Waiting for Brooke.
The last time Greg and Cammy Wilberger saw their 19-year-old daughter was a year ago today. They have waited, but Brooke Carol Wilberger has not come home. And whoever is responsible for her disappearance, or her death, has not been caught.
They say the years go by faster as you age, but for the Veneta family, the past 365 days have seemed like 365 lifetimes.
Lifetimes you wouldn't want to live. Trust them.
"It's been a really long year," said Cammy Wilberger, a third-grade teacher at Eugene's Fairfield Elementary School. "And it doesn't get better, that's the hard part."
Brooke Wilberger had just returned to Oregon after her freshman year at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, when police say she was abducted from the parking lot of a Corvallis apartment building on May 24, 2004. The Wilbergers will hold a news conference today at the Hilton Garden Inn in Corvallis, during which the Corvallis Police Department will update the case they continue to chase as a homicide. And the Wilbergers, to show their gratitude, will provide investigators with a catered lunch.
"They have done a tremendous job," Cammy Wilberger said, "so we thought that was one way we could honor them."
Although they were holding out hope for a miracle months into the investigation, a year after the disappearance the Wilbergers have come to grips with the probability this is now a search for resolution and closure. A search for Brooke's remains.
"We need to know," Greg Wilberger said, "even if she's passed on, so we can bring her home."
Lt. Ron Noble, a spokesman for the Corvallis Police Department, said the case "is near and dear to us." The case is still active, and a team of investigators continues to meet weekly with FBI personnel assigned to the case, as they've done for the past year, Noble said.
Two former suspects in the case, Sung Koo Kim and Loren H. Krueger, were cleared in February. Both men remain jailed on charges involving sexual abuse in unrelated cases. And both were among a total of five suspects that the Corvallis Police Department was investigating.
Tips continue to come in about Wilberger's case, but they have slowed down considerably. A Web site established in her name, www.findbrooke.com, is still up and running.
A current note on the site shows a photograph of a man wearing a sweat shirt just like the one Brooke was wearing when she disappeared. Police are trying to obtain a similar "FreshJive" sweat shirt "to compare fibers/dye at the crime lab," the note says. The maker was unable to provide police a sample of the material because records are no longer available.
Wilberger's disappearance garnered nationwide attention and has caught the interest of more than one national talk show.
Greg Wilberger, a process engineer at Borden Chemical in Springfield, and Cammy appeared on NBC's "Today Show" and ABC's "Good Morning, America" soon after their daughter's disappearance. In November, three of Brooke's five siblings - Shannon, Spencer and Jessica - appeared on "The Montel Williams Show," in a segment that aired in February about families who have had loved ones vanish.
Cammy Wilberger said she never thought an entire year would go by without a resolution to Brooke's disappearance.
`We've been through a lot of `firsts' this year,' she said. The first summer without her. The first Thanksgiving without her. The first Christmas without her.
Brooke's birthday, her 20th on Feb. 20, came and went without a clue as to what happened to her. And Mother's Day "was incredibly difficult," Cammy Wilberger said last week, sitting in her classroom at Fairfield Elementary as she fiddled with a science project she was preparing for her students.
And this month, the family dealt with another tragedy when the oldest Wilberger sibling, Shannon Cordon, 31, gave birth prematurely to twin boys in Portland. Both weighed about 2 pounds at birth on May 3 after just six months of pregnancy; only one survived. The family held a memorial service for the infant on May 14 in Portland, and they say they gain strength from Sam, the surviving boy, and his fight to live.
Cammy Wilberger has gained much strength and support from fellow teachers, the staff, parents and students at Fairfield, she said, and they have been inspired by her strength in the face of the unthinkable.
`We all realize that this is the place that she can come (for support),' said Marilyn Martin, Fairfield's principal. `So (her work) has been a really important thing for her. She truly is an amazing person.'
The family is doing its best to cope.
"We decided the best thing we can do now is just have a positive attitude about life," Cammy said.
"I try to keep busy with all the stuff that I do," said Jessica, the couple's youngest child at 14 and the last one still living at home. "I just kind of keep my mind off it."
Brooke Wilberger returned from her freshman year at BYU near the end of April last year. She was working for her sister Stephani and Stephani's husband, at the Oak Park Apartments the couple managed, washing lamp posts about 11 a.m. the last time anyone who knew her saw her.
Brooke's photo has been plastered throughout Oregon and even as far away as Central Park in New York City.
For her birthday in February, the family decided to turn the "Find Brooke" Web site pink, her favorite color, and to put up new posters in Veneta. A man at the copy shop where Greg Wilberger was getting the posters made offered to pay the charges. And the family continues to get calls of support, the Wilbergers said.
"We just want to thank people for their support and their prayers," Greg said. "And, hopefully, we'll get an answer. That's the most frustrating thing - you just want to know. Someday, we will."
In the meantime, Brooke's bedroom at the end of the hallway remains the way she left it 365 days ago. When family or friends come to visit, they do not sleep in there.
"Nobody wants to use that room," Cammy Wilberger said. "It's kind of special. It's Brooke's room."
LOOKING FOR CLUES
Tip lines: (800) 843-5678 or (541) 766-6989
Web site: www.findbrooke.com
Got a match? Police are looking for a match to compare fibers of the "FreshJive" sweatshirt, manufactured in 1999 or 2000, that Brooke Wilberger was wearing when she vanished. To see a photo of the sweatshirt, go to www.findbrooke.com
Cammy Wilberger sits in her empty classroom at Fairfield Elementary School, where she teaches third grade, and talks about her daughter Brooke, who disappeared from a Corvallis apartment complex one year ago today.
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|Title Annotation:||Crime; One year ago, a 19-year-old college student vanished. Her family's love never has.|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||May 24, 2005|
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