Murder of Brooke Wilberger

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Brooke Wilberger
Brooke Wilberger.jpg
Born Brooke Carol Wilberger
February 20, 1985
Fresno, California, U.S.
Died May 25, 2004(2004-05-25) (aged 19)
Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.
Nationality American
Known for Missing person and murder victim
Parent(s) Greg and Cammy Wilberger

Brooke Carol Wilberger (February 20, 1985 – May 25, 2004) was an American student from the state of Oregon who was abducted and later murdered. Her disappearance was covered by the national media; her murder investigation was one of the most publicized in Oregon's history.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Wilberger was born in Fresno, California, on February 20, 1985 to Greg and Cammy Wilberger. She had three sisters and two brothers.[3] Described as a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wilberger was a graduate of Elmira High School near Eugene, Oregon.[4] She had just completed her freshman year at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, at the time of her abduction.[4][5] During that time, her boyfriend, Justin Blake, was serving as a Mormon missionary in Venezuela.[6]

Disappearance[edit]

At the time of her disappearance Wilberger was on summer vacation, visiting and working for one of her sisters in Corvallis, Oregon.[3] On the morning May 24, 2004, Wilberger was seen cleaning lamp posts in the parking lot of the Oak Park Apartments, which her sister and brother-in-law managed, on the edge of the Oregon State University campus.[7][8]

Investigation[edit]

Initial efforts[edit]

A billboard in Salem requesting information on Brooke Wilberger.

When Wilberger disappeared, the police began investigating immediately – against normal procedure. Lt. Ron Noble of the Corvallis Police Department said, "Normally, we would wait. Because adults can come and go as they please, and we would normally wait to see if she showed up maybe the next day." However, in this case, police officials agreed with the family that Wilberger was not the type of girl to disappear on her own.[6] The Wilbergers' church organized a search by citizens of Corvallis.[6]

The investigation initially centered on Sung Koo Kim, who was named as "person of interest" in the disappearance. Kim was later dropped as a suspect, but received an 11-year prison sentence for multiple counts of burglary and theft of women's personal property in Yamhill County, Oregon, crimes uncovered while he was being investigated for the Wilberger disappearance.[9] He was released in December 2012 after serving about 7 years.

Joel Patrick Courtney[edit]

On November 30, 2004, a University of New Mexico student was beaten and raped, before escaping and identifying Joel Patrick Courtney as her attacker. On September 12, 2007, Courtney pleaded guilty to the beating and rape of the 22-year-old University of New Mexico foreign exchange student. Courtney's plea agreement called for a prison sentence of up to 18 years, plus five to 20 years on parole.[10]

Police eventually linked Courtney, a native of Beaverton, Oregon, to the disappearance of Wilberger and in August 2005 he was charged on 19 counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse, rape and sodomy.[11] Court documents released in 2008 revealed details showing that Courtney was in Corvallis when Wilberger disappeared and that the green van he was driving was spotted by several people, including an OSU employee who identified him from a photo lineup.[12] Officials said that Wilberger's DNA was found inside the van, along with her hair.[13]

Courtney was extradited to Benton County, Oregon on April 8, 2008.[14] He was scheduled for his first appearance on April 9, 2008, at the Benton County Courthouse,[15] facing 14 counts including aggravated murder, two counts of kidnapping and single counts of rape, sodomy and sexual abuse in connection with Wilberger's disappearance. Charges were filed despite the absence of the body of the alleged victim at the time; the prosecutor in the case announced that he would seek the death penalty.[16] The FBI had briefly considered Courtney a suspect in two to three disappearances under investigation but have since eliminated him as a suspect.[17]

It was revealed through court deposition and Courtney's confession that he had abducted Wilberger from the parking lot where she had been cleaning lamp posts on the morning of May 24, 2004. He then drove her into the woods outside of town. He returned to town to buy food while he still had Wilberger bound in his van. According to Courtney, she was kept alive throughout the night before he raped her the next morning. He then bludgeoned her to death when she tried to fight off the rape.[1]

Conviction[edit]

Courtney's attorneys worked towards a trial, as well as towards a speedier resolution. The trial was set for February 1, 2010.[18] He was expected to be charged in connection with the unrelated kidnapping, attempted sexual assault, attempted rape, attempted sodomy and attempted murder of two Oregon State University students, the same day Wilberger went missing.[14]

On September 21, 2009, Joel Patrick Courtney pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, the only crime subject to capital punishment in Oregon, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[19] The deal spared Courtney from the death penalty, in exchange for providing information about the location of Wilberger's body.[1][20] In addition, the deal also called for Courtney to be imprisoned in his home state, New Mexico, instead of Oregon where the crime was committed.

The Benton County District Attorney announced the recovery of Wilberger's body (without specifics or its location) in a press conference the day of Courtney's confession.[21] It was later revealed that her remains had been concealed in the woods on an abandoned logging road between Blodget and Wren,[22] located in the Oregon Coast Range.[2][23]

Media coverage[edit]

The Wilberger case was covered several times on the Fox Channel television program "America's Most Wanted".[24] [25]

The CBS Television talk show series "The Montel Williams Show", episode Vanished..Without a Trace interviewed three of Wilberger's siblings, Shannon, Spencer and Jessica who miss their sister, aired November 29, 2004.[26] [27]

The ABC News series "20/20" episode title: Vanished: Two Coeds, Two Horrifying Mysteries examines the disappearances of two young women: Brooke Wilberger (aged 19) and Maura Murray (aged 22), initial air date March 17, 2006.[28] [29]

The Investigation Discovery Channel portrayed the Wilberger story on three different series:

  • The first showing was on the crime examination series "On the Case with Paula Zahn", Season 1, Episode 14 Beauty and the Beast first aired: April 18, 2010.[30] [31]
  • The second showing was on the documentary series "FBI: Criminal Pursuit", titled Predator, Season 2, Episode 10, original air date April 29, 2011.[32]
  • The third documentary was the Season 5, Episode 5, titled: An Angel Taken, of the series "Motives & Murders: Cracking The Case", premiered March 31, 2016.[33] [34]

The national news series “Dateline NBC” aired a two-hour special on the abduction and murder of Wilberger, titled; Bringing Brooke Home, original air date: February 4, 2011.[35] [36]

The Oxygen channel documentary series "It Takes A Killer", Season 1, Episode 131, titled; In Search of a Kill, depicted Wilberger's abduction and murder, first aired January 6, 2017.[37] [38] [39]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Moran, Jack (September 22, 2009). "Killer's guilty plea brings family closure". Eugene Register-Guard. Retrieved September 22, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Brooke Wilberger's remains found in coastal range, killer sentenced to life in prison". Salem, Oregon: Statesman Journal. September 21, 2009. Retrieved September 22, 2009. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Waiting for Brooke. - Free Online Library". www.thefreelibrary.com. Eugene, OR: The Register-Guard. 24 May 2005. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Authorities Charge Man With Murder". America's Most Wanted. Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2007. 
  5. ^ Schabner, Dean; Sarah Netter (September 21, 2009). "Brooke Wilberger found: Killer gives location of remains to avoid death penalty". ABC News. 
  6. ^ a b c Hunter, Donna (August 14, 2008). "Vanished: Two coeds, two horrifying mysteries". 20/20. ABC News. 
  7. ^ "Suspect Charged With Murder Of Brooke Wilberger". KUTV.com. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Crime Alert Archive". fa.oregonstate.edu. Oregon State University. 3 August 2005. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  9. ^ "Sung Koo Kim gets nearly six years for underwear thefts". KATU.com. Retrieved April 13, 2007. 
  10. ^ "DA: 'His intent was that no one ever find her'". KVAL.com staff. CORVALLIS, Ore.: Sinclair Interactive Media, LLC;. 21 September 2009. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  11. ^ "Joel Patrick Courtney, serial killer & rapist". Archived from the original on March 3, 2006. Retrieved March 8, 2006. 
  12. ^ McCall, William (April 19, 2008). "Suspect's van seen in Corvallis". Deseret News. Associated Press. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ McCall, William (September 22, 2009). "Slain BYU student's Ore. mother grateful case over". Boston.com. Associated Press. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "Joel Courtney arrives in Oregon to face charges in Wilberger murder". KVAL-TV. CORVALLIS, Ore. April 8, 2008. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  15. ^ Jung, Helen (September 21, 2009). "Twists and turns in the Brooke Wilberger case". OregonLive.com. Oregon Live LLC. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  16. ^ "Effort begins to extradite Wilberger murder suspect". CORVALLIS, Ore.: Sinclair Interactive Media, LLC. Associated Press. 12 December 2007. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  17. ^ Frazier, Joseph B. (February 23, 2006). "FBI drops Joel Courtney as suspect in two cases". Portland, Ore.: KATU. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  18. ^ Booth, Michael (September 5, 2009). "Courtney headed for trial". Corvallis Gazette-Times. Retrieved September 22, 2009. 
  19. ^ Netter, Sarah. "Brooke Wilberger Found: Killer Gives Location of Remains to Avoid Death Penalty". ABC News. Retrieved September 21, 2009. 
  20. ^ "To Avoid Death Penalty, Joel Courtney Reveals Location of Student Brooke Wilberger's Body - True Crime Report". True Crime Report. 22 September 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  21. ^ Beck, Rachel (22 September 2009). "Wilberger's remains recovered; Courtney pleads guilty to murder". Corvallis Gazette-Times. 
  22. ^ Beck, Rachel (30 September 2009). "Authorities finish recovering remains of Brooke Wilberger". Albany Democrat-Herald. Albany, Ore. Retrieved 11 November 2017. 
  23. ^ Rosu-Urdes, Sabina (September 22, 2009). "BREAKING NEWS: Press Conference - Brooke Wilberger's Remains Found". KEZI. Archived from the original on 25 September 2009. 
  24. ^ "America's Most Wanted | Missing Persons | Brooke Wilberger Case". September 21, 2009. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  25. ^ "America's Most Wanted | Missing Data File for Brooke Carol Wilberger". Archived from the original on 27 March 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  26. ^ ""The Montel Williams Show" | Vanished Without a Trace (TV Episode 2004)". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 29 November 2004. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  27. ^ "CBS Television Distribution - Best of Montel". www.montelshow.com. 29 November 2004. Archived from the original on 5 December 2004. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  28. ^ "20/20 | Vanished: Two Coeds, Two Horrifying Mysteries". 20/20. ABC News. March 17, 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  29. ^ "20/20 | Vanished: Two Coeds, Two Horrifying Mysteries". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). March 17, 2006. Retrieved March 16, 2017. 
  30. ^ "On the Case With Paula Zahn | Beauty and the Beast". TVGuide.com. April 18, 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  31. ^ "One the Case with Paula Zahn | Beauty and the Beast". Investigation Discovery. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  32. ^ "FBI: Criminal Pursuit | Predator". Investigation Discovery. 29 April 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  33. ^ "Motives & Murders: Cracking the Case | An Angel Taken". Investigation Discovery. 31 March 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  34. ^ "Motives & Murders: Cracking The Case | An Angel Taken". mytvee.ga. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  35. ^ Raskauskas, Nancy (31 January 2011). "Brooke Wilberger back in TV spotlight". Corvallis Gazette Times. Gazette Times. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  36. ^ "Full Episode: Bringing Brooke Home". NBC News. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  37. ^ "In Search of a Kill". Oxygen Official Site. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  38. ^ "Shows A-Z - It Takes A Killer on Oxygen | TheFutonCritic.com". www.thefutoncritic.com. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  39. ^ "Brooke Wilberger". World News. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 

External links[edit]