Timothy Brown would likely be nearing parole if he had accepted the plea deal prosecutors offered him for the January 1981 murder of Neil Watson in Nashua: 30 years to life.
Instead, Brown rolled the dice opting for a jury trial for the brutal slaying of his friend and next-door neighbor.
The jury convicted Brown of first-degree murder, which even then mandated life in prison with no chance for parole.
“My chances of ever getting out now?” Brown said. “Somewhere between nil and none.”
InDepth NH.org interviewed Brown recently at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. He said he would like society to take a hard looking at eliminating mandatory life sentences, but doesn’t think any action would be taken that could help him.
Brown was one of three convicted murderers who were told two years ago they could seek court relief because prosecutors failed disclose decades ago that Nashua Police Chief John Seusing had been disciplined for lying several years before their trials when he was a detective.
After his lawyer reviewed the transcript, Brown said he decided against moving ahead with a motion for a new trial because Seusing’s testimony was inconsequential to his conviction.
Convicted murderer Eduardo Lopez Jr. has filed a motion seeking a new trial because Seusing’s discipline wasn’t disclosed before his trial. A hearing on Lopez’s motion will be held Oct. 13 in Hillsborough County Superior Court South in Nashua. (see related story)
The third inmate, Ronald Schultz, 51, filed in court last year seeking an early release, partly because of Seusing’s testimony against him, but a judge denied his motion.
Schultz was convicted of the second-degree shooting death of his brother-in-law Russell Jalbert Feb. 15, 1994, in Nashua. He was sentenced to 22 years to life, according to Jeffrey Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.
Schultz was recently granted parole after serving his full minimum sentence and will be released next month.
In the prison visiting room, Brown spoke about the night he killed his neighbor.
Brown readily admits that he killed Watson, beating him unconscious at 2 in the morning in a rage fueled by Black Velvet whiskey and Valium.
Brown and his co-defendant, Victor Warner, then drove Watson in the trunk of a car and dumped him in the Merrimack River.
“I did kill Mr. Watson and I take full responsibility for his death,” Brown said, sitting in a small visiting room recently at New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord. “I am solely responsible for his death. He did nothing to provoke it.”
Brown hoped speaking to a reporter would get a message to Watson’s family that he would give his own life if it would mean Watson could still be alive.
“I’ve had to come clean with myself and God since I’ve been here,” Brown said.
But Watson’s sister who was reached by phone wanted no part of a story about Brown.
Today, Brown is at peace with his fate. He has immersed himself in the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith.
Their belief in God’s mercy and the hope that Christ will take over the earth and take over the government – possibly in Brown’s lifetime – offers him comfort.
In prison, Brown said he has worked to discover what could have caused him to commit such a heinous crime. He details his night of murder, and is able to articulate what it all means in his mind so many years later.
“We heard his Elvis Presley music next door and it was like 2 o’clock in the morning,” Brown said.
Brown took out a CO2 pistol that looked like a real gun. “I had this crazy idea we were going to scare him.”
It was just going to be a joke. The door was unlocked. “I opened the door and walked in and he looked up at us. He was sitting in a chair.”
Watson asked: “What do you guys want?”
Brown and Warner had just left Watson’s apartment where they had been drinking.
“He thought we forgot something,” Brown said. “Something happened. I didn’t understand it for the longest time. I couldn’t believe I could be so monstrous.”
Brown pulled out the fake gun. “He kind of freaked. I struck him. I swear to God it was spontaneous. I had no plan of hurting him at all.”
Brown said that was the last thing on his mind.
“I just beat him. They said they counted 11 lacerations in his skull. I panicked. Something came over me and I wasn’t myself,” Brown said.
Warner told jurors that Brown knew Watson was still alive in the trunk, that they both heard him banging. Brown said that was a lie.
“I realized only afterwards that he was alive when we did (dumped Watson in the river),” Brown said.
Warner pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to serve 15 years to life in exchange for his testimony against Brown.
Years later, Brown bared his soul to the prison psychiatrist. Brown now says he realized that in his stupor that night Watson looked just like someone who had tried to molest him as a teenager.
Brown says he tried to sort it out. He was depressed. He had lost his driver’s license for driving too fast too often, lost his job at a cable company because he lost his license and had lost his girlfriend.
It hit him the next morning that he had killed a man.
“I woke up and started crying. I looked under my bed and saw that I had a pair of pants that had blood on them. I thought it was a dream,” Brown said.
But there were police everywhere.
“I don’t believe it was premeditated in any way. It was a spontaneous attack,” he said.
Brown said he spent a couple of years in the Secure Housing Unit at the prison.
“I really had to come clean with my soul. I read the Bible and was searching different groups. I became settled and satisfied with what the Jehovah’s Witnesses were telling me,” Brown said.
He now believes God has forgiven him.
Michael Wiltshire, an elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses church, has worked with Brown since he was imprisoned. He now calls him a friend.
“I firmly believe if he was let out, he would be fine. I don’t believe he would be a threat,” Wiltshire said.
Wiltshire said Brown knows he shouldn’t have taken a life. Brown has learned a new respect for life, Wiltshire said.
“Tim has developed that. It is sad he is stuck in prison for life, but he realizes he has to be. He’s been a pretty model prisoner.”
“He has a hope someday he will be freed, though not through this judicial system,” Wiltshire said.
Brown would like to do some good with what’s left of his life. He said he talks with other inmates about his faith.
“I’m not a tough guy,” Brown said.
“Even though society considers me useless, I think my story warrants a warning to young people,” Brown said.
He is grateful for the other men behind bars who share his religion and the faithful church members who bring their message from the outside world.
“They’re my family now,” Brown said. “Nobody’s going to have mercy on a murderer.”