Mike Argento, York Daily Record
It began with a birthday celebration.
Robert Vicosa invited his estranged wife to his home to celebrate her birthday with him and their two daughters, 7-year-old Giana and 6-year-old Aaminah. Vicosa’s girlfriend, a former colleague with the Baltimore County Police Department named Tia Bynum, was also there.
They had cake and put the girls to bed.
That’s when the horror began — a horror that ended in a ditch off a rural highway near Hagerstown, Maryland, where Vicosa, Bynum and the two girls were found dead in a stolen car in an apparent murder-suicide, according to the police
Lost: A marriage and a job
Robert Herman Brown III – he later changed his last name to Vicosa in 2015 for some unknown reason – and his wife wed on Jan. 9, 2014. Giana was born in 2014 and Aaminah came along the following year.
Sometime before Aug. 23, 2021, the couple separated. On that date, Vicosa’s estranged wife filed a custody complaint against him, a complaint that ended with an Oct. 21 court order outlining the terms of the couple’s shared custody of the girls.
It was also in August that Vicosa, once a sergeant with the Baltimore County Police Department, lost his job. He had a history of misconduct, Baltimore County police reported, having been found guilty in an administrative proceeding last year of being sexually inappropriate with women under his charge, watching inappropriate videos in their presence and directing sexual remarks to female subordinates. A police trial board demoted him two ranks to officer and stripped him of 45 days of leave.
This year, he faced administrative charges of insubordination, sleeping on the job and refusing to perform his duties. In August, after nearly 20 years with the department, the 41-year-old cop was fired.
A birthday party
The girls were at Vicosa’s home on Pleader Lane in a suburban-style development in Windsor Township, York County, when he extended the invitation to his estranged wife to celebrate her birthday Friday.
After the girls went to bed, Vicosa’s estranged wife prepared to leave, heading back to her mother’s home in York, where she was living. Vicosa stopped her, saying he had a present for her and asked her to stay in the kitchen while we went to fetch it. She told her husband that she didn’t expect him to get her a gift. He said, “I got you a bracelet,” emphasizing the word “bracelet,” she told police later.
Vicosa and Bynum, according to a criminal complaint filed later, grabbed his estranged wife’s arms and Vicosa held a pistol to her head. “I began to scream,” she wrote in a protection from abuse order later, “and he told me to shut the (bleep) up before he (bleeping) kills me.”
They forced her to the basement, where they gagged her, bound her wrists with zip-ties and her ankles with a black rope and placed her face-down on a massage table.
“He asked me if anyone was expecting me,” she wrote, “and told me if I lied, he would kill me, our daughters, and then himself. He stated that he would rather us all dead (than) to live apart.”
He told her if the police came to the house, he would “kill everyone.”
At some point, she told police later, Vicosa forced her to smoke marijuana and snort a crushed-up OxyContin. He then forced her to handle a handgun, ammunition and a magazine, and touch several baggies containing drugs. Bynum – who had worked with the county police department’s criminal investigation bureau, tasked with investigating serious crimes – held a plastic bag while Vicosa, wearing gloves, placed the items inside, as if collecting evidence.
After talking for a few hours, Vicosa’s wife wrote in the PFA application, “he took off the ropes and instructed me to go upstairs. He informed me I would have to have sex with him while it is recorded. He took me up to the master bedroom and told me I had no choice.”
The next day, he told her she had to do it again. “I shook my head no and he stated that I must not understand the situation,” she wrote.
He then sexually assaulted her again.
She asked a Target employee to call the police
On Saturday, Vicosa’s estranged wife told him she had to call her brother to let him know she was OK. Her brother, she told him, was worried about her. She had previously told her mother that she feared Vicosa.
On Sunday, she convinced Vicosa that she wanted to stay and persuaded him to let her go home to get some clothes and her computer. She left and went to her mother’s house.
She told her mother that Vicosa and Bynum were trying to kill her. She told her mother to take her nephews and go someplace public, where they would be safe. She believed Vicosa was watching them. Her mother told police later she “had never seen (her daughter) so scared.”
Her mother and nephews went to a family member’s home.
Vicosa’s estranged wife drove to Target in East York. Leaving her cell phone in the car – she feared that Vicosa was tracking her phone – she entered the store and asked a store employee to call the police.
York Area Regional Police took her report and begin to investigate.
She applied for, and received, an emergency protection from abuse order Sunday night. Court records indicate that it was not served on Vicosa.
She answered the door with a pistol on her hip
On Monday morning, police obtained a search warrant for Vicosa’s home, serving it at 3:28 that afternoon. At the same time, police intended to serve Vicosa with a temporary protection from abuse order.
They found evidence of drug use. The house was in disarray. A back window was shattered.
There was no sign of Vicosa or his daughters.
Police began looking for Vicosa, believing that he was driving a black 2015 Acura TL registered to Bynum’s sister.
Police pinged his phone and traced it to Bynum’s home in the 200 block of Azalea Drive, south of Windsor, about a 10-minute drive from Vicosa’s house.
When police went to Bynum’s house, she answered the door with a pistol holstered on her hip. She allowed officers to look through her house for Vicosa and the girls, according to a criminal complaint filed against Bynum later.
Bynum agreed to speak to police. She said she had been at Vicosa’s home Friday, but denied going into the basement. She did say that she, Vicosa and his estranged wife did go to the bedroom at one point, but she told them she left the room, leaving Vicosa and his wife alone.
On Tuesday, Bynum was suspended from the Baltimore County Police Department.
On Wednesday, police filed false imprisonment charges against her.
By then, she, Vicosa and the girls were gone.
A stolen Jetta
Barbara Humer was heading out for a walk on Tuesday when she saw a black Acura in the creek in front of her home on Husson Road in Windsor Township home.
Just then, she told police, she heard a voice to her right, and when she turned she saw a man wearing a towel around his waist coming out of a camper parked in her driveway. He aimed a gun at her face. The man had two young girls with him.
He forced Humer back into her house where he asked for her car keys and cell phone. The man held her at gunpoint for several hours while making phone calls, police reported. The man told Humer that he was a former police officer and that his wife was trying to take his children away from him.
The man then left in Humer’s 2014 Volkswagen Jetta with the girls.
The man was identified as Robert Vicosa.
The stolen Volkswagen was found later Tuesday not far away in Red Lion. Inside, police found a backpack, a vial of prescription medication with Vicosa’s name on the label and Humer’s cell phone. The call record on the phone showed a number of calls between Vicosa and Bynum.
Bynum called police and told them that she had been contacted by Vicosa, who asked her to come to Red Lion and pick him up.
Police pinged his cell phone again, and it indicated that the phone was at Bynum’s house.
When police arrived, according to a criminal complaint, neither Vicosa nor Bynum and his daughters were there. Bynum’s car, a 2013 black Lexus GS350, was gone.
Police called in air support to search the area.
There was no sign of Vicosa, Bynum or the girls.
A carjacking in Cockeysville
On Wednesday, police issued pleas for Vicosa to return his daughters.
“They do not need to be involved in this,” York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon said at a news conference. “We want to ensure the two girls, your girls, are safe.”
The department’s public information officer, Lt. Ken Shollenberger, said, “Sir you are – at one time, you were a police officer. In your heart, you know what you’re doing is not right. You are a father. You are a father to these two young ladies. We’re asking with you, we’re pleading with you, take them anywhere that you can. Drop them off at a Sheetz, at a Rutters, any convenience store. Take them anywhere where there’s a responsible adult where they can go in, call 911 and get help.”
Vicosa’s former boss, Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, joined in pleading Vicosa to return his daughters. “Please, get these two innocent and precious children to a safe location,” she said. “We know that you are tired. We want to work with you on a safe and peaceful resolution.”
On Wednesday, in Cockeysville, north of Baltimore, Vicosa and Bynum carjacked a man and forced him at gunpoint to drive them about Baltimore for several hours before letting him go unharmed.
A pursuit. A crash. A gruesome discovery.
The manhunt continued.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Pennsylvania State Police alerted Maryland authorities that they had spotted a car matching the description of the suspects’ car. State police were pursuing the gray Ford Edge south in Franklin County, toward the Maryland state line.
Not long after after crossing into Maryland, the Ford veered off Maryland Route 418, known as Ringgold Pike, struck a culvert and came to a stop in a grassy field. The car, police reported, ran off the road, narrowly missing on-coming traffic, less than 30 seconds after Pennsylvania State Police in pursuit activated their lights and sirens. Police believe that was the moment when Vicosa, in the back seat, shot Bynum.
Seconds after the car ran off the road, Maryland State Police arrived and summoned the department’s SWAT team, called the Special Tactical Assault Team Element, and a crisis negotiation team.
Police could not see inside the car, its windows darkly tinted and fogged. Negotiators made several requests for the occupants of the car to step out.
There was no response.
Police used two 40mm sponge rounds to shatter the front passenger-side window.
Immediately, they saw Bynum in the driver’s seat. She had been shot. She was dead. She was 35.
Vicosa and one of the girls was also dead, both shot. The other girl was flown to Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown, where she was pronounced dead.
An assault rifle, a Glock semi-automatic and two other 9mm handguns were found in the car, police reported.
Maryland State Police believe Vicosa shot Bynum and his daughters.
Maryland State Police Maj. Scott Keyser told reporters Thursday night, “We would have hoped for a better outcome.”
On Friday, Baltimore County Police Chief Hyatt tweeted, “The tragedy that occurred yesterday was beyond horrific. This was a selfish and senseless act of violence that has shaken us to our very core.”