BERLIN – An American man has been extradited to Germany to face charges that he raped and murdered a 19-year-old woman near where he worked on a U.S. military base 25 years ago, police said Monday.
Robert Brown, a 49-year-old maintenance worker from Baltimore, was turned over by U.S. Marshals to Hesse state police and flown to Germany on Sunday, German police said. A judge ordered him to remain in custody pending formal charges.
Brown is accused of the 1984 rape and murder of Nicola Stiel, a German teen from the western town of Bad Kreuznach.
Despite an alleged jailhouse confession from Brown, German authorities were unable to come up with enough evidence for nearly two decades until advances in DNA technology gave them the breakthrough they needed in 2002, police said.
"Through these (DNA) results and further investigation, the suspect ... became again a focus of the investigators," Hesse police said in a statement.
Hesse police said they did not yet know who was representing Brown, who faces a possible life sentence in prison if convicted.
Brown was a maintenance worker at a northeast Baltimore apartment complex until his arrest in 2007 by the FBI on an international warrant from German authorities.
Brown served in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1982 and was a private, according to his service records and American court documents. After leaving the service in the U.S., he returned to Germany in 1983, according to German police.
He working as a civilian employee on a nearby U.S. Air Force base — which has now been shuttered — and doing odd jobs, according to U.S. court files.
German prosecutors allege Brown and Stiel met in August 1984, based on an entry in a diary the teen kept, U.S. court files show, and two days later, on Aug. 4, 1984, they went on a car trip.
At an unknown location on that journey, Brown struck Stiel and raped her, then strangled her to prevent her from reporting the rape, according to court documents.
A passer-by found Stiel's body the next day in the woods between Bad Homburg and Friedrichdorf. Tracks nearby matched the tires of a car rented by Brown at the time, according to the criminal complaint.
Three days after the discovery of the body, Brown left Germany "to escape from the German criminal authorities," according to the German arrest warrant.
A trace of semen was found on Stiel's slacks, but DNA technology in 1984 was not as advanced as it is today, so it couldn't be used at the time, the U.S. attorney's office has said.
While in Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania, where he was serving time on robbery charges in the later 1980s, Brown bragged to a cellmate that he had raped and killed a woman, according to U.S. court documents.
The cellmate told German investigators in 1988 about Brown's comments. Brown was interviewed on Dec. 5, 1988 by German authorities about Stiel's slaying, but refused to give a statement.