I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
A deal between two governors
Last Friday, Joel Patrick Courtney confessed to killing 19-year old Brooke Wilberger, a Brigham Young University student who went missing from her hometown of Corvallis, Ore. in 2004. For five and a half years, Wilberger’s devout Mormon family had no clue what happened to her.
Courtney was the main suspect, though, and there was enough physical and circumstantial evidence linking him to her disappearance for Oregon authorities to try him for her kidnapping and purported murder.
Shockingly, on the eve of his trial last week, Courtney, 43, confessed to Wilberger’s kidnapping, rape and murder and agreed to direct authorities to the remote Oregon coastal spot where he left her body. In exchange, Oregon authorities agreed to give Courtney life in prison, not the death penalty.
But that’s not all Courtney got.
There were a number of players in the deal, which was hammered out Friday before anyone in the general public knew the wrenching Wilberger mystery was finally solved.
There was Courtney, of course, and the Wilberger family, Oregon authorities, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski…and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.
After Joel Patrick Courtney murdered Brooke Wilberger in Oregon in May of 2004, he moved to Rio Rancho, N.M. with his wife and children (his wife reportedly has family here).
Then, in November of 2004, Courtney kidnapped a University of New Mexico exchange student from a campus-area street and raped her in the same van he’d used to kidnap and rape Wilberger. This victim managed to escape with her life. New Mexico successfully prosecuted Courtney for this crime (and in the meantime, discovered evidence that linked Courtney to the Wilberger case). He was sentenced to 18 years for the kidnapping and sexual assault.
And then he was extradited to Oregon to stand trial in the Wilberger case.
But what Courtney really wanted to do was to get back to New Mexico, where his wife and children still live.
So when Courtney decided to make his bid to avoid the death penalty by admitting what he did to Brooke Wilberger, saving Oregon the expense of a trial and giving the Wilberger family her bones to bury, he included this condition in his deal: Send me back to New Mexico.
Kulongoski and Richardson signed an executive agreement to allow Courtney to do his time in New Mexico first.
And so, the day after he confessed and was sentenced to life in prison in Oregon, Courtney was shipped to back New Mexico, where he was processed in Tuesday at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas.
He will serve 18 years here before he’s sent back to Oregon to serve his life sentence.
Does anyone else think this is just wrong?
I’m glad the Wilbergers finally got the relief of knowing what happened to their daughter, and will now be able to bury her body. And the whole state of Oregon wins, too, by avoiding an expensive trial, death penalty prosecution and incarceration.
But what do we get?
An Oregon murderer, shipped back to Los Lunas before most people in New Mexico even knew what was happening.