Lewiston Sun Journal Explores AA Anonymity

Secrets kept, secrets shared — AA member’s murder revelation raises confidentiality question

LEWISTON — An Alcoholics Anonymous member’s story began with the arrival of a Lewiston police officer.

A uniformed cop trying to find somebody — apparently a suspect in a crime — marched into the middle of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told the group who he was looking for and asked if they’d seen him.

“This is an anonymous program,” the member told him. “No one’s going to tell you if he’s here or not.” A moment later, the frustrated officer walked out, and the meeting resumed.

The suspect had been there the whole time, seated in the front row.

“It was his choice to identify himself or not,” the member said. And each person attending the meeting chose silence rather than break with AA’s 76-year history.

People who attend are anonymous. And what’s said among its members is secret.

“It’s commonly accepted that you don’t go blabbing around what you’ve heard,” said another longtime member.

Yet, some secrets are bigger than others.

On July 11, an Alcoholics Anonymous member and sponsor, Floyd Nadeau of Lewiston, met with police.

He told police that his sponsee, Bob Ryder, 20, of Lewiston, told him he had killed a woman and buried her body in the basement of his 417 Main St. home, according to a police affidavit.

Within hours of Nadeau’s report, police found the body of 38-year-old Danita Brown. Ryder was later charged with murder.

Nadeau had known about the death for two weeks, according to court records. But he held onto the information, reluctant to come forward because of his belief in AA’s confidentiality. He finally went to police after talking with his own sponsor.

I’ve never seen the subject explored in the mainstream, so I’m not going to be too disappointed that the reporter didn’t connect all the dots. AnnaZed sent the article to me, and she observed some odd things, like:

Common practice and tradition, rather than law, keep their secrets, said a member who serves as AA’s public information chairwoman for Maine and New Brunswick.

“All we can do is ask,” said the woman, who did not want her name used. “Sponsors are asked ethically, by our traditions, not to divulge anything about a sponsee.”

Traditions don’t include criminal behavior, though.

“We warn newcomers, ‘If you divulge a criminal act, you’re putting yourself and everyone else in the room in jeopardy,’” she said. Most sponsors would go to police.

“By law, we would have to react,” she said.

Does anyone know what a “Public Information Chairperson” is? And has anyone ever heard that warning to newcomers?

Read the whole thing.



  • These people are nuts. AA is NOT ABOVE THE LAW!


  • SoberPJ

    Right.. above the law. Outside of decent normal society. The murderer was sitting right there and no one had the guts to do the right thing before he killed somebody else. Who ARE these people? How do drunks and former drunks get such special treatment. The cop should have checked everybodies ID right then and there. It is a public gathering place and the murderer was being protected by nebulous clubhouse rules. A murderer in the front row for christ sakes ! It has noting to do with religious confession and the author did a total hack job of the subject. Where is the flippin outrage for this?

    Sorry cops, you are going to have to find your murderer some other way – even though he is sitting right here – because we won’t tell you. We refuse to co-operate. THAT is obstruction of justice and it should trump any book club rule made up by a lunatic.

  • AndyM

    As far as I’m concerned the answer to your question is no, Ftg. I’ve never heard anybody in aa suggest that there has ever been any policy or even accepted and widely known guidlines regarding confession of criminal acts, not in in many years (about fifteen) of attending meetings (literally thousands) and not in even more years of private conversations with members and ex-members.

  • Mr Tobytwirl

    Absolutely. It’s really shocking that law enforcement has allowed itself to be brainwashed into accepting this bullshit.

  • MA

    Rigorous Honesty

  • MikeAugustine

    So we’re kinda religious, so we get a pass. But wait, we’re kinda therapeutic so we get a pass. No wait, we’re a simple program based on the 12x12x12 so we get a pass.

    And the murderer got to stay through the lord’s prayer. The age of miracles is still with us I suppose.

  • SoberPJ

    The next headline should read –

    ” Is AA above the Law? If so, who gave them that right? ”

    Also, do all the other 12 Step programs share this imaginary right? If a murderer is in OA do they have the same protection? How does that compare to Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers?

    There is normal society playing by the rules and then there is AA playing by their very own, made up rules. And they made those rules and self-ordained those rights simply because they drank too much. Now THAT’S a special class !

  • It might be nice to have a link to all of the Research done on the Bob Ryder, Danita Brown murder case. It would appear that Bob Ryder was in Rehab at the Becket House in Litchfield and Belgrade for an unknown problem. He was released and got a job at the Twelve Hour Club an Alcoholics Anonymous Club for 7 months at Lewiston in Androscoggin county. He went with his sponsor Floyd Nadeau to this club. Ryder’s AA Sponsor was informed of the death and actually viewed the body two weeks before he went to the police with the murder and Nadeaus’ Sponsor (who appears to be someone named Fanjoy) talked him into it. This is at least two other people who knew about the murder of Danita Brown that were concealing this fact from the police because of the AA confidentiality agreement.

    Full link to all of the publicly known information on this case:


  • Rick

    “Does anyone know what a “Public Information Chairperson” is? And has anyone ever heard that warning to newcomers?”

    I think the GSO does maintain a “public information” committee, but I have no idea how they operate as far as having a “chairperson”. I know that Intergroups also have public information committees. I attended meetings for twelve years and never heard any warnings.

    The closest thing I ever saw to a “warning” might have been those cards that said something like, “Who you see and what you hear here, stays here”.

  • Mr Tobytwirl

    I really must stop morphing back to AndyM. I thought I’d deleted that name and email address but it keeps popping back up regardless

  • Mr Tobytwirl

    The 12 by 12 is aptly named. It and the…DUH!…big book are the two planks which steppers are as thick as. Not sure if the saying “thick as two short planks” is familiar to Americans, but it’s acommon saying here.

  • speedy0314

    “We warn newcomers, ‘If you divulge a criminal act, you’re putting yourself and everyone else in the room in jeopardy,’” she said.

    hmmm … exactly WHEN is that warning given? i sure as hell never heard nor was ever advised to make it during my tenure. our intrepid reporter leaves this hanging softball of a question conspicuously left un-asked — especially odd considering the title of the article (“AA Members Murder Confession raises CONFIDENTIALITY QUESTION” [caps your’s truly]).

    well, some inquiring press is better than no inquiring press i guess.

    good catch,


  • By Law they are not allowed to sit there and lie. The cop should have said out loud “you are all obstructing justice and I will arrest you all if you do not speak up when asked.
    Absolutely Insane.

    I think the police need our help here. The AA mobsters have taken over this town Truly this is what is going on in AA now.
    ANd top it off with cult bullys that like of what “reader described on Why I left AA thread we can see a culture/ not a program that I am increasingly finding it harder and harder to find words to describe all of this!!! UGHHHH!

  • Sober pj – Right on! ditto from me.

    JRH- last year when I was still a General Service Rep I had to go to a lot of those service meetings. OMG were they hideous. Anyway, There was a great deal of talk about the passing of a new law by the federal government that said:

    An AA member had to divulge when something criminal happened between an inmate and another prisoner to an AA “sponsor” or person.

    So this law made it clear that AA’s do not have the same confidentiality as Priests & therapists have.
    There was alot of explaining here done to members who would say such things as ” wait we’re special right and what if someone tells you they killed someone” etc. Those who really knew the NEW law explained that it was put into place to protect prisoners from harm ….actually rape going on in the prisons.

    Imagine that, prisoners get protection for rape in prison but average citizens are told by NY General Service Office it’s a local issue, or call the police. Down the AA food chain they say “oh that happens’ everywhere. ” NYGSO doesn’t even say. OMG I’m sorry that happened! That’s terrible! Why? Because they are frozen unfeeling clones, emotionless and shutdown. They have been sitting listening to these horror stories for decades and think they are oh so special. But instead what they have become are zombies.

    Oh yes, we know there are some nice people in AA… some bloggers here were once in AA and we are very in touch with our feelings. But what I mean is for the general population.
    Wow …that sounds like prison terminology.

    Yea Right AA is a sorta “special” prison …isn’t it.

  • AnnaZed

    @Sober PJ, just for clarity; the anecdote at the beginning of the story is not about the Bob Ryan/Danita Brown murder, it’s just an anecdote about somebody in AA.

    Interesting though isn’t it ~ the complete lack of outrage on the writer’s part, his acceptance of the deflecting prevarications of the members, his obvious stupidity about attending a meeting (it seems that he went to at least one) and not realizing that the members tailored their responses to him, and most glaringly his complete inability to connect the dots.

    In his community there is a group that meets regularly under cover of anonymity. Criminals of all types and people with anti-social mental disorders are mandated to attend these meetings (even felons on probation otherwise prohibited from fraternizing with one another) by government entities like courts and probation departments. These attendees assert their absolute right to conceal facts about crimes, harbor criminals and withhold evidence of crime from the same authorities that sent them to AA as a matter of course. Why does he not see what is wrong with this picture?

  • AnnaZed

    @massiveattack ~ AA is really just an annex of the prison system actually. I think that some sort of group therapy for ex-prisoners should maybe exist ~ with you know counselors and qualified people in charge of it and armed guards.

    What is this new law that you are referring to (that specifically cites AA?)? Is this State Law, Federal Law, AA Law? ~ what? I haven’t heard of this. Have you got a link?

  • Wanting Accountablity

    I was never warned and actually they protect the criminals. But you already knew about that.

  • wa, is there a link to this blog about your specific experience with aa? i mean, i realize your was a bad one, like everyone else’s. however, i never heard your “why i left” story. i am interested…

  • Wanting Accountablity

    I asked them to remove it from here. It is on oranges site though under the letters. I just was freaked out with the trolls that come here. Orange can better monitor the ppl in the letters section.
    Not putting down this blog in any way I just felt uncomfortable, ya know. 🙂

  • Wanting Accountablity

    Massive-I feel for a lot of prisoners. They usually are just the poor and uneducated. White collar crime is just as bad and usually effects more ppl. They just have the cash to get out of it. Sorry need to keep political talk off here.

  • Well this same behavior happens in Holly Hill Fl and Daytona Beach Fl AA/NA with withholding information from the police when a crime occurs. But the Holly Hill PD
    enable these groups by helping NA/AA keep them anonymous.They actually re victimize
    the victims by blaming the innocent citizens when AA/NA commit crimes!

  • There are approximately 20 to 25 homicides that occur, on average, every year in Maine. While the clearance rate on these cases is over 90 percent, some remain unsolved. “This page lists a 40 year accumulation of victim names whose cases remain open with a brief synopsis. We continue to work on these cases and as always ask for your help. Please look at the case profiles below. If you have any information that could help bring closure please contact us. Thank you.”


  • raysny

    My wife was born in Lewiston. I was there in 2004 or ’05. I didn’t notice the dark underbelly, but I was there in the summer.

    Any place where there are harsh winters and it gets dark by 4pm is going to have drinkers.

  • Interesting…… Lewiston man charged with attempted murder By Staff report Oct 13, 2010. The story doesn’t mention he went to AA, but the signs are there:

    “An Androscoggin County grand jury indicted Mark McLaughlin, 51, of 18 Blake St. on a count of attempted murder.”


    “n a sworn police affidavit, Lewiston Detective Lee Jones wrote that a police officer went to the apartment on Sept. 12 after police got several 911 calls. A worker at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston also called to report a woman who approached another woman near the hospital saying she’d been stabbed.”


    The most interesting comment is By meowski, unverified — Wed, 10/13/2010 – 20:16 (may be a mental health worker who did not want to be identified):

    “The reason I mentioned the mental health stuff, is because too many people are running around Lewiston/Auburn who go off their meds, and turn into nut cases. I hate to sound demeaning, but this is a serious issue. If you havent worked around people like that, than U may NOT Understand where I am coming from. But, quite frankly it scares me, and for the safety of me & my child, when we are around questionable people when unaavoidable…. so…”

    Read the whole thing: http://www.sunjournal.com/city/story/924543

  • Sally

    “This is an anonymous program,” the member told him. “No one’s going to tell you if he’s here or not.” A moment later, the frustrated officer walked out, and the meeting resumed.”

    This old timer spoke up and made a decision for everyone in the room.

  • Lucy

    FTG –
    Some large groups elect a “Public Information Chairperson” to handle reporters and to set up speaking engagements at high schools and treatment centers which are not affiliated with AA. GSO publishes a pamphlet (which I think is called “AA and the Community” and there are sections in the old “AA Service Manual”) which tell the Chairperson how to handle situations like the two you mentioned. Usually, the person who is “elected” to the Chairperson job is retired and has clamored for the position because he or she is afraid one of the younger people will “break a Tradition.”

    I was called a “traitor” for calling an ambulance on a guy who had gone into seizures, and the police on two oldtimers who were in heavy fisticuffs over curtain and a woman so drunk she had falled down twice but was trying to drive. I would think that the sponsor who was smart enough to call the police will face the same ostracism.

    A few years ago, a man confessed to murder in front of his AA group. A member went to the police and he was prosecuted. During the trial, the prosecution forced AA group members from that group to testify against him, and he went to jail.

    In meetings my area of the world, certain old timers used the story as an object lesson about using discretion when one chose to say in a meeting because some people weren’t trustworthy enough to “let it stay there.” When others objected to the “rigorous honesty” of a man who had admitted to killing in AA, and yet plead innocent in court, the old timers babbled on senselessly about all drinkers being equal.

    I will admit that while I was a sponsor I heard some horrendous things. I did what I could (called CPS three times) but I will also say that it was sometimes hard to tell whether what I was being told was the truth or a lie. I did call police on a 60ish woman who talked about smothering her mother with Alzheimers. I was told that there was no way to investigate the story.

    I am glad that the police in this story were more aggressive.

  • It looks like some other people have picked this up;

    Bob Ryder Confesses to AA Sponsor That He Killed Danita Brown, But Neither Call Police By Pete Kotz in homicide, unsolved Monday, July 18, 2011,

    “20-year-old Bob Ryder came to his AA sponsor with a chilling tale. He told Floyd Nadeau that he’d been partying with a hooker at his home in Lewiston, Maine. Then she began whining with her tales of woe. He also caught Danita Brown going through his wallet.”


    “But here’s where the plot thickens. It would take Nadeau almost two weeks to tell the cops of the confession. He claims he was worried about violating Alcoholics Anonymous’ teachings on confidentiality — as if the organization thought it was a really good idea to cover up a murder. ”


  • causeandeffect

    JR, thanks for keeping us updated on this crime. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, considering the sponsor’s involvement. A case like this could serve to change public perception, at least locally, especially when steppers are leaving comments that defend the sponsor for not reporting to the police.

  • jhtepper

    It irritates me to no end when AAers are ignorant of the principles of their own organization. Tradition 11 is a safeguard for AA as a whole. Don’t say you are a member of AA at the level of press, radio, films, and now, at the level of mass electronic social media because if you fail it makes AA look bad. Hilariously, most AAers believe that anonymity adheres to individual AA members (you know, “my name is Bill W. and I’m an alcoholic”) and take it to absurd lengths. You could literally spend 10 years sitting next to someone and never know their last name! It’s some kind of bleed over from NA where they make that ridiculous announcement at the beginning of meetings that they are not under any surveillance at any time and presence at the meeting is anonymous. As I stated, that is not what the tradition is about and it is certainly not about some quasi-religious sanctuary.

    And oh yeah, wasn’t W.G. Wilson big on cooperating with law enforcement and the judiciary? AA is a funny place. Principles are only honored in the breach.

  • AnnaZed

    This post is interesting from the comments on this site http://www.truecrimereport.com/2011/07/bob_ryder_confesses_to_aa_spon.php:

    Just Me 6 days ago
    I really hate to admit this but Floyd Nadeau is my ex husband. He has always been a voilent man(having had been with him 10 LONG years I know this for a fact). After even having a protection order from abuse in effect, he called the police department of the town I lived in and told them he was on the way to kill his wife and children. My sons and I were than moved into a safe house while officers staked out the apartment. He never did show up but the threat was enough. He continually called, stalked and threatned me, after the custody hearing and the divorce proceedings. I finally had enough of it, I reaalized he would never leave me alone until I moved out of the state of Maine.
    When my sister called me and told me this story I immediately thought Floyd had more to do with this poor woman’s end than what has been uncovered.
    I sincerely hope that he gets…with holding information, or association after the fact at the very least, because he deserves it.
    To this woman’s family, I am so very sorry for your loss. No matter what her personal story is, NO ONE deserves to die because of it.
    I am of course not going to sign this using my real name because I am still scared of the son of a bitch.

    I have not been impressed by Floyd Nadeau’s account from the first time that read it. I think that Mr. Nadeau had a part in the assault and murder of Ms. Brown and that he simply dreamed up this AA bullshit to get some distance on it. I hope that the local police are taking his story apart.

  • JR-on the AA keeping secrets article,where did you find the info that the sponsor saw the body and told him to use baking soda ?