Robert Brown is escorted by Suffolk Police from his home on Doris Avenue after a four-hour standoff Aug. 27. He is charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife.
Image: Peter Blasl video screenshot

The Riverhead man accused of murder in the shooting death of his wife will undergo a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

Town Justice Allen Smith signed the order requiring a medical and mental evaluation during arraignment proceedings this morning in the case against Robert C. Brown of Riverhead.

Brown, 65, stands accused of intentional murder in the shooting death of his wife Sara, 71, sometime in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Aug. 27 inside their tidy single-story home on Doris Avenue in Riverhead.

Smith said the county sheriff’s office recommended the evaluation.

Brown — thin, bald and with a stooped posture, hands cuffed behind his back and clad in a disposable jumpsuit — was escorted by police into the crowded, hushed courtroom at Riverhead Town Justice Court at about 9:45 this morning.

“It is alleged that you violated section 125.25 of the Penal Law of the State of New York, intentional murder, in that on Aug. 27. 2019 sometime between the hours of 02:30 and 0:924, with intent to cause the death of another person, you caused that death in that you shot your wife with a pistol,” the judge intoned.

Smith asked Brown if he has the ability to hire an attorney, and he replied that he did. “But I refuse to do so,” Brown answered.

“Do you have the money to hire an attorney?” Smith asked.

“Yes, I do,” Brown answered.

Brown requested to proceed without an attorney, which the judge would not allow it. Smith tapped attorney Ian Fitzgerald of Central Islip, who was seated in the courtroom, as assigned counsel to represent Brown. Smith ordered the defendant to be taken to the secure holding area just outside the courtroom for a conference with the attorney. He was turned to face the exit and as he stood there waiting to be led away, Brown shook his head, smiled slightly and said, “An attorney isn’t needed.”

After a brief conference, Fitzgerald returned to the courtroom, followed by his client and police escort.

Keriann Kelly, chief of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office homicide bureau told the court the district attorney intends to present the case to a grand jury tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.

Since a person facing a murder charge is not eligible for bail in a town justice court, Brown was remanded to the custody of the Suffolk County Sheriff to await further proceedings. If he is not indicted before Friday he will return to the justice court, Smith said. If he is indicted, the case will be transferred to the Suffolk County Criminal Court.

Then Smith signed the order requiring a mental and medical evaluation, after which Brown, again with a wan smile on his face, was led out of the courtroom by police.

Fitzgerald said in an interview after the proceedings that he has heard from family members that Brown suffers from dementia.

“There are possible issues of mental infirmity that will have to be investigated,” Fitzgerald said.

The lawyer said he did not know whether Brown legally possessed the handgun he allegedly used to kill his wife.

A neighbor called the couple’s daughter after seeing Brown in his yard with a gun in his hand. The daughter arrived at her parent’s home and called police.

A four-hour standoff with police ensued, ending with a Suffolk County Police armored vehicle ramming the front door to gain entry to the dwelling.

“It’s a very sad situation,” Fitzgerald said. “I understand he is a lifelong resident of Riverhead and has no prior criminal record,” he said.

Eight to 10 members of Brown’s family attended the arraignment this morning and left the court without making any statements.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.