Accused murderer Glenn Brown entered a courtroom for his bail hearing at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast last October. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

BELFAST, Maine — Wanting to spare his family the stress and pain of a murder trial, a Benton man pleaded no contest Wednesday morning to killing his sister and brother-in-law, his attorney said.

The plea means that Glenn Brown, 68, accepts that the state had enough evidence to convict him of murdering Tina and Richard Bowden at their home in Waldo, though he doesn’t admit guilt.

“He believes a trial in this case would underline the family dysfunction in a way he thought better to avoid,” Jeff Silverstein of Bangor, one of Brown’s defense attorneys, said Wednesday after the hearing at the Waldo Judicial Center. “This is the way he wished to proceed.”

Maine Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said the state would have called as a witness Mitchell Brown, brother of both Glenn Brown and Tina Bowden. They are among the stepchildren of Cecil “Zeke” Armstrong of Belfast, whose care became a source of contention between at least some of the siblings.

“Mitchell would testify that as Cecil began to age and his mental capacity started to decline, his sister became more involved in Cecil’s day-to-day care, to the exclusion of others,” Zainea said. “Mitchell would testify that the family, including Glenn Brown, spoke often about Tina’s actions involving Cecil Armstrong.”

After Armstrong’s death in Nov. 2019, some of these family tensions were playing out in court, including in a lawsuit filed by a third brother against Tina Bowden, who was trustee of her stepfather’s estate. In the year before her death, Tina Bowden obtained a protection order against Mitchell Brown, according to documents filed at court.  

“Mitchell would testify that in January of 2020, when he was in Florida, the defendant, Glenn Brown, contacted him and expressed his anger towards Tina,” Zainea said.

After the order was served on him, Mitchell Brown turned over his firearms to his brother, Glenn Brown. Those weapons included a Taurus 9 mm handgun, the weapon that Glenn Brown later used against his sister and her husband, Zainea said.

The state also would have called Glenn Brown’s wife, Marilyn, as a witness. She would have testified that on the day of the murders, she had gone with her husband to a dental appointment in Augusta that had to be rescheduled.

“She remained in Augusta due to a disagreement with Glenn Brown,” over his resuming smoking, Zainea said.

After that, Glenn Brown drove his pickup truck to Waldo County, the prosecutor said. He went to a credit union to get a bank check for more than $14,000, almost all the money he had in his checking and savings accounts. He left that check at Mitchell Brown’s house, in a note addressed to his wife.

Then Glenn Brown went to the Bonne Terre Road in Waldo, where the Bowdens lived. Neighbors would have testified that they saw him parked on the road and not long after that heard gunshots.

Both Tina and Richard Bowden died of a single shot to the head, Zainea said.

Glenn Brown drove to the Belfast Police Department that afternoon after the shootings to turn himself in.

After the hearing, Silverstein said that at the time of the shootings, Glenn Brown had been contending with stressful circumstances beyond the ongoing family feud. He was suffering from a “substantial dental ailment,” his attorney said, and had been having issues within his nuclear family, too.

“There were issues with that part of the family that were generating fatigue and stress for him,” the lawyer said. “He was in great discomfort and great pain as well. These weren’t his normal circumstances. We think that kind of helps us to understand why things went very much awry that afternoon in a way that wasn’t typical.”

Brown will remain in jail until his sentencing hearing on April 4.