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CVeronica Roach, 10, is shown in a recent photo provided by her mother, Jasmine Roach. / Courtesy Roach family

FREEHOLD, N.J. - A man who was classified by the state as a "moderate" sex offender after he kidnapped and sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl two decades ago has been charged in the murders of his cousin and her 10-year-old foster daughter, according to authorities.

Brian Farmer, 58, of Long Branch, was being held Thursday in the Monmouth County jail in Freehold in lieu of $2.5 million bail.

Farmer is accused of strangling his cousin, Joan Colbert, 62, and her foster daughter, Veronica Roach, in their Long Branch apartment last month.

Farmer stood with his head down throughout a short court appearance Thursday.

In addition to the murder charges, Farmer was charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Authorities say that on July 30 ?? his 58th birthday ?? Farmer was at Colbert's home. Colbert discovered him taking pornographic photographs of the child, said Charles Webster, spokesman for the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. A confrontation ensued. Farmer killed Colbert and Roach, then fled, Webster said. An autopsy showed that the victims died as a result of strangulation.

A friend of Colbert, Susan Michling of Tinton Falls, who is also a detective in the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, was in tears as she sat in the courtroom during Farmer's appearance Thursday. Colbert, she said, was a "wonderful and giving" person who had cared for Roach since the child was 3 months old.

The crime, Michling said, was "senseless. She's going to be missed."

In 1984, Farmer was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and served five years in prison, according to a previous Asbury Park Press report.

In September 1995, Farmer held his 32-year-old girlfriend and her 15-year-old daughter hostage for three days in their home in Long Branch. Armed with a knife, Farmer tied up the woman and young girl and sexually assaulted the teen, according to the State Police. The woman and teen escaped, and Farmer then set the home on fire, according to State Police.

That crime led to a 1996 conviction for aggravated sexual assault, aggravated assault and aggravated arson, and Farmer was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was released in 2009.

Michling said it was wrong to release Farmer so soon after his 1996 conviction. "They should not have let him out so soon. It is sad," she said.

It isn't clear why he was listed by the state as a moderate sex offender, given his history. New Jersey has a three-tiered system for classifying convicted offenders, with Tier One warranting limited notice for the public's protection and Tier Three reserved for offenders at high risk for re-offense, according to state guidelines. Farmer was classified as a Tier Two, or a "moderate risk of re-offense." State guidelines say county prosecutors are charged with classifying offenders.

At the home where Colbert and Roach lived, a row of candles was set up Thursday along the walkway leading to the house.

On the porch, several balloons floated in the wind. One read, "We Miss You."

No one answered the door.

"We need time to grieve" a man who identified himself as Farmer's brother said Thursday. "We need time to be alone, to be a family again."

It isn't clear whether Colbert was a formal foster parent to Roach through the state Department of Children and Families. The department did not immediately return messages for comment.

If convicted of both charges of first-degree murder, Farmer faces life without the possibility of parole.

Contributing: Nicquel Terry of the Asbury Park Press



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Slaying suspect was classified 'moderate' sex offender

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