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Boy Scout charged in family's deaths

COCKEYSVILLE, Md. (AP) - Police say a 15-year-old Boy Scout charged with killing his parents and two younger brothers shot them as they slept, then returned a day later after spending time with friends to stage the discovery of their deaths.

Friends of the Browning family, many of whom held a candlelight vigil Sunday evening at the half-million dollar farmhouse-style home where authorities say the killings happened, said they were shocked. Someone hung a small, silver-colored crucifix on the mailbox.

The father, John Browning, was "beloved and well-revered. I'm told this is not the kind of family that this could happen to," said the Rev. Frances Dailey, pastor of Timonium United Methodist Church, where the Brownings' Troop 328 met in the suburban Balitmore community.

Officials believe the teen, Nicholas Browning, had shot his father, mother, and brothers with one of his father's guns Friday, then tossed the handgun in some bushes and left.

Authorities said friends dropped Nicholas off on Saturday, and soon after, he came out of the house to say he had found his father's body on the ground floor. He then called 911.

"A caller reported to 911 that a 45-year-old male was lying on the couch with blood coming out of his nose. He was not breathing," charging documents said.

Shortly before 5 p.m., officers found Nicholas' father dead in a ground-floor room and his mother and brothers' bodies in upstairs bedrooms. They also found the gun. The victims were John, 45; Tamara, 44; Gregory, 13, and Benjamin, 11.

Police said Nicholas confessed early Sunday and was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.

Nicholas had not been getting along with his father, police said in a news release, but investigators offered no other details. There was no sign of a confrontation Friday at the house, police said.

John Browning, a real estate lawyer, had worked in Baltimore County's oldest law firm for nearly 20 years. He was a scoutmaster and a church leader.

Nicholas, who was tall and gangly, was working toward becoming an Eagle Scout, and had built a prayer garden at his church to meet one of the requirements. His high school was one of the best in the county.

Browning led camping, rock climbing and whitewater expeditions for his Boy Scout troop. The family also hosted meetings for scouts' parents at their home.

"John was a wonderful man. He and his wife, Tammy, were very much in love. Together they were caring and loving parents to their children," Browning's law partners said in a statement. "John was also a man of much faith. And he so much enjoyed the outdoors."

Two of Nicholas Browning's schoolmates drove past the house Sunday afternoon. They wept when they were told Nicholas was charged in the killings.

"It's hard to believe someone could do this," said Brooke Kebaugh, 16.

Liz Lazlawbach, 17, said Browning complained about fighting with his father, but "not about anything violent."

Nicholas was formally arrested at 1:05 a.m. Sunday after admitting to the killings, Baltimore County Police spokesman Bill Toohey said. He was denied bail Sunday morning at a hearing. He was being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson in a special section for juveniles.

His bail will be reviewed Monday in Towson, the county seat, six miles from the family's home.

The county had 37 homicides last year, compared with 282 in nearby Baltimore. Toohey said there had not been a similar incident in the area since 1995, when a man killed his wife and three children before killing himself.

Resident Mike Thomas said one of his sons had been in scouts with one of the Brownings' sons. The Brownings would go out of their way to help others, even stopping to pick up debris in the street, he said.

"These people would do anything in the world for you - just incredible people," he said.

Thomas said he recently sold John Browning a trailer that Browning planned to use for Boy Scout outings. It was parked Sunday in the family's driveway.

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