Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Quest for Freedom: The True Story of Roy Brown

Who Did It?

The small community of Auburn, New York is the setting of a story of two people who never knew each other, but who both became victimsone of a brutal murderer, the other of the justice system.

On the evening of May 21, 1991, a chain of events began in Auburn that would ultimately shake the community to its core and give the residents a taste of big-city crime that, until that night, they had only seen on television or read about in newspapers and magazines.

On that night, volunteer firefighter Barry Bench was awakened from a sound sleep by his ringing telephone. It was the Fire Chief, alerting him to a house fire out at Finger Lakes which he believed was at the home owned by Barry's ex-sister-in-law, 49-year-old Sabina Kulakowski.

Barry rushed to don his uniform and jumped into his pickup truck. As he closed in on the fire, Barry realized that the chief was right: it was Sabina's house. Once at the scene, Barry leapt into action to help extinguish the flames. When firefighters brought the blaze under control, the Chief approached Barry and told him he was sending in some men to see if Sabina or anyone else had been home at the time. Barry agreed to stay back, opting instead to take a look around outside.

The men had not been inside the home long when they heard Barry yelling. When the men ran outside, they found him standing over an object in the dirt road. When the men walked over for a closer inspection, they were stunned to discover the object was in fact the naked and lifeless body of Sabina Kulakowski.

After taking a moment to process the macabre scene, the Chief yelled to one of the firefighters to contact the Sheriff's Department. Those at the scene couldn't help but wonder how Barry had managed to walk directly to the body. They also wondered how Sabina had died. Could she have inhaled too much smoke escaping her burning house but only succumbed outside, or could she have had a heart attack from the overwhelming stress of the situation? Either scenario was plausible; however, neither explained why she had been nude when found.

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