AUBURN, Maine — A 20-year-old Lewiston man appeared briefly in court Tuesday in connection with the slaying of a New Gloucester woman whose body was found last week buried in the basement under the man’s apartment.
Bob W. Ryder denied he violated probation by allegedly killing the woman. A judge continued to hold him at the Androscoggin County Jail pending a hearing at which bail will be discussed. No date had been scheduled by Tuesday afternoon for that hearing.
Ryder was charged Friday on a murder complaint stemming from the discovery of the decomposing remains, found by Maine State Police on Tuesday partially buried in the basement under Ryder’s apartment. Prosecutors are expected to take their case to an Androscoggin County grand jury next month to seek a murder indictment.
The woman, Danita Brown, 38, had been missing for several weeks. In a sworn affidavit written by a police detective, Ryder admitted he hit Brown in the head with a clock and hid her body in the basement. He reportedly had told his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor about the incident and showed him the body. That sponsor went to police roughly two weeks later.
Ryder appeared Tuesday in court in a bright orange jail suit, his ankles shackled, his hands cuffed in front of him.
Because the charge of murder was formerly a capital offense in Maine, the state can seek to block bail for a murder defendant. The state would first have to prove that there is probable cause to believe that Ryder committed a formerly capital offense, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said.
Second, the state must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that Ryder is a flight risk, a risk to himself or others or a risk of danger in the community, Benson said.
Justin Leary, Ryder’s attorney, said of his client’s demeanor: “The whole circumstance is weighing very heavily on him.”
Several friends who know Ryder from the 12 Hour Club in Lewiston said the news of the charge was a surprise.
“It’s a shock,” Valerie Barclay said. “He was a happy-go-lucky person. I don’t know what to think of it all.”
Ryder’s attendance at AA meetings had been on the rise over the past couple of months, she said. Two weeks ago, he was at meetings on two consecutive days, she said. “There was never an indication at that time that this person [Brown] was gone already.”
David Williams, a former manager at the 12 Hour Club, said Ryder had worked for him for about seven months.
“He ran the register, cleaned tables and talked to people when they were down and out,” Williams said. ” That’s what we do down there.”
Ryder abruptly quit a couple of months ago. The two would often go to a restaurant before AA meetings. Williams said Ryder talked often about wanting to see his 14-month-old daughter.
A couple of weeks ago, Williams was at a meeting and saw Ryder but didn’t talk to him. He sensed something was wrong.
“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I can’t swallow it. I really can’t.”
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