Glenn Brown sits next to his defense attorney Jeff Silverstein during his bail hearing at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast in this October 2021 photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

BELFAST, Maine — The man who killed his sister and brother-in-law at their Waldo home in 2020 in what some family members have called an execution-style murder was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

Glenn Brown, 68, of Benton, pleaded no contest in March to the Oct. 5, 2020, killings of Richard and Tina Bowden.

During the hours-long sentencing hearing at the Waldo Judicial Center, multiple family members said that the murders were the culmination of years of family strife and dysfunction.

“The trauma I have suffered from the result of my parents’ murders is difficult beyond worlds,” Diahanne Morse, the Bowden’s daughter, said. “Every day of my life since October 5, 2020, has been nothing short of traumatic … my parents deserve justice.”

Brown also alluded to the family dysfunction in his own brief remarks.

“I did not go to their home to cause them any harm. I went to reason with them,” he said. “I know you know all about the dysfunction. I can’t say that caused everything … I do want to express my deepest sorrow for my actions to all the families, including my own.”

His words were part of an extraordinary hearing in a divided courtroom, in which just about everybody who wasn’t a lawyer, a court official or a member of the media was related to each other. On one side of the room, Richard and Tina Bowden’s family members and friends spoke emotionally about the tremendous pain caused by the loss of the couple, who were both 64 when they died.

But from the other side of the courtroom, at least one family member aligned with Brown stood up to share the timeline of the family history that she believed led him to pull the trigger, twice.

“What happened in this family is like what happens in a pressure cooker,” Deborah Brown, the sister-in-law of both Glenn Brown and Tina Bowden said. “What happened on October 5 was the result of power, control, time and pressure. It didn’t occur in a vacuum.”

Last month, defense attorney Jeff Silverstein of Bangor said that his client chose to plead no contest in part to spare the family the pain of having their dysfunction laid bare at a murder trial. Nonetheless, the long history of family animosity was front and center on Monday.

Family members who spoke said that tensions among the siblings grew more acute when their stepfather, Cecil “Zeke” Armstrong, needed care toward the end of his life. Tina Bowden, the co-trustee of a living trust to benefit Armstrong, provided much of that, according to some family members.

“She cared for her father with love and grace,” Connie Sarnacki, the sister of Richard Bowden, said at the hearing.

Tina Bowden was responsible, she said, adhering to doctor’s orders and spending money from the trust only on his care. In fact, a later accounting showed that “every penny” had been accounted for, even money from returnable cans and bottles and from Armstrong’s change jar, Sarnacki said.  

But other siblings did not like the way that their sister did her job and challenged her authority through lawsuits and other means.  

“Tina was not innocent in all this,” Deb Brown said. “I know what she portrayed, as a sweet, religious, kind person. She was not kind to her brothers. When she had this power, everything changed … This is what drove the conflict. It was about power and control.”  

Armstrong, who raised seven stepchildren, left about $126,000 in assets when he died in November 2019, plus a house and about 25 acres in Belfast. The estate was to be divided into seven equal shares.

The constant acrimony with her brothers took a toll on Tina and Richard Bowden, family members said at the hearing.

“I knew that Dick and Tina had been living in fear for their safety over the last two months of their lives,” Matthew Bowden, their son-in-law, said.

They even took the step of buying a handgun to defend themselves.

“Tina predicted her own death,” Kevin Hall, a longtime friend, said at the hearing, adding that she believed her death would come at the hand of one of her brothers.  

The constant fear and fighting was in sharp contrast to how the Bowdens otherwise led their lives, according to the people who loved them.

“My brother Dickie was tender-hearted, thoughtful, incredibly bright and a natural-born engineer. He was a keeper of family memories,” Sarnacki said. “Tina was more a sister than a sister-in-law, with a huge heart.”

The couple shared a strong Christian faith and a great sense of humor and loved spending time with family and friends, she said. They gardened, she baked bread and they played with their grandchildren.

“They lived a simple life,” Sarnacki said. “They were good, honest people that treasured their lives together.”

Leane Zainea, assistant attorney general, said that on the day of the murders, Glenn Brown had withdrawn more than $14,000, nearly his entire life savings, from a credit union. He left the money at his brother’s house in an envelope addressed to his wife, before he went to the Bowden’s home on Bonne Terre Road with a 9 mm gun in his vehicle.  

“He traveled there with a purpose and his purpose was to kill Tina and Richard,” Zainea said. “He went to that house because he was going to kill both of them. Not to reason. If you reason, you don’t take a 9 mm with you.”

Each died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

“It wasn’t the dysfunction that pulled the trigger,” she said.

Before sentencing Glenn Brown, Justice Robert Murray explained the aggravating and mitigating factors he took into consideration including Glenn Brown’s complete lack of criminal history, strong support from at least some family members and an exemplary work history.

He also considered the crime’s profound impact on the victims’ family and friends.

Glenn Brown was sentenced to pay $16,865 in restitution for the crimes, in addition to two life sentences, to be served concurrently.

After the hearing, Silverstein, his attorney, said that while his client was disappointed in Murray’s decision, he always knew he would be spending the rest of his life in prison.

“My client is willing to accept the outcome,” he said.