Attorney for man charged with murder requests mental evaluation for client

A Riverhead man charged with murder for fatally shooting his wife Tuesday was arraigned in Riverhead Town Justice Court Wednesday morning.

In court, Riverhead Justice Allen Smith said a grand jury notice has been issued, meaning that the case could be moved to county court, which carries steeper penalties. Robert Brown, 65, will be back in Riverhead court Friday if the grand jury has not indicted him by then, the judge said.

Mr. Brown allegedly shot and killed his wife, 71-year-old Sarah Brown, with a pistol, according to Suffolk County police. He is facing second-degree murder.

Mr. Brown appeared for arraignment Wednesday morning in a white prison suit with powder blue slippers, his hands cuffed behind his back. In court, he pleaded not guilty and said he could afford to hire an attorney but did not want one.

Judge Smith recommended he have an attorney, and assigned private attorney Ian Fitzgerald of Central Islip to meet privately with Mr. Brown in a small conference room outside the court.

When they returned, Mr. Fitzgerald said he would represent Mr. Brown, who is not eligible for bail.

Mr. Fitzgerald said afterward that he believes Mr. Brown may be suffering from some type of dementia and asked for a mental and medical evaluation of his client, which the court approved.

Few details emerged from the court appearance as to why the deadly scene unfolded Tuesday morning.

Several of the Mr. Brown’s relatives were at the court, many hugging prior to the arraignment. They declined to comment.

After the arraignment, a dispute broke out outside the Doris Avenue home between friends and family members of the Browns and media members, resulting in additional police being called to the scene.

“You’re here to get a [expletive] story so you can make money off of people’s sorrow,” one woman yelled at media members.

Another woman claimed a cameraman on the scene “touched her.” Photos from a Newsday photographer show a News 12 cameraman Dave Garden being struck by a woman.

(Warning: Video below contains vulgarity)

Suffolk County Crime Lab officers had blocked off the street in front of the Brown residence and appeared to be removing more weapons from the home Wednesday morning, including rifles.

On Tuesday, police had blocked off most of Doris Avenue for most of the day, while an armored vehicle from the Suffolk County Emergency Services Unit was parked outside the home. Large vehicles from the county Crime Lab and Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services department also were on the scene.

Because it is considered a homicide, the county police took the lead in the investigation.

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Photo caption: Investigators outside the Doris Avenue home Wednesday where multiple weapons were brought out. (Credit: Cyndi Zaweski)