said he had caught her going through his wallet before he killed her. Nadeau doubted Ryder’s confession, so Ryder took Nadeau into the basement and showed him Brown’s body, according to the affidavit.

Nadeau said he was reluctant to go to police with the information for fear of breaking the AA confidentiality agreement. Nadeau’s AA sponsor persuaded him to report the alleged crime. Nadeau provided police with details about the location of the body.

Later that night, Lewiston police went to Ryder’s apartment and found him there. After reportedly getting permission from Ryder for a search, police gained access to the basement through a trap door in a closet. A detective descended a ladder into the basement and, smelling the odor of decomposition, found Brown’s body. He took pictures of the body and the basement area.

Ryder later was interviewed at the Lewiston police station on Park Street. He told Lewiston and Maine State Police detectives that he and Nadeau had met Brown when they went cruising on Pine Street for a prostitute, Gosselin’s affidavit says. Ryder said he paid Brown a total of $200 over a period of several days during which she would leave to buy drugs. They eventually had sex, but he became angry when she complained about her family and personal problems.

After Brown took money from his wallet, Ryder became “enraged,” the affidavit said. Ryder, who served in the U.S. Marines and said he had been discharged because of mental health problems, told police he blacked out and experienced a post-traumatic stress disorder flashback, which caused him to hit Brown in the head several times with a large wooden clock he kept beside his bed. He said he hadn’t cleaned her blood off the clock.

When he realized she was dead, Ryder moved her body to the basement where it was coolest, he told police. She was naked below the waist. He buried her pants and underpants in the basement.

Ryder said Nadeau advised him to use baking soda to help remove the odor from Brown’s corpse, so he used his food stamp card at a nearby store to buy a package of it, he told police.

On Friday, after becoming aware of Ryder’s explanation to police, Nadeau strenuously denied advising him to cover the odor. “I had nothing to do with it,” Nadeau said, “and I’ve been cleared.”

Although Nadeau and Ryder had referred to Brown as Bernadette, Ryder identified Danita Brown from a photograph police showed him.

Two detectives from the Lewiston Police Department and Maine State Police interviewed Nadeau shortly before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. He gave a similar account of meeting Brown with Ryder. He said Ryder described his fatal encounter with Brown, telling Nadeau that he hit her with his wall clock after he discovered she had looked in his wallet. He said Ryder showed him Brown’s body, but she was dressed in jeans and a tank top and had a white cloth on her head. Nadeau said he told Ryder to keep him out of it and that it was Ryder’s problem.

Police also interviewed Ryder’s brother Melvin Ryder-Barry, who had lived in the Main Street apartment since April.

Ryder-Barry told police Bob Ryder had a woman at the apartment one night, and Ryder-Barry woke up early the next morning to the sound of a female groaning. Ryder was pacing in the next room, asking the woman, “Are you OK?”

When the two brothers talked later, Ryder explained that the woman had been a virgin. Ryder-Barry told police he found a red spot on Ryder’s bedsheets the next day.

Police technicians found underpants, a reddish-brown sheet and a pair of sneakers buried in the dirt near Brown’s body. Police also found blood on the mattress of Ryder’s bed.

The last outgoing call on Brown’s cell phone was made at 1:41 a.m. on June 16; her last text message was sent two minutes later, police said.

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