|Woodsman's Skill in Tracking Led To Rape-Robbery Suspect in
New York Times (November 3, 1977)
A 27-year-old woodsman and naturalist who has
roamed and studied New Jersey's vast and desolate Pine Barrens since
childhood was cited today by the Bergen County police as having
played a key role in the capture of a man suspected of being the
robber-rapist who has caused deep fear in dozens of suburban
communities after three nighttime assaults since March.
tracking 2½-day-old footprints, palm prints and
other clues left as the gunman eluded the police in a swampy
woodland last Friday night, the woodsman, Tom Brown of
Wanamassa in Monmouth County, developed his evidence. It convinced
the police that a stocky, 39-year-old bulldozer operator already
under surveillance was their prime suspect.
Photographs that Mr.
Brown made of the suspect with a long-range lens as the man graded a
new road here yesterday were identified by robbery victims who were
briefly held hostage here by a gunman Friday night, authorities
said. Shortly after yesterday's identifications, the man was
Details of the Charges
"Brown played an
important role, he did a very excellent job for us," said Frank A.
Parenti, police chief of this Bergen County suburb of 6,500 people.
"He was just like an old Indian scout who helped the cowboys," said
another police chief in the area who has worked on the case since
The suspect, Bruce A. Ader, was taken into custody at the
two-storyhouse where he lives with his wife and their 11-year-old
son in Bernardsville, 35 miles southwest of here.
Mr. Ader was
charged initially with armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon,
and breaking and entering, for allegedly forcing his way into two
homes Friday night at the end of Arcadia Drive, a cul de sac
bordering 400 acres of woods here, and taking the five residents
In addition, Mr. Ader was charged with raping a
19-year-old baby sitter in neighboring Ramsey on July 22. Bail of
$250,000 set last night was continued today. Also, the authorities
said, a 17-year-old-girl attacked while baby-sitting in Upper Saddle
River on March 26, and a 15-year-old baby sitter raped in Ramsey on
Oct. 1 are to view Mr. Ader in a lineup.
Mr. Brown spends 60 to 80
hours a week in the woods strolling, tracking animals and
photographing nature. A biology student at Brookdale Community
College in Lincroft, Mr. Brown was born and brought up in Beachwood,
on the outskirts of the vast stretch of wilderness in New Jersey
known as the Pine Barrens. From the age of 7, he walked and camped
in the barrens, fascinated by tales of woodlore told by old men in
the region, and developed the perceptions and powers of observation
vital to tracking, he said.
Writing About the Subject
"It's more than a hobby, it's my life -- if you took me out of the
woods, I'd go crazy," Mr. Brown said.
At the moment he is
preparing to move into an apartment in Wanamassa, in Monmouth
County, with his wife of four months, Judy, and is polishing an
unpublished manuscript entitled, "Tracker: The Dying Breed." He said
it tries to explain "lots of things people don't see in the woods --
people leave their houses in the morning and don't know if it's
cloudy or sunny, they don't smell the roses, look at the trees, or
even hear the birds singing."
Most of the time he stalks, he said,
adding: "I'll get you right up on any deer you want."
he helped the police and National Guardsmen find a 31-year-old
retarded man lost for four days in thick woods around Howell
Township in Monmouth County.
Mr. Brown came to the Allendale
Police Headquarters Monday morning, unannounced and unknown. He
offered his services as a tracker because, he said, he had read that
the rapist had fled Friday night in thick, marshy woodlands.
man had vanished without a trace, eluding about 200 policemen and
firemen who combed the woods futilely for seven hours until 5 A.M.
Search dogs and spotlights beaming from fire trucks and a helicopter
circling overhead were no help to them.
On Monday morning Mr.
Brown was taken into the woods off Arcadia Drive by the police,
about the time that the five who had been hostages were helping a
state police artist prepare a sketch of their attacker.
yards from the house which the gunman had fled into the woods after
robbing two women, Mr. Brown, according to his account, began
picking up footprints in the loamy soil. He said he began following
them, with the police right alongside. Other items he detected along
the trail he was developing included pieces of hair and strands of
blue nylon clothing fabric snagged on twigs and branches, he said.
He also said he detected palmprints in the soil, apparently left as
the fugitive hid on his hands and knees to avoid the police. Some
coins were also found.