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NOTORIOUS: The Brom murders

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- If you've lived in Rochester long enough, you've heard the name. You've probably read the headlines, remember the reports and watched the Brom family murder story play out on national television.

Patti Price lived it.

"It was a crazy awful experience," Price said.

In the middle of the night on Feb. 18, 1988, 16-year-old David Brom, killed four of his family members. His parents Bernard and Paulette, younger siblings, 14-year-old Diane and 9-year-old Rick were all murdered with an ax.

"I had only just been to their house a weekend before the murders happened," Price recalled.

Price was an eighth grader at the time and remembers it vividly. Diane was her best friend.

"I remember the day that she didn't show up. It was a Thursday," she said. "And I didn't think much about it to be honest. Kids get sick all the time."

Price remembers her mother breaking the news to her that night.

"We never would have guessed what we would have heard," she said. "She came into the room and was unable to tell me at first. And she said, 'I don't' know how to tell you this, but Diane is dead.' My life is sort of before that moment and after that moment."

The very next day, Price went to school alongside her classmates in a fog. Even cleaning out Diane's desk with another friend, she remembers walking into her classroom and seeing Diane's chair sitting on top of her desk, untouched.

"I was convinced, 100 percent, that David was out. He had walked in on the murders and fled," Price said.

At that point, David was unaccounted for. The oldest Brom brother, Joe, wasn't living at home with the rest of the family at the time. Soon after though, David turned himself in, calling police from a Rochester Post Office.

"Even at that point, I thought somebody has to have a gun to his head in some way," Price said. "Or threatening him in some way to confess. I mean, he was like a brother to me. He was nicer than my brothers to be honest."

Shock and grief saturated the Rochester community. But come Monday, St. Pius X, the elementary school Price and the younger Brom siblings had attended, bussed students to the funeral.

"There were four caskets brought in. Of course, all closed," Price said. "And all I could think of was what was on the other side of those caskets. It was just trauma, after trauma and no discussion. And no help to be found."

Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson was one of the first responding deputies on the scene back in 1988, then, just a deputy.

"I got up, maybe four, five, six steps and I could see two sets of feet at the top of the steps," he told KTTC in 2018, 30 years after the murders.

"When this happened to the Brom family, there was a very heightened responses. there was a lot going on. The schools were more involved. The school counselors were more involved. Trying to help and support families," he said.

Price remembers that time in her life differently.

"I remember, really, people telling us not to talk about it," she said.

It took her until her mid thirties before she felt she could talk about the tragedy. Before going to Lourdes High School, Price and another two friends of Diane, worked on creating a glass stained window mural in memory of their friend at St. Pius X.

"As soon as we left for Lourdes the next year, it was taken out," she remembered. "So, there was a lot of not talking about it."

Price suffered from different mental health issues in her youth and into young adulthood. In her sophomore year of high school, she was treated for anorexia at St. Mary's.

"Never once in my treatment at Mayo for anorexia did they talk about the murders," she said. "And every time I brought up the fact that my best friend had been murdered two years ago, even the psychologist didn't want to talk about it. There was no acknowledgement that it contributed to my mental health issues, which is shocking now a days."

It's a testament to how the mental health stigma has changed over the years.

"That whole span of time. From age 13, when the murders happened, to age 32, was massively shaped by the murders."

Even so, all these years later, Price says she's never once blamed David. In fact, she keeps in touch with him.

"I've had nothing but compassion for him," she said. "And really, just wondered, why."

"I've written to him a couple times throughout the years. So, I know what he's doing," Price continued. "He's come to terms that he will be in prison for the rest of his life."

David Brom is now 49-years-old and incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater. The motive behind his crimes is something he has never revealed. It continues to stump those close to the case decades later -- but Price has her own ideas.

David Brom is now 49-years-old at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater. This is his latest mugshot, form 2017.

"I have all sorts of theories about what was happening with David, having to do with priests to be honest. But, David has never been willing to talk about it."

"He talks about how much he misses his family. He regrets snapping the way he did. He talks about how much they loved him and he, you know, very much misses them."

Price is an advocate for mental health and is a practicing psychologist in Rochester. She says if it wasn't for the Brom murders, she wouldn't be as compassionate, or even in the field she's in.

Price hopes to visit David at Stillwater someday.

Beret Leone

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