'I had no idea that he was even out of prison'
Story from: The Oregonian
Adam Lee Brown was supposed to die in prison.
A far better fate than he deserved? His ex-wife certainly thought so. When the predatory sex offender was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 1993 after being charged with trying to kill children with the AIDS virus, Nancy Plambaeck said, "It's just not right. It's not enough for what he did."
He may have abused as many as nine children in Douglas County, including Brenda Liles' 2-year-old daughter, Dani, a Romanian adoptee.
"She was one of his primary targets," Liles said Monday. "She was the youngest, and he didn't think she could talk."
About the death threats. About the bodily fluids he injected between her fingers.
"Just sick stuff," Liles said. "My daughter still has nightmares. She's terrified of spiders. That was one of his control tactics, putting spiders on the kids to scare them."
Yet before a jury could hear those stories, the 43 counts on the original indictment were bargained down to four.
The attempted murder charges vanished in negotiations that allowed Brown to plead no contest to sodomy and recklessly endangering an 8-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl.
Why? Because it was 1993 and Brown had HIV.
"One might have felt at the time that a person with HIV/AIDS would die in prison," his defense attorney, Richard Cremer, said.
"I am satisfied," William Marshall, the Douglas County prosecutor, said after sentencing, "he is going to die in custody."
No such luck.
Brown survived, both HIV and the fate that often awaits child sex abusers in the state pen.
He was released in 2004, more than four years early.
And he danced with his parole officers and his demons until Sunday afternoon when he was arrested at a Wendy's on Northeast Sandy Boulevard and charged with sexually assaulting and stabbing a 10-year-old boy.
"My heart is breaking for that child," Liles said. She's watched her daughter wrestle with her memories of Adam Lee Brown for 20 years. She understands the meaning of a life sentence with no chance of parole.
In the late '80s, Brown was living in southern California, a married man with two children who told his wife he was gay.
After testing positive for HIV in 1989 he continued to cruise gay bars, Plambaeck would later tell David Foster of The Associated Press, and he didn't pack condoms: "He said, 'They gave it to me. I'm going to give it back to them.'"
He moved back to Roseburg in 1991. He was the piano player and an occasional preacher at Fair Oaks Community Church. And he was incredibly friendly with young kids in the neighborhood and down at the day-care center.
In October 1992, an 8-year-old boy told his mother Brown had spent the summer showing him porn films, getting him drunk and sexually molesting him.
After Brown was arrested, John and Brenda Liles and Brown's ex-wife were among the parents who stepped forward, saying their children were also abused. The grand jury indictment included five counts of attempted murder, nine counts of sodomy and four counts of rape.
Yet Marshall -- an aggressive prosecutor now serving as a circuit judge in Douglas County -- negotiated with Cremer for four no-contest pleas and the 16-year prison term.
"There was some weakness in many of the counts," Cremer said. "And it was not a case that it appeared to me that Mr. Marshall wanted to try."
Brenda Liles isn't second-guessing that decision. Her daughter -- who talked to two grand juries before her third birthday -- and the other children didn't have to testify.
"Child witnesses can be torn apart on the stand," said Liles, who still lives in Winston. "And at that time, they felt he would pass away in prison."
That was the plan.
But Adam Lee Brown proved tougher than the HIV virus, thanks to medical advances and the best of Oregon prison care.
Brenda Liles was working for the Oregon state police when he came in to register as a sex offender in 2004.
"I had no idea that he was even out of prison," she said.
Like the rest of us, she doesn't know how closely Brown was being supervised by the parole and probation officers who, plea bargains aside, knew just how horrific his crimes were.
She doesn't know whether he had access to alcohol and drugs in his subsidized room at The Henry Building on Southwest Fourth Avenue, where the rules were noticeably less stringent than at other Central City Concern housing units.
But she has a harrowing sense of the shock and confusion a 10-year-old boy is dealing with today and for all the years to come.
At the age of 2 1/2, Dani Liles introduced herself to every member of the grand jury, Brenda Liles said, then climbed up onto the foreman's lap and told him what happened.
And Dani asked that her name be included in this story.
But long after doctors said the girl had nothing to fear from HIV, her mother said, "There were families in elementary school that did not allow her to come over and play.
"She was pretty traumatized when he got out of prison, wanting to sleep with me again. She's still getting counseling. It's been 20 years. She should be OK, right? But she's not. The trauma is still there.
"It doesn't always go away."
-- Steve Duin