ROSEBURG, Ore. — They cry too often and fear too much, these children who knew Adam Brown.
An 8-year-old boy asks his parents if he's going to die of AIDS. They tell him no, but they're not sure.
A 7-year-old girl sobs for hours at a stretch, and her little brother, 5, won't go to the bathroom alone. "Bad things happened in the bathroom," he tells his mother.
A 3-year-old girl who once leaped into visitors' laps now runs when strangers call.
It would be sad enough if all that these children had lost was their innocence. But there is more.
The man that kids called "Uncle Adam" is now in jail, awaiting trial on 26 counts of attempted murder and sexual abuse of neighborhood children. Adam Brown carries the deadly AIDS virus, and he is accused of trying to infect the children by forcing sex upon them.
Boys and girls told police that Brown abused them repeatedly at his Roseburg house between May and September. One 5-year-old boy said Brown smeared semen into a scratch on the boy's arm.
Children said Brown told them not to tell and threatened them with knives, scissors and matches. One child said Brown once burned a Bible, warning that Satan would come if they didn't do what he wanted.
Now, as the children battle nightmares and their parents nervously await results of AIDS tests, residents of this little timber town in the mountains of southern Oregon search for answers to a plaguing question: How could anyone do such things to innocent children?
The curious packed the courtroom at Brown's Nov. 19 arraignment. But if they expected a monster, Brown did not look the part. He was more the guy next door--30 years old, a good-looking man with blond hair and a trim beard.
Children liked him. Parents trusted him. He was a lay preacher at his church.
Few suspected the dark side of Adam Brown, said his estranged wife, Nancy Brown. "God was always in the picture," she said. "But he thought Satan would deliver the boys."
It was in church, as a teen-ager, that Nancy first met Adam Brown. He was a normal boy from a religious family, she said. He joined the U.S. Marines after graduating from Roseburg High School, and they married two years later, in 1982.
The Marines taught Brown computer technology, and he rose through the ranks to staff sergeant. He was a devoted father to their two children, Nancy Brown said.
But Adam Brown had a secret, and four years ago, while stationed in Southern California, he finally told his wife: He was gay. He always had been, he told her, but his conservative Christian upbringing had taught him that homosexuality was a sin.
Coming out of the closet did not resolve Brown's conflict, his wife said.
He sought and received an honorable discharge from the Marines three years ago, then started cruising gay bars in Southern California, she said. Six months later, she said, he tested positive for HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
Depressed and angry, Brown stayed close to home for two months, then resumed his sexual adventures. After using up a box of condoms supplied by health officials, he used no protection. It was his revenge, Nancy said: "He said, 'They gave it to me. I'm going to give it back to them.' "
They never divorced. Nancy said she and the children moved out several times, but always came back out of economic necessity.
They joined Brown in June, 1991, after he'd moved back to Roseburg. Brown worked as a secretary at the local community college, which meant Nancy could get free tuition.
They rented a house at the edge of town, on the corner of a busy highway and a quiet, dead-end road. The houses were small, but the yards were big--a good neighborhood for kids.
Life with Adam Brown "just got crazier and crazier," his wife said. He had a live-in boyfriend for a while, she said. Sometimes, he'd get drunk and strut around naked, saying he lusted after little boys, she said. Once, she said, he sliced his chest with a knife and proclaimed, "Look--I cut myself here, I gave my soul to the devil."
Then he'd sober up and apologize for misbehaving. "He'd stop doing it for a short period of time," she said. "Then he'd start up again."
Last January, Nancy Brown left for the last time, taking the children to California and moving in with her parents.
In May, a new family moved into Adam Brown's neighborhood.
The woman of the family had known Brown since childhood. She and her husband knew he had the AIDS virus and decided to help him once symptoms of the disease started accelerating.
Brown took a shine to their 8-year-old boy. He played football with the boy and regaled him with stories of military life. He'd invite him over to play computer games at his house.
By then, Brown was going to church again. He sang and played piano at Fair Oaks Community Church, where his mother is the minister. He became a lay preacher, pounding the pulpit on Sunday evenings with spirited sermons about letting the blood of Jesus wash away your sins.