A former U.S. soldier accused of raping and murdering a woman nearly 23 years ago in Germany was arrested Thursday, and the German government was seeking his extradition, the U.S. attorney's office said.
While Robert J. Brown was jailed briefly in the 1980s, he boasted to a cellmate about the death of Nicola Stiel, leading to his arrest, according to a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. Advances in DNA technology also helped bolster the case against him, authorities said.
Brown, 46, of Baltimore, is accused of attacking the 19-year-old woman in August 1984. He had been stationed in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. It was unclear Thursday what his rank was.
The District Court of Bad Homburg issued an international arrest warrant against Brown for rape and murder in January 2006. He was arrested at a Baltimore apartment complex where he works as a maintenance man, a police spokeswoman said.
Brown's mother, Martha Ellison of Baltimore, said she did not know whether he had a lawyer.
At an initial appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court, Brown was detained pending a hearing on whether he should be surrendered to authorities in Germany.
Stiel, a nursing student, wrote in her diary that she had gone on a date with Brown and was going to meet him again. The pair went on a car trip Aug. 4, 1984, two days after that diary entry. While on that trip, Brown struck Stiel and raped her, then strangled her to prevent her from reporting the rape, according to court documents.
A passerby found Stiel's body the next day in the woods. Tire tracks nearby matched the treads from a car rented by Brown, according to the criminal complaint.
On Aug. 8, 1984, Brown left Germany "to escape from the German criminal authorities," according to the German arrest warrant.
A trace of sperm was found on Stiel's slacks, but DNA technology in 1984 was not as advanced as it is today, said Marcia Murphy, the spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.
Brown was honorably discharged from the Army but was jailed in the mid-1980s in Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania. While there, he bragged to a cellmate that he had raped and killed a woman, according to the court documents. Murphy said she did not know why he was jailed at the time.
The cellmate told German investigators in 1988 about Brown's comments. Brown was interviewed that year by German authorities but would not give a statement.
If Brown is sent to Germany and convicted of murder, the maximum punishment is life in prison.