The Brooke Wilberger Murder Investigation

The Brooke Wilberger Murder Investigation
- Compiled by
Shannon L. Cheesman
KATU Web Staff Writer/Producer

Brooke Wilberger's sudden disappearance not only shocked the town of Corvallis, Oregon, home of Oregon State University, but also captured the attention of many across the United States.

The KATU News and Internet teams have been following the story closely, bringing you the latest in the search for the 19-year-old Brigham Young University student who seemingly vanished without a trace.

Now, with the naming of a suspect who authorities believe murdered Brooke, the case has taken a new turn. Stay tuned to KATU and katu.com for all the latest updates.

Here, you can scroll through a complete list of stories and links or read the entire story below.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST UPDATE

Please Note: some video clips will not play due to removal from video servers.

Brooke Vanishes

On the morning of Monday, May 24, 2004, 19-year-old Brooke Wilberger was helping with some cleaning at the Corvallis apartment complex her sister manages when she completely vanished.

In the first few hours since her disappearance, Brooke's family knew something was terribly wrong and they reported her as missing that same day.

Police agreed that something seemed suspicious about this case - the cleaning supplies left behind, a pair of flip-flops lying in the parking lot, and the woman's personal items left inside her sister's apartment.

So the Corvallis Police Department sent out a missing person flyer, hoping to generate information that would lead them to Brooke.

View the flyer

KATU News reported on the suspicious disappearance, not knowing Brooke's story would quickly gain the attention of not only Oregonians, but people all across the United States.

Police fear woman may have been abducted

Search Efforts Begin

One day after her disappearance, hundreds of volunteers begin scouring a wooded area near where Brooke was last seen.

Her family also addresses the media in the hopes that their pleas for her safe return will be heard.

"Our worlds have been turned head over heals," Brooke's brother-in-law, Zak Hansen, said at the time. "It's just unreal. I don't think this has set in - what has happened."

'We're looking and we're not going to stop'

Story Captures Nation's Attention

By Wednesday, May 26, 2004, the story of Brooke's disappearance has gone national, with the woman's parents appearing on both ABC News "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" shows.

Brooke's parents hit national television shows

Meanwhile, the search for Brooke resumes, with hundreds of volunteers continuing to comb through woods and ravines hoping to find some clue to lead them in the right direction.

Police are also ramping up their investigation.

"We're going to probably go through the list of predators or sex offenders or anyboy else who has been released into the community who perhaps would do something like this," Captain Robert Deutsch from the Corvallis Police Department told the media. "We're not saying that is what happened, but we'll just continue to do background investigations and work to get the word out."

Search for Brooke Wilberger intensifies

Home Video of Brooke

Just a couple of days after her disappearance, home video of Brooke in happy times emerges, giving the public a glimpse into the type of person she is.

In video shot by one of her friends, Brooke is enjoying a sunny day at the Oregon Coast.

Other home video shows her participating in a play at Brigham Young University.

Watch the home video clips

Could Shoes Provide A Clue?

On Thursday, May 27, 2004, Captain Robert Deutsch with the Corvallis Police Department talks about a pair of shoes that were found where Brooke disappeared.

He says police had hoped to keep the shoe evidence to themselves, admitting that it may be the only shred of evidence they have to hold on to.

"It could be meaningless and it may not offer us anything, but there is virtually no evidence at the scene, so we were hoping that perhaps this would lead to something," he tells KATU News.

Pair of shoes may be only shred of evidence

Help From The Smart Family

The hard days of searching have been buffered with words of encouragement from the public and from a family who knows what the Wilbergers are going through.

The family of Elizabeth Smart contacts them to provide some hope and valuable information that may help in the days ahead.

The Smart's endured the abduction of their daughter, Elizabeth, in 2002, in what became one of the nation's most highly-publicized abductions.

"(The Smart's) gave us some ideas on an agency called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and we found out there is a group for missing adults, and we have already contacted them," Brooke's father said.

Brooke's family encouraged by Elizabeth Smart's family

Five Days Pass, Still No Sign Of Brooke

By Friday, May 28, 2004, Brooke Wilberger has been missing for five days.

Although family members continue to say they are hopeful, it is clear that the pain of not knowing what has happened to Brooke is wearing on them.

Five days later there is still no sign of Brooke

However, they continue to work hard to make sure Brooke's story stays at the forefront in the media and they begin using other methods to get the word out, including a 'Find Brooke' Web site.

Go to 'www.findbrooke.com'

As the concern for Brooke grows outside of Corvallis, other Web sites sprout up also - Child Seek Network and 4 Our Angel.

Gravel Pit Searched

On Friday, May 28, 2004, police make a startling announcement that they are sending a crime lab to a gravel pit just a few miles from where Brooke disappeared.

At the time, police would not say much about why they were focusing their efforts at that particular spot, only saying that volunteers had found something 'strange' the night before.

Later in the day, we would learn why the gravel pit became a focus in the investigation - volunteers had stumbled across what appeared to be freshly disturbed ground.

However, after careful analysis and digging, nothing was found at the site.

'Fresh digging' at gravel pit is false lead

Five People Become Focus Of Investigation

While the investigation continues and searchers are still out looking for Brooke, police tell the media they are focusing on five people who they have narrowed down from hundreds of potential suspects.

Police will not say if the five people are sex offenders, only that none of them had ever had previous contact with Brooke.

Police look at five people in search for Brooke

Police Focus In On Alleged Panty Thief

On Saturday, May 30, 2004, police arrest a 'person of interest' in the case, but not on charges relating to Brooke's disappearance.

Instead, 30-year-old Sung Koo Kim is taken into custody on burglary charges relating to items that were stolen from Oregon State University's Sackett Hall, which is near where Brooke was last seen.

The allegations against Kim are unusual - he is accused of stealing thousands of pairs of women's underwear from colleges throughout Oregon.

Alleged panty thief tied to Brooke's case

Holiday Does Not Deter Search For Brooke

While millions across the nation celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, volunteers in Corvallis, Oregon spend their day searching for clues to Brooke's disappearance.

After eight days of searching, they are no closer to finding Brooke.

In the evening, family, friends and volunteers who have been looking for Brooke join together for a prayer vigil.

Community holds prayer vigil for Brooke

24-Hours A Day Is No Longer Feasible

As the search for Brooke enters its ninth day on June 1, 2004, police working on the case say they will be scaling back their investigation.

More than two dozen detectives have been working the case around the clock since she disappeared.

Police scaling back their coverage on Brooke

Public Service Announcement Airs

With police scaling back their efforts in the search for 19-year-old Brooke Wilberger, the woman's family puts out another plea for help - this time a public service announcement.

The Wilberger family hopes the PSA airing on Comcast cable in both English and Spanish will generate new leads in Brooke's disappearance.

Public service announcement on Brooke airs

Police Ask Businesses To Help

By June 2, 2004, Brooke has been missing for a week and a half, which is an agonizingly long time in a missing person case.

With few leads to work with, police ask businesses to take a close look at their security tapes, in the hopes that Brooke Wilberger might be on video somewhere.

Police ask shops to look for Brooke in surveillance tapes

Brooke's Mom Pleas For Her Safe Return

As each passing day brings police no closer to finding 19-year-old Brooke Wilberger, the missing woman's mother asks for whoever may have taken her to return her home safely.

"We would like to make a plea to whoever has Brooke that they might release her, that we might have her back with us again. We're not feeling revenge or hatred. We just want Brooke home," Brooke's mother, Cammy Wilberger, said.

Mother issues plea for Brooke's safe return

Massive Search Effort To Be Called Off

By June 4, 2004, Brooke has been gone for nearly two weeks and police announce that the last organized search will be held the next day.

By this time, searchers have already covered more than 3,000 acres in their pursuit of evidence in the case of the missing Brigham Young University student.

Massive search effort for Brooke about to end

Person Of Interest Commits Suicide

Although the massive search for Brooke has ended, investigators are still working the case to try to figure out what happened to the young woman.

A man in Utah becomes a person of interest in the case, just one of many that are being closely looked at in the disappearance of Brooke.

However, on June 10, 2004, the man ends up taking his own life, leaving investigators with a loose end.

'Person of interest' in Brooke's case kills himself

Could A Kidnapping Suspect Be Related To Brooke's Case?

On Friday, June 11, a 17-year-old teenager tells police a man tried to lure her into his car in Lebanon.

The girl manages to escape unscathed, officials say, but the hunt is on for the abductor, who was last seen driving a Silver Honda Accord with a gold tint.

Lebanon police search for kidnapping suspect

Family Starts To Get Back To Their Lives

Although their daughter has been gone less than a month, by the middle of June, Brooke's family is beginning to put their lives back together.

Greg and Cammy Wilberger may never know what happened to their daughter and know that the pain of her disappearance will never go away, but they realize that life must go on.

Brooke Wilberger's family is returning to everyday tasks

Person Of Interest Pleads Innocent In Another Case

A man who has been named as a person of interest in the disappearance of Brooke Wilberger pleads innocent to burglary charges in an unrelated case.

Sung Koo Kim, a Tigard resident, has become known as the 'Panty Thief' after police found thousands women's undergarments in his house, some of which came from college dorm rooms.

Panty thief suspect enters an innocent plea

Investigators Search Tigard Park

On June 16, 2004, the search for Brooke expands to Washington County, as investigators search the Summerlake Park area.

Although they remain tight-lipped about what they were looking for, the park is located just a half-mile from the home of a man who has been named as a person of interest in the case, Sung Koo Kim.

Tigard park becomes focus of Wilberger case

Disturbing Picture Of Panty Thief Suspect Emerges

On June 21, 2004, we begin to see a disturbing picture of Sung Koo Kim, the Tigard man accused of stealing thousands of pairs of women's underwear.

Kim is arrested on theft and burglary charges following a court appearance and what is found in his home is alarming.

Among the items on his computer are 40,000 violent pictures of tortured, raped and mutilated woman, along with 4,000 pornographic and violent videos.

In a court affidavit outlining what detectives found in his home, he is also named as a suspect in Brooke's disappearance, although Corvallis police continue to say he is only a person of interest.

Panty thief suspect's computer full of violence and porn
Is Sung Koo Kim linked to Brooke Wilberger?
Bail to stay at $10 million for Sung Koo Kim
Hearing to reduce $10 million bail postponed
Kim now a suspect in Pacific University thefts
Does Sung Koo Kim have an alibi?
Was Sung Koo Kim stalking an OSU student?
Emerging evidence unsettles Wilberger family
Sung Koo Kim pleads innocent in Multnomah County court
Kim indicted on child pornography charges
Court documents show Sung Koo Kim had an arsenal
Classmates say Sung Koo Kim known for off-color remarks
Investigators look into cinder block purchase

Another Effort To Generate Leads

On June 26, 2004, Brooke's story airs on Fox Television's 'America's Most Wanted.'

While investigators are hopeful the show will generate leads, the few tips they receive do not pan out.

Brooke's story airs on 'America's Most Wanted'

Brooke's Parents Make Another Plea

By June 30, 2004, Greg and Cammy Wilberger have gone over a month without knowing where their daughter is or what may have happened to her.

They make an appearance on ABC's 'Good Morning America' to try to keep the story fresh in people's minds, although for them it is something they think about every day.

Meanwhile, a Tigard man who has been linked to their daughter's disappearance appears in a Multnomah County courtroom on unrelated burglary and theft charges.

Brooke's parents appear on 'Good Morning America'
Accused panty thief pleads innocent in court

Computer-Generated Images Made Of Brooke

In an attempt to generate new leads in the case, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children produces four computer generated photos showing how Brooke might look with various hair lengths and styles.

Brooke is given a new look to aid search

Television Stations Receive Subpoenas

In August of 2004, KATU News, along with other television stations, receives a subpoena to produce video from news coverage during the time that the search for Brooke was just beginning.

The move is explained as a routine one in an investigation such as this and Benton County's District Attorney stresses that the subpoenas do not necessarily mean that an indictment is imminent.

Grand jury to look at news coverage video

Three Months Pass Since Brooke's Disappearance

August 24, 2004 marks three months since Brooke vanished without a trace from outside a Corvallis apartment complex.

Brooke Wilberger's brother-in-law, Jared Cordon, still keeps his hopes alive by wearing a button with her face on it and making plans to run the Hood to Coast in her honor.

"We're still optimistic and I think these things help. It feels like we're doing something to help out the cause and spreading the word," he told KATU News.

Still no sign of Brooke three months later

Outside Help Sought In Case

Although investigators are still working hard on Brooke's case, police decide to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which will send retired investigators to help out.

Retired investigators to assist in Wilberger case

Another 'Person of Interest' Comes To Light

At the end of September 2004, a 21-year-old Albany man is arrested in a case involving a female Oregon State University college student who says a man tried to grab her while she was walking on campus.

Because of the proximity of the campus to the apartment complex that Brooke Wilberger disappeared from, police later identify the man, Aaron Evans, as a 'person of interest' in her missing case.

Following the arrest and Evans' court appearances, his stepsister, Jessica Caywood, comes forward, telling KATU's Eric Mason that she believes Evans may be linked to Brooke's disappearance.

However, Benton County police countered that claim, saying they found no direct link between Aaron Evans and Brooke's disappearance.

Investigators dismiss Evans' stepsister's claims
Stepsister suspects Evans linked to Brooke
Picture emerges about attempted abduction suspect
Police arrest Albany man in attempted abduction case

Family Pins Hope On Bracelets

Although the media spotlight has faded on Brooke's story by October of 2004, her family continues to keep hope alive that someday she will be found.

Their latest effort involves pink bracelets with 'findbrooke.com' on them, the Web site that was set up early on by the family to try to generate tips in the case.

Read the story

Wilberger Family Increases Reward

In November of 2004, the Wilberger family decides to increase a reward for information leading to Brooke from $3,000 to $6,000.

Reward goes up in Brooke Wilberger case

Struggling After Six Months

By December of 2004, six months since Brooke Wilberger disappeared so mysteriously, her family looks to their faith to keep hope alive.

KATU's Aimee Clark sits down with the family to talk about the pain and struggle they go through every day in not knowing what happened to Brooke.

The Wilbergers perservere with faith and family

The Charges Against Sung Koo Kim

Sung Koo Kim, who remains a 'person of interest' in the Brooke Wilberger case, faces charges in four different counties involving stolen undergarments from several college campuses in Oregon.

He makes various court appearances as prosecuting attorneys in each of those counties try to move toward a trial.

In addition, his family files a civil rights lawsuit against Oregon State Police, the Benton County Sheriff's Office, the Tigard Police Department and the Newberg Police Department.

Panty thief suspect Sung Koo Kim in court again
Sung Koo Kim faces even more counts
Sung Koo Kim's family files civil rights lawsuit
Sung Koo Kim's bail raised to $1 million
Accused panty thief appears in Yamhill County court
Sung Koo Kim pleads not guilty; trial date set
Bail for Sung Koo Kim reduced in one county
Mult. County judge reduces Sung Koo Kim's bail
Kim's bail decision delayed until Monday
Korean community supports underwear theft suspect
Sung Koo Kim pleads not guilty; trial date set

Another Person Of Interest Comes To Light

In the first week of February, 2005, Corvallis police confirm that another man, Loren Krueger, is a 'person of interest' in the case, although they stress that he is not part of a new development.

Another person of interest in Wilberger case

Sung Koo Kim Is Cleared

On February 7, 2005, Corvallis police release a statement saying investigators have completed their investigation of Sung Koo Kim and "found no evidence that would link Sung Koo Kim to the abduction of Brooke Wilberger."

Kim has been named as a 'person of interest' in the case for several months, ever since he was arrested on charges he stole women's undergarments from several Oregon college campuses.

Kim removed from 'persons of interest' list in Corvallis
Reaction from Brooke Wilberger's mother

Identical Match To Sweatshirt Sought

Nine months have passed since Brooke Wilberger disappeared from a Corvallis apartment complex and now her family and police are trying to track down a particular piece of clothing that could aid in the investigation.

Do you have a sweatshirt like this one?

Still No Sign Of Brooke Nearly One Year Later

By the end of April, 2005, 11 months have passed since Brooke disappeared from outside a Corvallis apartment complex. The last time anyone saw her was on May 24, 2004.

Read the story

One Year Passes Since Her Disappearance

Brooke's story has captivated Oregon and broken hearts across the nation. The week of May 23, 2005 marks one year since the young woman disappeared from outside an apartment complex in Corvallis.

Read the story
News conference in Corvallis
What they say in Corvallis
Brooke remains in hearts and minds

Lawsuit Filed By Sung Koo Kim's Family

The family of Sung Koo Kim, the man who was once suspected in the disappearance of Brooke Wilberger, is suing two cities, a county and nearly 40 policemen for $11 million, claiming their Tigard home was unlawfully searched.

Sung Koo Kim's family files $11 million lawsuit

Police Look For Green Minivan

On May 31, 2005, police begin seeking information about a 1997 Dodge Caravan that may be connected to the disappearance of Brooke Wilberger.

Read the story
Man recalls suspicious green minivan

Brooke Goes From Missing To Murdered

On August 2, 2005, stunning developments begin to unfold in the Brooke Wilberger investigation. First, police announce they plan to hold a news conference to make a major announcement.

As the media begins rallying their reporters for the news conference and questions swirl about what the major announcement will be, CNN reports that a man held in a New Mexico jail has been charged with murdering Brooke.

He is 39-year-old Joel Courtney, who is facing kidnapping and rape charges in an unrelated case.

Man held in New Mexico jail charged in Brooke's murder
Documents reveal suspect's life of crime
Was Brooke the victim of a serial killer?
Joel Courtney vows to fight extradition to Oregon
Joel Courtney wants access to law library
911 call reveals Courtney's past
Does Courtney's DNA link him to Wilberger?
FBI hints Joel Courtney may be a serial killer
FBI drops Joel Courtney as suspect in two cases
Joel Courtney lawyer complaint called delay tactic

Cammy Wilberger In A Candid One-On-One Interview

Nearly two years after Brooke Wilberger's disappearance, her mother, Cammy, talks to KATU about how she and her family are doing.

'I'll see her one day... I can deal with that'
Cammy Wilberger thanks Corvallis for help with case

Two Years Pass Since Brooke's Disappearance

While her accused murderer awaits trial in New Mexico in another case, Brooke's family files a lawsuit against a company that employed him, alleging they failed to complete a background check when they hired him.

Wilberger's parents sue kidnap suspect's employer
Two years later, the Brooke Wilberger story continues

T.J. Mullinax and Bill Roberson contributed to this story compilation