FBI drops Joel Courtney as suspect in two cases

FBI drops Joel Courtney as suspect in two cases
Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. - The FBI says it has eliminated Joel Courtney, charged in the kidnapping and murder of Brooke Wilberger, as a suspect in two of three other cases it was investigating.

Courtney, 39, is being held in Albuquerque, N.M., on unrelated charges involving the rape of a student there. He was indicted in the Wilberger case last July.

Wilberger, 19, a Brigham Young University student, vanished in May 2004 from in front of an apartment complex in Corvallis near Oregon State University. Despite massive searches, no trace of her has been found.

The FBI entered the case soon after Wilberger vanished.

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said investigators looked, and still are looking, for other cases that might involve Courtney and had identified three possible victims.

Since then, she said Thursday, Courtney has been eliminated as a suspect in two of those three cases.

She declined to say who the third victim is "due to the sensitive nature of this investigation."

However Paul Eggleston of Redmond told The Oregognian that Portland Police called him to say they are investigating Courtney in connection with a possible link to the abduction or murder of his 23-year-old daughter in North Portland 13 years ago.

Katie Eggleston disappeared in 1993. It was not clear if her case is the same one the FBI is pursuing.

She said other possible victims could be identified in the course of the investigation.

Oregon prosecutors labeled Courtney a "suspected serial killer" during a court hearing last month.

"He is inclined to abduct white females, 15 to 25 years of age, with blond hair and blue eyes, in an outside setting," an alert said.

The description and circumstances fit the Wilberger case.

Steele said the Web posting came from the agency's national headquarters. It said Courtney has traveled extensively since growing up in Portland, and there is a "high possibility" that there are other victims in Alaska, Florida, New Mexico and Oregon.

"Looking for other cases is a normal part of the process," Steele said.

Oregon officials are seeking Courtney's extradition.

In recent years the homicide of at least one young blonde and the disappearance of another in Oregon have gone unsolved.

In the spring of 2000, in Coquille, Leah Freeman, 15, disappeared after being seen walking down a well-lighted downtown street.

Her body was found in August about 10 miles from town.

In 1998, Stephanie Condon, 14, disappeared from a mobile home while baby-sitting her cousin's twins in the Douglas County town of Tri-City.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed Riddle High School freshman was never reported seen again. Police chased more than 150 leads and conducted more than 200 interviews without results.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)