In 1981, Robetta Pysarenko’s sister, Barbara Jo "Bobbi" Brown, was brutally raped and murdered in Luling. Decades later, the crime continues to impact Pysarenko’s life.
Pysarenko was just 16 years old when Bruce Perritt and John Brogdon killed her sister. Perritt and Brogdon were found guilty three years later and Brogdon was sentenced to the death penalty. Perritt was able to escape the death penalty when one member of the jury held out citing Perritt’s young age of 17 at the time of the crime. He instead received a mandatory life sentence.
Now, after the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles unconstitutional, Perritt has the possibility to have his sentence reviewed and could even receive a lighter penalty.
Pysarenko said Perritt’s actions resulted in her life being turned upside down.
"I had to testify for three years. From the time I was sixteen until I was 19 years old I was in court," Pysarenko said. "For me it was disheartening in the fact that I didn’t have a normal life. I wasn’t allowed to have that life–a life that people take for granted where they go to high school or finish high school and go to prom and do normal things. (Bobbi) had no life at all."
Pysarenko said she hopes Perritt never gets out of jail.
"Somebody who set out to do something that evil and premeditated doesn’t deserve to get out," Pysarenko said. "Believe me, I will do whatever. I will call whoever, contact whoever to make sure he never gets out. I will not stop until I do that."
Pysarenko said she knew both of her sister’s killers very well.
"(Perritt) was somebody we knew, they both were. He was a bad guy, he was not a nice person," Pysarenko said. "He didn’t go to school. He was one of those thugs who rode up and down the street. His family lived there so he was one of those who drove around in the car and he would ask if I wanted to get in his car and say ‘hey baby.’ He was just a thug."
The Browns originally had 11 children in their family. However, the family suffered a previous tragedy when Pysarenko’s father and older sister died in a car accident in 1971.
Pysarenko said with so many kids, older siblings were expected to take care of the younger children.
"Losing her was like losing a child, especially when you are five years older you kind of take on that role," she said. "They become almost like your child, you teach them how to ride bikes, teach them how to swim. It becomes your duty or job."
On the day of the murder Pysarenko was home alone with Bobbi while their mother was working. Bobbi left and never returned.
"The whole day I was five minutes behind her each time. It was like trying to catch something that you can never catch," Pysarenko said.
Pysarenko was doing household chores when she began to worry about Bobbi and found out she had gone to a nearby convenience store in Luling.
"I went to the store and somebody says ‘no she went to the game room,’" Pysarenko said. "I am looking for her in all these places. I’m going everywhere all the kids in the neighborhood are saying to go and then finally about an hour later one of the girls said ‘I don’t want you to get mad at Bobbi but she got in the car with Bruce and John.’"
Pysarenko said although she thought Perritt was a bad person, she did not expect that he would harm her sister. So she got a ride to Brogdon’s house to find her sister.
"They had already killed her and were hiding in there," she said.
When neither Perritt nor Brogdon would come to the door, Pysarenko contacted the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office to file a missing person’s report. However, she was told a report could not be filed for children until after midnight. Pysarenko immediately called a detective who was a friend of the family.
Later on in the evening that detective came to the Brown residence and told Pysarenko they found Bobbi and needed her to identify a car that had been left on the levee.
Pysarenko told the detective that it was Perritt’s car.
"So all of the sudden it’s all mayhem like in a cop show and everyone runs to (Brogdon’s) house," Pysarenko said. "I see everything take place. I see them knock on the door and the old man answers the door and the next thing I know I see them go in and they’re pulling out John and Bruce and they’re covered in bloody clothes – with Bobbi’s blood. So then they told me ‘yeah she’s dead’ after that and then it is just like a horrible movie."
Pysarenko said she was in shock and could not believe what was happening.
But after the murder, the trial dominated Pysarenko’s life for the next three years.
"Then I go and make a deposition then my whole life becomes a court case where I can’t say anything to people and I can’t say how I feel. I can’t cry because it is a trial," Pysarenko said. "Even now I don’t cry for things. I’m very direct and it affects your life. Everything changes–your whole personality changes. Your whole persona on how the world is changes."
Pysarenko said Perritt made statements in court about her as well.
"For years they said in court ‘why did you take her?’ And Bruce was like ‘because we can’t get her sister.’ So you grow up with that guilt of why didn’t they just kill me? Why did they have to take her?" Pysarenko said. "So until I had my daughter I wished it had been me."
Although it has been more than 30 years since that day, Pysarenko said it does not take much to bring back the memories.
"Every time I get a jury summons it’s the same thing," Pysarenko said. "It never stops for me. That’s the whole part. It never goes away. It’s not something you can take away."
The murder of her sister also affected the way Pysarenko raised her own daughter.
"She’s my only daughter and I never let her out of my sight," Pysarenko said. "She wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things that parents just let their kids do. She was never left at the mall. I had to know where she was at all times."
After Bobbi’s death, all Pysarenko could think about was getting out of Luling. She now lives in Colorado.
"They did what they did. Once they did it, it was done. I don’t think anyone who takes a life deserves to get out of jail," Pysarenko said. "It’s not Monopoly, you don’t get a get out of jail free card."
|Barbara Jo Brown|