DA: 'His intent was that no one ever find her'

DA: 'His intent was that no one ever find her' »Play Video
Brooke Wilberger

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- As a green van trolled the streets near the Oregon State Campus, 19-year-old Brooke Wilberger cleaned and repaired lamp posts outside an apartment complex.

Timeline

  • May 24, 2004 - Brooke Wilberger disappears
  • Nov. 29, 2004 - A young woman is kidnapped and sexually assaulted at the University of New Mexico.
  • Nov. 30, 2004 - Joel Courtney is arrested in connection with the sexual assault at the University of New Mexico.
  • Dec. 9, 2004 - Joel Courtney is indicted in New Mexico in connection with the sexual assault at the University of New Mexico.
  • July 29, 2005 - Joel Courtney is indicted in Oregon in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Brooke Wilberger.
  • Sept. 10, 2007 - Joel Courtney's trial in New Mexico begins.
  • Sept. 11, 2007 - An agreement is reached and Joel Courtney enters guilty pleas in the New Mexico case.
  • Dec. 11, 2007 - Joel Courtney is sentenced to 18 years in prison in the New Mexico case.
  • Jan. 24, 2008 - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signs an extradition agreement with Oregon.
  • Feb. 8, 2008 - The first extradition hearing is held in New Mexico. Joel Courtney's defense attorney says they want to challenge the extradition.
  • April 4, 2008 - A status conference is held on the extradition. A filing to challenge the extradition is not filed and Joel Courtney is remanded to the custody of the state of Oregon.
  • April 8, 2008 - Joel Courtney is brought back to Oregon and is placed into custody in Benton County.
  • Sept. 21, 2009 - Courtney pleads guilty to murder, Wilberger's body found

The van rolled by Wilberger, the driver having already attempted to talk to another young woman who fled from the man behind the wheel, Joel Courtney.

Courtney passed Wilberger, then tried to approach another young woman who ran from him.

Courtney turned around and returned to the parking lot where Wilberger was working, pulling the van between the apartment complex and Wilberger.

He got out with a Fed Ex package in his hand, acted like he was looking for a place to deposit the parcel -- then pulled a knife on Wilberger.

By the time people who heard her screams got to the parking lot, the van was gone. All that was left of Wilberger were her shoes.

Courtney drove a short distance before he bound Wilberger with duct tape. He took her to a remote parcel of private property deep in the woods of the Coast Range of Benton County.

That night, Courtney used drugs.

He raped Wilberger the next morning.

And when she put up a fight, he decided to kill her.

Benton County's district attorney revealed these new details about what investigators now believe happened on May 24, 2004, and May 25, 2005. Courtney failed to grab two other women before abducting Wilberger, John Haroldson said Monday afternoon.

What followed was "an isolated situation where Brooke Wilberger was kidnapped and kept deep in the woods alone but for Mr. Courtney," Haroldson said. "There, Mr. Courtney raped Brooke Wilberger and then finally caused her death by bludgeoning her skull."

The revelations come on the heels of dramatic news: After 5 1/2 years, Wilberger's remains had been found -- and Courtney had admitted he caused her death.

"His intent was that no one ever find her," Haroldson said Monday afternoon.

On Friday, however, Courtney provided investigators with a detailed description of where to look for Wilberger's remains.

"We found the first remains Saturday morning," Haroldson said, "and continue to uncover remains even as we speak."



Court documents released last year revealed details showing that Courtney (above) 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.

Officials said that Wilberger's DNA was found inside the van. There were also blond hairs in a hair tie inside a personal duffel bag that Courtney carried. Even without Wilberger's body, Benton County charged Courtney with murder and sought the death penalty.

Courtney was extradited from New Mexico to Oregon in April 2008 following his conviction in 2007 in New Mexico for the unrelated sexual assault and kidnapping of a foreign exchange student at the University of New Mexico.

He was sentenced to 18 years for that crime, which was remarkably similar to the Wilberger disappearance - a young blonde woman with blue eyes abducted near a college campus.

Courtney was staying with his wife's parents in Portland when Wilberger vanished.

They told detectives that he left their home early the morning of her disappearance and did not return until late the following night.