Flashback Friday: Rochester teen who killed family with ax sentenced 30 years ago

Updated: October 18, 2019 10:01 AM

The video above is from a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS newscast. KSTP reporter Lou Harvey reports on Oct. 16, 1989.

On Oct. 16, 1989, 18-year-old David Brom was sentenced to 52 years in prison for murdering his Olmsted County family with an ax the previous year. He received three consecutive life sentences for the crime, along with one concurrent life term, according to the Minnesota Encyclopedia. 


Brom murdered his father, 41-year-old Bernard Brom; his mother, 40-year-old Paulette Brom; his 14-year-old sister, Diane, and his 9-year-old brother, Rick, on Feb. 8, 1988. He was 16 at the time of the crime. 

The story made headlines across the country, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press.

The family members were found in their nightclothes at the family's home in Cascade Township that Feb. 8 night. Sheriff Charles Von Wald said the four were believed to have been murdered that morning. A bloody ax was found in the basement of the home. The area was known to be a "quiet, well-to-do area" just outside the city of Rochester, Sheriff Von Wald told The New York Times.

Friends of Brom told police at the time he was "having some trouble with his parents." 

"One student said he was having trouble with his dad because of a tape he had brought and he didn't want him listening to it," Sheriff Von Wald told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS at the time.

The morning of the murder, Brom was said to be at Lourdes Roman Catholic High School, where he attended school. Friends told police at the time 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. According to the charges, Brom told a friend the previous day that he was going to kill his parents that night, and another person indicated he told her the following day that he had killed his parents. A rumor eventually reached teachers at the school, and they notified law enforcement.

Judge Ancy Morse of Olmsted County District Court sentenced Brom on Oct. 16, 1989. Brom was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder. According to ABC affiliate KAAL 6 NEWS, under state law at the time of the sentencing, a person given a life sentence would be eligible for release after serving 17.5 years for each term - which means Brom could be considered for parole in 2041 when he will be 71 years old.

But not everyone was satisfied with the sentencing. According to the PostBulletin, a Rochester-based newspaper, Brom's aunt Mary said the judge's sentencing was "something out of the 12th century." She added that it was "a shame to waste a human being like that."

"David is a good person. It's a tragic situation, but I think David will make the best of it," she told the newspaper after the sentencing was made.

According to medical records and testimony at his trial, Brom was severely depressed at the time of the crime. David had twice attempted suicide, with the last attempt being a few months before the murders. 

Judge Morse said the case was an "extreme and monumental tragedy" caused by a "pathetically sick, depressed mind." Brom had initially pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness. That, however, did not hold up in court. 

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Tommy Wiita

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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