Wilberger suspect reverses self on trial location

Wilberger suspect reverses self on trial location »Play Video
Joel Courtney is accused of aggravated murder in the case of Brooke Wilberger, then 19, who vanished from outside an apartment building near the OSU campus May 24, 2004.

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - The man accused of killing Brooke Wilberger won't be tried in Corvallis, even though his lawyers say he now doesn't want a change of venue.

Judge Locke Williams on Friday refused to reverse a decision to move the trial from Benton County, a decision made at the request of Joel Courtney's lawyers.

Courtney, 43, is accused of murder. Wilberger disappeared at age 19 in 2004. She was a Brigham Young University student back in Oregon for the summer. Her body has not been found.

Earlier this month, Williams granted a defense motion to move the trial.

"He has clearly told us now that he does not want a change of venue," said defense attorney Steven Gorham. "He trusts Benton County residents can try him fairly."

District Attorney John Haroldson said Courtney was just trying to delay the trial and has a history of treating the justice system "as a personal yo-yo."

He said Courtney made a last-minute plea deal in a New Mexico case and then tried to withdraw the plea at sentencing.

In that case, he was charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a student near the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

She escaped from his car and reported him to police. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, and then extradited to Oregon to stand trial in the Wilberger case.

Williams said he is compiling a list of potential trial sites and is focusing on counties more populous than Benton County.

 

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