Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Roy Brown

Other New York Cases with False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
By using Freedom of Information laws to request copies of his own court documents, Roy Brown solved his own case. DNA testing compared the suspected true perpetrator to DNA from a bitemark found on the victim and confirmed the truth of his suspicion.
The Crime
On May 23, 1991, 49-year-old Sabina Kulakowski, a social service worker, was found beaten, strangled and stabbed to death near the upstate New York farmhouse where she lived. Kulakowski had been bitten numerous times all over her body. At the scene, police collected a bloody nightshirt and swabbed the bitemarks for saliva. Kulakowski's farmhouse had also been set on fire.
The Identification
Roy Brown became a suspect because he had recently been released from a short jail term resulting from a series of threatening phone calls to the director of the social services agency where Kulakowski worked. A year earlier, the agency had placed Brown's daughter into a residential care facility. Kulakowski was not involved in the case.
A man that Brown was incarcerated with testified that, after his release, Brown called him and confessed to the crime over the phone.
The Biological Evidence
The prosecution relied on the testimony of a bitemark analyst who stated that the seven bitemarks on Kulakowski's body were "entirely consistent" with Brown. The prosecution did not disclose that another expert had examined the bitemarks before trial and excluded Brown as the source. A defense expert stated that six of the bitemarks were insufficient for analysis and the seventh excluded Brown because it had two more upper teeth than he had.
Saliva from the nightshirt and bitemark swabs were analyzed with inconclusive results.
In 1995, Brown sought testing on the bitemark swabs, but they had been consumed during previous testing. Brown was also told that the saliva from the nightshirt had been consumed.
Brown then took it upon himself to try and find the Kulakowski's true killer. After a fire destroyed all of his court documents at his step-father's house, he asked for copies of his documents under the Freedom of Information Act. He found documents that had not been disclosed to the defense implicating another man, Barry Bench. Bench had acted oddly around the time of the murder and was upset at Kulakowski because the farmhouse that she lived in belonged to the Bench family (she had dated Bench's brother up until two months before the murder). In 2003, Brown wrote to Bench, telling him that DNA would implicate him when Brown finally got testing. Five days after the letter was mailed, Bench committed suicide by stepping in front of an Amtrak train.
In 2005, the Innocence Project took on Brown's case and discovered that there were six more saliva stains on the nightshirt that could be tested. In 2006, DNA testing proved that the saliva on the shirt did not match Brown. After this exclusion, the Innocence Project located Barry Bench's daughter, who gave a sample of her DNA. Half of her DNA matched the saliva on the shirt: precisely what would be expected from a daughter.
Brown was released from prison on January 23, 2007. The prosecution dismissed the charges on March 5, 2007. He received $2.6 million in compensation from the New York Court of Claims.

In July 2019, Brown died. He was 58.
Summary courtesy of the Innocence Project, Reproduced with permission.

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 7/17/2019
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1991
Sentence:25 to Life
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes