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Lewiston man to serve 21 years for killing woman with a clock

Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Defense lawyer Justin Leary (right) listens to his client Bob Ryder address the court during his sentencing in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2013.
By Staff, Sun Journal

AUBURN, Maine — Bob Ryder was sentenced Wednesday to serve 21 years in prison for the beating death of Danita Brown in 2011.

Ryder, 22, of Lewiston pleaded guilty in June to manslaughter. A murder indictment was dismissed.

At that time, Ryder told police he had paid Brown, 38, of New Gloucester twice for sex and twice she had taken the money and vanished. The third time, after meeting her at a downtown Lewiston market, Ryder gave Brown $100. She followed him home. They had sex. Afterward, he fractured her skull with a heavy wooden clock, he told police.

Ryder’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor went to police to tell them that Ryder had confided in him about the killing.

But Ryder changed his story several times before his plea, a prosecutor said Wednesday. In one version, he told police they didn’t have sex; in another, that he had blacked out. He said he caught Brown going through his wallet. At one point, he said someone else had killed her.

Not only is the exact chain of events unknown, so is the motive.

“It is unclear exactly why the defendant did this,” Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said. “I’m not sure we will ever know. And certainly the court doesn’t know … only the defendant knows why he killed her.”

What’s clear, Marchese said, is that Ryder made an effort to conceal his crime by moving Brown’s bludgeoned body to the unfinished basement under his first-floor apartment at 417 Main St. in Lewiston. He sprinkled baking soda on her body to lessen the odor of decomposition.

Marchese said Ryder long had fantasized about sexual aggression toward older women.

“Sadly, the death of Danita Brown under the circumstances of this case was almost predictable,” she said.

She said he was a danger to society and needed extensive counseling.

Ryder was less than honorably discharged from the military. He burglarized a home and twice committed trespass.

Marchese asked that Ryder serve 26 years in prison.

Justin Leary, Ryder’s attorney, said his client was a hard worker and a high school graduate who had no history of violence.

Ryder was able to sustain a “positive relationship” with a woman with whom he had a daughter, Leary said.

Leary said Ryder posed no heightened risk to the community and had recommitted to his religious faith.

“It was one burst of anger that caused this tragedy,” nothing planned or premeditated, Leary said.

Dressed in a blue jail suit, Ryder stood before the judge and said he was sorry for what he had done and apologized to Brown’s family.

“I know what I did was wrong,” he said. “I’m going to stay doing what I need to do to change, so nothing like this ever happens again.”

Leary and others, including Ryder’s legal guardian for years, told the judge about the challenges he has faced since he was a young child. He had been physically, sexually and emotionally abused, then moved through a succession of foster homes, they said.

“It was a very difficult life for a young man,” Maureen Dillane said.

Brown, who had nine children, was represented by many family members in the courtroom.

Those who spoke on behalf of Ryder asked the judge for mercy while the victim’s family sought justice.

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