STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) –
Back in January 2006, Statesboro Police arrested Connie Brower and her husband, Robert Eugene Brower, after an intense 24-hour period where the couple held hostages and claimed to have a bomb and threatened to detonate it on the Monday of the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.
In an exclusive interview, Mary-Ann Yalanis, Connie’s sister, told WTOC they have lived through the aftermath ever since. Yalanis still remembers the shock of seeing her sister and brother-in-law on national news during the standoff. She added: “Our mother had died the year before. My family all agreed it was a good thing she wasn’t here to see this.” She described her brother-in-law, Robert Eugene Brower (also known as Robbie), as an angry man who held grudges against former defense attorney Mike Hostilo and several other people. Yalanis said that Connie went to Hostilo’s law office that day with Robbie to keep him from getting killed.
“She did not want to stay in the hotel room and watch TV and see her husband get killed,” Yalanis noted. After the Connie and Robbie surrendered Hostilo, the couple faced trial. Robbie now serves an 85-year sentence and Connie, 65 years. Yalanis relocated to Statesboro from Connecticut to visit her sister in prison as often as possible. She doesn’t make excuses for Connie’s part in the crime, but neither does Connie.
“I asked her, what were you thinking? What did you think was going to happen? And she said I wasn’t thinking.” Yalantis explained. In prison, Connie underwent a religious conversion, studies theology and shares her cautionary tale. “She tells others ‘think about not only what you’re going to do to yourself but to your family’ and what it could bring for years to come” she added. Connie composed her thoughts and shared them through a prison ministry volunteer counselor:
“OW!!! I’m bleeding. WOW! I am sitting here in my cell, looking at the blood coming from my finger that I cut with a piece of paper—-a paper cut. IMAGINE that, I’m a prisoner …and I BLEED! I remember when I was in the free world…I thought everyone behind bars was SUPPOSED to be there. That they are just an anonymous body. That they didn’t deserve anything because they were really bad and that they didn’t matter….’Good, they are off the streets.’ I mean, they ARE criminals, right?! They don’t hurt, they don’t have feelings, and I never thought of them bleeding!
Well, about ten years ago, I learned something totally different. People behind bars DO bleed; they DO have feelings and they DO hurt! And that people behind bars are not just anonymous bodies. In this Georgia State Prison, there are people who have done terrible things, and many who didn’t! Some are here for drugs, others for murder, some in the wrong-place-at the-wrong-time situations, and others for aggravated assault. Yet, there are people who were party to the crime, and believe it or not, there are people in here who are totally innocent! Who would have thunk?!
I cannot say, really, that I am glad I am in here, away from my family and loved ones, BUT, I CAN say that being here has opened my eyes to a lot of things. One of those things is that there was nothing that I could have done to make things better in the episode, like I thought I could. In 1999 my late-husband committed suicide in the same room, same bed, that I was in, the day after Thanksgiving. The light was off. He was mad. I heard the gun go off and I jumped up out of bed to turn the light on. He was lying on the bed—helpless and jerkily shaking. It was very devastating and heart wrenching. I tried so hard to help him through all his suicide attempts from the day he was diagnosed as being bipolar in 1994. This time I couldn’t help, no matter how hard I tried.
In 2006 when my second husband who was also bipolar decided he couldn’t take missing his daughter anymore and said he wanted to get justice from the lawyer who misrepresented him in court a decade or so earlier. He had written the President of the U.S. and others but to no avail. He then decided to act upon it himself. So, when he said he was going to get justice from his lawyer, and if he didn’t, he was going to commit suicide-by-cop. Suddenly I couldn’t see anything else, but to be there with him so he didn’t die, and that no one else got hurt. I thought I could help! I certainly couldn’t sit in front of the television—watching to see if my husband got shot. I did not want to lose another husband.
I really did try to help Mr. Hostilo. He stated that he was diabetic and took pills twice a day. I tried to help by getting him his pills. There WERE brought to the scene, but they would not give them to him. So again, I felt very uneasy. There was nothing I could do for this man.
One of my sisters asked me, ‘Connie, what did you think was going to happen? WHAT did you expect?’ I told her that I DIDN’T think! I could’ see beyond making sure I didn’t bury another husband— and concerned to see that no one else got hurt.
I can not begin to explain how remorseful I am of what the women in the office must have felt those fifteen or twenty minutes that they were in before being released. I know they were scared because I was scared. I would have never even thought about doing anything like that before in my whole life! But I was just caught in this ‘thing’. I pray for these women!
I know most people think that people, when incarcerated get ‘jailhouse religion’. And I can’t say that there are totally wrong. I am not religious, nor do I claim to be. What I AM is a new creation in Christ. I thank God for allowing me to see what a grip codependency had on me and how the trauma I experienced with my first husband affected me with my second. I allowed God to change me and mold me.
Here I am in prison, a whole new world. I feel very blessed to have met some of the people in here. I am not sure if you have ever heard that God blesses people THROUGH people, but I believe that wholeheartedly. I’ve learned that there are wonderful women in here and also that there are volunteers who pray to come in and help us!
I joined a group called KAIROS (meaning God’s time) and my eyes were again opened. The very first time I received a hug from a KAIROS volunteer, who not only gave of her time but of her heart. I broke down and cried because everything is hard here in prison, from the seats, to the beds, to the guards. So when you get some softness (in any form), it penetrates the shields we are forced to put up to guard our own hearts.
I thank God that I am able to see from an open heart, which I cannot help but open my eyes.
Jesus said, “In as much as ye have done it unto of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matt. 25:40 from Matthew 25: 35-39:
Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, take in a stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and got unto the prisoner.
HOW BLIND I WAS!”
WTOC spoke with Hostilo by phone regarding the anniversary of the case. He said he holds no animosity toward either of the Browers. He said the harrowing event had helped change his outlook on many things and he believes he’s a better person for surviving it.