Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brooke Wilberger: suspect extradited and arraigned, more information released

The article below, from, gives many details on the day that Brooke disappeared, including some which I know were probably new to me. If you are not already familiar with Brooke's case, it is also a good way to catch up. The April 8 at the end of this article of course refers to this year.

Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 12:13 AM PDT
Officials detail Courtney’s travels
Court documents recently released by
investigators and court officials have detailed the whereabouts of murder
defendant Joel Courtney before, during and after the 2004 disappearance of
Brooke Wilberger.
Wilberger, a 19-year-old Brigham Young University student, disappeared May
24, 2004, from outside a Corvallis apartment complex near Oregon State
University that was managed by her sister and brother-in-law.
Police believe Wilberger was abducted about 10 a.m. They also believe
witness accounts place Joel Courtney near the complex — visible to passersby
from Philomath Boulevard — about the time that Wilberger went missing.
Courtney is facing trial for aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape, sodomy
and sexual abuse in connection with Wilberger’s disappearance. Her body hasn’t
been found, and she is presumed dead. Benton County District Attorney John
Haroldson is seeking the death penalty.
Investigative information, included in the recently unsealed affidavit for
a search warrant, contains the following accounts by witnesses and
According to Courtney’s in-laws, he had been staying at their home in
Southwest Portland in May of 2004.
Early in the morning of May 24, 2004, they said Courtney packed a gray
duffel bag, donned a red baseball cap, put on his glasses and departed in a
green Dodge Caravan that had Minnesota plates. Courtney reportedly told people
that he was headed to Newport for an 8:30 a.m. arraignment in connection with
his Jan. 20, 2004, DUII arrest in Lincoln County.
The van he was driving belonged to Creative Building Maintenance, where
Courtney worked as an operations supervisor. His territory included Oregon,
Washington and Idaho. Courtney never arrived in Newport.
Lincoln County Court administrators there recorded that Courtney called the
morning of May 24, 2004, to say he wouldn’t be showing up for his court
appearance. Courtney told them he was in Corvallis.
A ‘blood-curdling’ scream
Several tenants of the Oak Park Apartments at 1235 S.W. 26th St. said they
saw Wilberger on the morning of her disappearance. A male tenant recalled seeing
Wilberger cleaning the bottom of a light fixture near the south side of the
complex at 9:30 a.m. Wilberger’s cousin later told investigators he saw Brooke
working at 9:45 a.m. at a spot not far from where her flip-flops were later
At 10 a.m., another male tenant heard a scream. He described it as quick
and short, as if someone had been startled. He said the scream was
A female tenant who’d also seen Wilberger working later reported hearing a
scream between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
A truck driver for Corvallis Disposal said he drove into the apartment’s
parking lot between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to collect the garbage. He said he saw
Wilberger. He waved. She waved back. He said he didn’t see anyone else in the
parking lot.
Wilberger was due at her sister’s apartment for lunch at 12:30 p.m. When
she didn’t show, her family searched for her and found her blue flip-flops
askew. One of the thongs had come loose from the sandal.
At 3 p.m., Wilberger’s family called the Corvallis police. Officers began a
search party that later would be joined by the Benton County Search and Rescue
team, dozens of volunteers and a U.S. Marshall Service bloodhound unit.
The dog reportedly tracked Wilberger’s scent to Southwest Philomath
Boulevard and east to an overpass 0.7 miles from the complex. That’s where the
dog lost the scent. The dog’s handler believed Wilberger had been abducted in a
A man in a green van, seeking directions
Among the 4,400 tips that police would receive from the community in the
days, weeks and months that followed, three provided information they were able
to follow up:
• A female OSU student told police she saw a newer, clean, dark green
minivan at the intersection of 30th Street and Western Boulevard at about 9:30
a.m. May 24, 2004. She described the driver as about 5-feet, six-inches tall.
She wasn’t sure because he was sitting down. She said he had short gray-blonde
hair, blue eyes, a goatee and two earrings in his left ear.
The student said the van slowed, and the driver pulled out an Idaho road
map and asked directions to a fraternity house. She directed him toward
Southwest Monroe Avenue. The man got out of the vehicle, opened the sliding door
to the van and said he had a Corvallis road map inside.
The woman reported that she became suspicious and told the van driver she
was late for class. She walked away, toward campus.
• An OSU employee told police he saw a green Dodge Caravan with Minnesota
plates approach an unknown female, ask for directions and drive away at about
9:50 a.m. The employee said he drove up next to the van, and then pulled in
front of it. The witness said he got a good look at the van’s driver, whom he
said was wearing a red baseball cap and glasses. Investigators later noted that
the witness pointed out a photo of Joel Courtney; the third photo in a six-photo
• The woman the OSU employee saw next to the green van, also an OSU
student, would later call in a tip of her own, confirming that a man in a dark
green, boxy, older minivan had asked her for directions to the athletic
department. She described the man as having short, thinning dark hair and a
pointy nose.
The woman would see the man in the green van again a few minutes later,
parked in the lot of Gill Coliseum, within blocks of the Oak Park
District Attorney John Haroldson has also charged Courtney with the
attempted kidnapping, attempted rape, attempted sodomy, attempted sexual abuse
and attempted murder of both female OSU students who said they spoke to a man
fitting Courtney’s description.
Relatives recount Courtney’s travels
Courtney’s in-laws later told police that he did not return from his
scheduled Newport court appearance until about 10 p.m. May 25, 2004. He
reportedly did not offer much of an explanation. They said his van, which was
clean when he left, was caked in mud. They said he had not called his family or
his employer while he was gone.
Courtney reportedly told his in-laws that he had been off the road and had
slept in his van. But they said he offered no other explanation.
On May 26, Courtney complained that he’d been suffering from chest pains in
the past last two or three days. He went to Oregon Health & Sciences
University’s emergency room for treatment.
Courtney’s medical records, later obtained in a search warrant by
investigators, show that he mentioned a history of anxiety. The doctor’s opinion
was that Courtney had an anxiety disorder that caused his chest pains, but he
did not have heart problems or high blood pressure.
But investigators said that diagnosis was contradictory to what Courtney
told his mother, who told investigators Courtney said he had “stroke-level”
blood pressure. Other family members said Courtney claimed to have a bipolar
Two to three weeks after his return to Portland, his in-laws said, Courtney
offered two different reasons why he had to leave town: He told them he had
become the victim of a kidnapping. He also said he had to leave Oregon because
the police were after him. Courtney did not detail why the police would be
looking for him, his in-laws said.
Courtney’s estranged wife, Rosa Courtney, told investigators that Courtney
showed up in Rio Rancho, N.M., about mid-June 2004 to stay with her. She said he
was driving his work truck — a green Dodge Caravan.
Not long after he arrived, Courtney was arrested after a physical
altercation with his wife. He never returned to his wife’s place. The police did
show up. On Dec. 21, 2004, they executed a search warrant in hopes of finding
evidence linking Courtney to the Wilberger disappearance.
Courtney was already in an Albuquerque, N.M., prison on charges related to
the kidnapping and rape of a University of New Mexico exchange student. He was
sentenced on Dec. 11, 2007, to 18 years in prison for the crimes.
On April 8, Courtney was extradited to Oregon. He remains in the Benton
County Jail, where he awaits court proceedings in relation to the Wilberger

Article on the arraignment from

Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2008 11:56 PM PDT
District Attorney
John Haroldson and defense attorney Steven L. Krasik listen as Judge Locke
Williams enters a plea of not guilty for Courtney.
Joel Patrick Courtney’s arraignment: Facing justice
Court enters ‘not guilty’ plea for suspect in
disappearance of Brooke Wilberger
Joel Patrick Courtney, the man charged with kidnapping and killing
19-year-old Brooke Wilberger in 2004, made his first appearance in Benton County
Circuit Court on Wednesday to face charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping,
rape, sodomy and sexual abuse.
Courtney’s attorneys did not enter a plea at Wednesday’s appearance, so
presiding Judge Locke Williams entered a plea of “not guilty” on all counts on
his behalf as a matter of procedure.
In response to a request from District Attorney John Haroldson, Locke also
ordered Courtney held without bail.
Haroldson is seeking the death penalty for Courtney.
As required by Oregon law in capital murder cases, Courtney is being
represented by two defense attorneys — Steven Krasik and Steven Gorham of Salem.
Both were appointed by the court.
Gorham sat next to Courtney, 41, who appeared in court via a video link
from inside the Benton County Jail.
Krasik, who will be the lead attorney in the case, appeared in court. A
longtime Oregon attorney, Krasik has extensive experience with capital murder
cases. His list of high-profile defendants includes Christian Longo, the man who
was convicted in 2003 for the murders of his 37-year-old wife and their three
children, ages 2, 3 and 4. Their bodies were recovered from an inlet off
Waldport in the weeks before and after Christmas in 2001. Longo is on death row
at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Courtney faces 14 counts of aggravated murder, two counts of kidnapping and
single counts of rape, sodomy and sexual abuse in connection with Wilberger’s
disappearance in May 2004.
Wilberger was a Brigham Young University student from Veneta who was in
Corvallis for her summer vacation. She was helping her sister and brother-in-law
clean up the apartment complex they managed near Oregon State University’s
She disappeared while cleaning light fixtures outside the apartment
complex. Police found only her flip-flop sandals in the parking lot. No remains
have ever been recovered.
Haroldson explained the multiple charges of aggravated murder as having “14
factors of aggravation.”
“You have various forms of homicide under Oregon law,” Haroldson said.
“Murder is defined as intentionally causing the death of another human being.
Aggravated murder is murder plus (other factors). You could have a murder
committed in the course of a particular crime, murder committed to cover up
evidence of a crime or to conceal that evidence in a place not likely to be
found. You couldn’t just plead one count and have all these things
In a separate case, Courtney also has been charged in connection with the
unrelated kidnapping, attempted rape, attempted sodomy and attempted murder of
two Oregon State University students. Wednesday’s arraignment was for both
Haroldson said the additional charges also occurred on May 24, 2004 — the
same day Wilberger went missing — and involve women of roughly the same age as
Wilberger at the time of her disappearance.
The brief court hearing, at 11:30 a.m., was attended by five members of
Wilberger’s family.
Haroldson requested that Williams hold Courtney without bail.
“I would remind the court that Joel Courtney is here as a result of
extradition,” Haroldson said. “He is serving an 18-year sentence in New
Williams granted Haroldson’s request after Krasik said he would request a
separate bail hearing at a later time.
Courtney is next scheduled to be in court on May 23 for a status check —
another brief hearing during which the court will determine progress in the
case, hear any additional motions and set the next hearing date.
Haroldson said he doesn’t expect the case to be resolved quickly.“It’s not
unusual to see a felony case take up to a year,” Haroldson said Wednesday.
“Here, we have a much more complex case. In a best-case scenario, 12 to 18
months is a good estimate.”
Courtney was extradited to Oregon from New Mexico and was booked into the
Benton County Jail on Tuesday at 3 p.m. He had been held in a state prison near
Santa Fe since his Dec. 11, 2007, sentencing to 18 years in prison for the
kidnapping, sodomy and rape of an exchange student at the University of New
The student testified that Courtney threatened her with a knife, forced her
into a van, tied her up with shoestrings and sexually assaulted her. The student
was able to free herself and escape.
Courtney was arrested in Albuquerque on charges related to the kidnapping
and rape of the exchange student only six months after Wilberger’s
“Now that the extradition is done, today was really the beginning of the
process in Benton County Circuit Court on the path to a meaningful conclusion,”
Haroldson said. “There’s still a way to go in the process, but just knowing it’s
begun is profoundly meaningful to the state and to the Wilbergers.”

For more information on the evidence against Joel Courtney, you can see also read articles at and 1

If you have any information that might be helpful to this case and to finding Brooke, please call the Corvallis Police Department at (541) 766-3522 or the Portland FBI at (503) 224-4181.
Photo of Brooke from Many more photos at link!

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