Autopsy finds 91-year-old Easton man died by '100% homicide,' blunt force

Richard Brunkhorst’s home on Tred Avon Avenue in Easton. Brunkhorst was murdered by a suspected burglar on Feb. 9.

EASTON — The Easton man implicated in the murder-burglary that left his 91-year-old neighbor dead in February has an alleged history of fraud, theft and selling stolen items, according to court documents.

Charles Smullen, 46, is currently facing three pending criminal cases in Talbot County, including two that allege he used fraudulent checks to buy expensive tools at Easton Hardware more than once during the past year.

The third case, which charges him with seven felonies, alleges Smullen killed Richard Brunkhorst, 91, and burglarized his home two months ago in Easton.

Easton Police officers describe Smullen in charging documents obtained by The Star Democrat as someone who has a “history of check fraud.”

Smullen is accused of using bad checks to buy cumulatively about $800 worth of tools from the local shop in July 2020 and January 2021. He also has been in and out of jail in Dorchester County for theft convictions between 1993 and 2020, according to court records. None appears to have involved violence.

Police said a woman who identified herself as Smullen’s roommate told detectives who came to her house two days after Brunkhorst’s murder that she has known Smullen to “buy tools with fraudulent checks and sell the tools to people on the street for cash.”

Smullen’s roommate’s characterization of him aligns with accusations that he stole antique weapons from Brunkhorst’s home in February to sell them.

Police said Smullen was trying to sell the stolen weapons in Easton on the night of Brunkhorst’s murder and managed to sell two black powder rifles to an individual. Police declined to disclose how much money Smullen received for the alleged sale, and asked that the buyer’s identity be withheld from this article.

Police have not said publicly whether Brunkhorst knew Smullen, but have said that Smullen indicated in a statement to police that he knew Brunkhorst.

Kisha Petticolas, an attorney for Smullen, has pointed out that there was no sign of forced entry into Brunkhorst’s home nor signs of a struggle near the home’s entrances when police found Brunkhorst dead on Feb. 9.

Petticolas did not confirm or deny Smullen’s alleged presence in Brunkhorst’s home on the day of his murder, though she said it’s “unclear if this was a fight between two people who knew each other and unfortunately death occurred, or whether this was a planned killing.”

Smullen’s attorney confirmed that Smullen has been unemployed and that he has a wife and four children. Two of his children are younger than 18 and one of them is disabled, according to Petticolas.

Smullen is still being held without bond and is expected to appear for trial in two theft cases against him in Talbot County District Court on May 10 and 11, court records show. He faces four counts of theft, two counts of issuing a bad check, and one count of issuing a false document.

The murder case against him in connection with Brunkhorst’s death was upheld in March and forwarded to Talbot County Circuit Court.

He is charged with first-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, first-degree burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and other related charges. A status conference in that case is scheduled for June 4.

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