Second slaying suspect charged

Nov. 26, 2005

As Robert W. Osborn’s family prepared for his funeral, the man who authorities believe killed him faced a judge Friday for the first time.

Fabian Brown Jr. appeared in Jackson County Circuit Court on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Nov. 20 killing of Osborn. Judge Jay Daugherty set Brown’s bond at $500,000 and entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

In recent days, prosecutors and his co-defendant have portrayed Brown, 20, as a man who killed without remorse or even a motive. Authorities allege that he and co-defendant Rapheal L. Willis were bored and randomly picked Osborn as a victim as he pedaled home from his overnight grocery store job.

Brown’s attorney said Friday that there had been an “appalling” rush to judgment in the case.

Willis, 19, was charged Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Court documents filed in the case quote Willis as telling police that he was present when Brown, armed with a shotgun, ambushed Osborn from behind a tree.

According to the court documents, Willis told investigators that Brown repeatedly said he was bored and wanted to kill someone before they went out driving last Sunday. About 5:15 a.m., in the area of U.S. 40 and Noland Road, they spotted a woman driving alone and “devised a plan to rob and kill her,” the documents allege.

It was then that they spotted Osborn riding his bicycle near 47th Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard. Willis told detectives that he stopped the car and Brown got out. As Osborn passed, Brown fired the shotgun but missed. Brown got back in and they drove past Osborn. Brown then fired from the car but missed again, according to Willis’ statement.

They drove ahead and parked the car. Both got out and stood behind a tree. According to court documents, Willis said that as Osborn pedaled by, Brown stepped out and shot him in the back of the head. Brown kicked Osborn’s body and they left the area.

Witnesses later interviewed by police reported hearing several loud gunshots in the area. When he was arrested, Willis had two rifles and a shotgun in his possession and told police that the shotgun was the weapon used in the killing, according to the court documents.

Another witness who was not identified in court documents also told police that Brown told him that morning he wanted to kill someone.

Later, the witness said, he and Brown were watching television news coverage of Osborn’s shooting when Brown told him that he had shot the victim.

After police interviewed Willis and the unnamed witness, they described Brown as a person of interest and asked the public for help in locating him. He was charged in a warrant with first-degree murder and armed criminal action on Thanksgiving, according to court records.

Brown turned himself in late Thursday, police said.

Previously, Kansas City police said they were looking into whether Osborn’s killing was similar to other murders and random shootings this year. Investigators said those crimes, too, were committed for “fun.”

Police have declined to release specific information about the other crimes, and no charges have been filed in connection with them.

Osborn’s brother, Ron Osborn, heard the news of Brown’s surrender after he awoke early Friday.

“I went upstairs, woke my brother up, and he rolled over and said, ‘Good,’ ” Osborn said.

The family has struggled this week to understand Robert’s brutal death. The struggle continued even after they learned of the random motive after authorities arrested and charged Willis.

“This actually goes way above and beyond why,” Osborn said. “You can’t understand why two individuals would declare open season on a human. What normal person can understand that?”

Ron Osborn said the family was focusing on Robert’s funeral. He will be buried today.

“For now, we have to focus on Robert and paying tribute to him,” Osborn said.

Willis’ family members said Friday that they were shocked when they learned Rapheal was charged in the slaying.

They said Willis told them that he did the driving during the Osborn slaying only because his life was threatened.

Willis “was a good kid who was with a bad person,” his sister, Stacy Oliver, said. “Anyone who knows him knows Rapheal wouldn’t hurt a soul.”

Members of Willis’ family expressed condolences for Osborn and his relatives.

They said they had never met Brown and had no idea how Willis met him.

“He (Willis) is a good kid; he never even had a fistfight,” said his mother, Gwen Williams. She added that Willis was a recent Raytown High graduate who had been working for Kansas City’s water department. He was considering moving home to get his credit rating up and get started on his future.

Brown’s first appearance before a judge Friday was held behind the locked doors of the Jackson County Criminal Justice Center. The building was closed because of Thanksgiving, and not even Brown’s attorney, Harold Holliday III, could get in to represent him.

Judge Daugherty spoke to Holliday and reporters as he left the building after the court appearance and told them he entered a not guilty plea on Brown’s behalf and set a $500,000 bond. Brown’s next court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 12, the judge said.

Although he said it was frustrating that he could not be with his client in court, Holliday said he understood the unusual circumstance.

He said he had been able to speak briefly with Brown earlier.

“In coming months I will be able to change your opinion of who Mr. Brown is,” Holliday said. “I don’t think Mr. Brown is the character individuals are painting him as.”