Man sentenced for lying to police about girl's rape, murder

Brower

Town of Norwich resident James Brower was sentenced Monday to 1½ to 4½ years in prison after admitting he lied to police during an investigation into the 2017 death of an Otsego County girl, according to Chenango County Court officials.

Investigators said 11-year-old Morris resident Jacelyn O’Connor, the half-sister to two of Brower’s sons, died of asphyxiation during a July 2017 visit to Brower’s home.

Brower pleaded guilty in April to the first-degree felony charge of hindering prosecution.

His partner, Tobias Rundstrom-Wooding, was sentenced to 20 years to life in state prison after pleading guilty last June to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree rape.

At Brower’s August 2017 felony hearing, then-Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride said the defendant delayed calling 911 so he and Rundstrom-Wooding could coordinate their stories and then staged a 911 call reporting Jacelyn’s death.

On July 30, 2017, state police responded to a call about a girl in cardiac arrest at Brower’s town of Norwich residence, a mobile home he shared with Rundstrom-Wooding on County Highway 23, where they found Jacelyn deceased.

Dr. John Cruz, Chenango County medical examiner, told The Daily Star in August a preliminary examination revealed sexual assault and head trauma to the victim. Asphyxiation was later determined to be the cause of death. 

Troopers testified at the 2017 hearing that Brower changed his story throughout the course of the investigation. Investigator James Tefft testified that Brower and Rundstrom-Wooding “gave almost identical accounts of what happened,” a pattern he described as uncommon. 

He said Brower initially told police Rundstrom-Wooding “could not have killed” Jacelyn, and instead blamed his children, who authorities said were home at the time of Jacelyn’s death, and later admitted that Rundstrom-Wooding was in her room the night she died.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.