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David Francis BROM





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (16) - Parricide
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: February 18, 1988
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: October 3, 1971
Victims profile: His father, Bernard Brom, 41; his mother, Paulette, 40; his sister, Diane, 14, and his brother, Rick, 9
Method of murder: Beating with an axe
Location: Rochester, Minnesota, USA
Status: Sentenced to three consecutive life terms (and one concurrent life term) on October 17, 1989, and will be eligible for parole when he turns 70

David Francis Brom (born October 3, 1971) killed his parents, brother and sister with an axe when he was sixteen in February 1988 in Rochester, Minnesota.

A member of a Catholic family, he had a fight with his father over the songs he listened to, which possibly resulted in the deed.

In 1989 Brom was sentenced to life in prison. He will not be eligible for parole until 2041.

When their 1987 album, Escape From Noise, proved to be more successful than they expected, Negativland, a sound collage band, canceled the tour they were expected to do and released a fake press release stating the band would be placed in house arrest until investigations concluded as to whether "Christianity Is Stupid" (a song from the aforementioned album featuring Rev. Estus Pirkle's sermon in If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? mercilessly edited to make him repeat "Christianity is stupid! Communism is good!") was implicated in Brom's murders.

The resulting media craze, stemming from journalists forgetting to fact-check, is lampooned in the title track of their 1989 album, Helter Stupid, whose insert also includes background information behind the band's prank.

Macabre's "David Brom Took an Axe," from their 1989 album, Gloom, is about the murders.


Boy, 16, Charged in Ax Murders Of 4 in His Family in Minnesota

The New York Times

February 20, 1988

The authorities today arrested David Brom, 16 years old, in the ax murders of his parents, a brother and a sister. Prosecutors said they would seek to try him as an adult on murder charges.

The bodies of Bernard Brom, 41 years old; his wife, Paulette, about 40, and the children, Diane, 14, and Rick, 9, were found in their nightclothes Thursday evening at the family's home in suburban Cascade Township, said Sheriff Charles Von Wald of Olmsted County.

The four were believed to have been slain early Thursday morning, the sheriff said. He said a bloody ax 2 to 3 feet long was found in the basement of the home in a quiet well-to-do area just outside this southeastern Minnesota city of 60,000.

David Brom was taken into custody at the main Rochester Post Office, a police dispatcher said. Sheriff Von Wald said a person had called his office to report seeing someone fitting the boy's description in a telephone booth near the post office.

Officer Bill Verdick said, ''The officers who took him into custody said he was quite nervous and frightened.'' Boy Is Calm at Arraignment

However, the teen-ager appeared calm at a 15-minute arraignment in which he was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and eight counts of second-degree murder. The charges contain different degrees of premeditation or intent. He did not enter a plea.

Raymong Schmitz, the Olmsted County Attorney, said the boy was ordered to undergo psychiatric examinaton and was being held under a 24-hour watch at the county jail.

Sheriff Von Wald said officers had talked with friends of the suspect, who had spoken with him Thursday. ''He indicated he was having some trouble with his parents,'' Sheriff Von Wald said. ''One student said he was having trouble with his dad because of a tape he had bought and he didn't want him listening to it.''

David was at Lourdes Roman Catholic High School Thursday morning. Friends at the school said he had dyed his hair black, shaved the hair from the sides of his head and spiked the hair on the back of his head, the sheriff said.

According to the charges, David told a friend on Wednesday that he was going to kill his parents that night, and another person indicated that he told her on Thursday that he had killed his parents.

A rumor about the killings finally reached teachers at David's school, and they notified authorities Thursday.


Life Term in Family Ax Slaying

The New York Times

October 18, 1989

A teen-ager has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his parents, brother and sister with an ax at the family's rural home here a year and a half ago. The punishment was imposed Monday on David Brom, now 18 years old, by Judge Ancy Morse of Olmsted County District Court, who said the case was an ''extreme and monumental tragedy'' caused by a ''pathetically sick, depressed mind.'' Mr. Brom, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness, will not be eligible for parole for 52 1/2 years.


David Brom

On October 3, 1989, a Rochester, Minnesota, jury gave David Brom an unwelcome 18th birthday present: it convicted him of four counts of first-degree murder. A week later, the same jury rejected Brom’s claim that he was insane when he used a 56 blows with an axe to murder his father, mother, and two siblings.

He was subsequently sentenced to three consecutive life terms (and one concurrent life term) and will be eligible for parole when he turns 70. After his sentencing, the judge reportedly retired to her chambers and wept over the tragedy of the crimes and David’s wasted life.

While extremely violent, David’s crime is not that extraordinary. What is interesting is the dual legal issues that he raised: that crimes committed by a 16-year-old do not deserve to tried in an adult court, and that Minnesota’s M’Naghten-based insanity defense is out-of-touch with reality and unfair to defendants who are mentally ill when they commit their crimes.

Medical records and testimony at his trial indicated that David was severely depressed at the time of his crime. A Catholic prep school sophomore, David had twice attempted suicide (the last attempt was just a few months prior to the murders), and friends reported that he talked for six months about killing his family.

For reasons never fully explained, that time came on February 18, 1988. In a gruesome crime scene, Cascade Township police who had been summoned to the home found bodies of Bernard Brom, 41, his wife, Paullette, about 40, and children Diane, 14, and Rick, 9, all in their nightclothes. The four were believed to have been slaughtered early that morning. A bloody axe was found in the basement of the home. Authorities theorized that Bernard and Rick had been attacked first, and the women coming to investigate were subsequently struck down.

The only member of the household not killed — there was another brother who did not live at home — was David Brom and he was nowhere to be found.

The elder brother had an alibi, and David’s palm prints were lifted from the murder weapon.

David was arrested the next day while telephoning a friend from a pay phone at a post office. He admitted the crimes and explained that he was “having trouble with his father” over a music tape.


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