Dateline   |  April 28, 2014

Bringing Brooke Home, Part 1

On a summer break from college, nineteen year-old Brooke Wilberger returns home to Oregon. While cleaning apartments in Corvallis she suddenly vanishes, hastily leaving behind her flip flops. Kate Snow reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i want to know where she is.3 f1

>> some images are eternal, timeless. one moment the future seems immeasurable, the possibilities endless, but in an instant, you can be left with only memories to hold till the end of time . brooke wilberger lived as if she had all of the time in the world to grow up, to marry, to create a close-knit family like her own parents had.

>> we have six children and brooke is number five.

>> always wanted to have a big family?

>> we ended up with one.

>> tammy wilberger and her husband greg raised their family near beautiful eugene, oregon , a family that included brooke 's older brother bryce and sister stephanie .

>> we used to have so much fun dressing her up. she was kind of like our little toy, if you will.

>> i know, let's dress up brooke , right?

>> yeah. she was just fun.

>> little brooke didn't speak until she was 4 and even then could be a bit hard to understand. but as brooke grew, her natural talents spoke loudly. she loved animals and 4-h, played basketball and ran track.

>> she was good. she was better than most of the rest of us at the sports that we played.

>> she snowboarded on slopes around oregon . as her little sister jessica remembers, took pride in being scrappy on the soccer field .

>> she came home from soccer and she kind of had a black eye and my brother asked what happened. she kind of laughed and said, i got into a fight. and he said, no, you don't, brooke , you don't get in fights. she said, you're right, i got hit in soccer practice but isn't it so cool?

>> brooke was also an honor student at elmira high, who loved to bake, scrapbook, and see the sights on the west coast .

>> this is my home, yay.

>> she could be seriously silly --

>> this is my crib, you know.

>> or stylish, happy to shop for shoes or fashion. she was reliable, thoughtful, popular, and pretty, inside and out.

>> she made people feel better about themselves.

>> people wanted to be with her?

>> yeah. and she was nice. she was intelligent and beautiful but she was also really nice.

>> the minute she turned 16, when dad's rules allowed her to start dating, she knew she wanted her child food friend to be justin. and when brooke graduated, she decided to follow him to brigham young university in utah.

>> she just really wanted to experience life outside of our community and kind of branch out.

>> the girl who had grown up saying words a little funny decided to study speech pathology . brooke loved her new friends and byu, but returned home her freshman year for thanksgiving to spend time with her family and shop.

>> we returned to meier & frank before it was macy's. she really liked this watch. it was kind of a dressy watch. she was pretty classy in the things she chose to wear. she sees it in the case and she mentioned it to you?

>> yeah. she's like, i really like that watch, mom.

>> easy christmas present?

>> it was.

>> six months later in the spring, her freshman year was history. brooke returned home to oregon . she had a summer job in corvallis, about 30 miles from home, working at the oak park apartments, managed by her sister stephanie and stephanie 's husband. and on monday, may 24th , 2004 , she left the house where her sister jessica was getting ready for another day of seventh grade.

>> she was kind of in a rush and walked out the door and left and about five minutes later she walked back in and she just yelled through the door, i love you. and walked out. and that was the last time i talked to her.

>> by 9:00 a.m ., brooke was at the apartments and an hour later hard at work.

>> i could see through our apartment to the back window facing our patio and brooke was bending over filling up a bucket of water and that was the last time i saw her.

>> at what point did you realize that she wasn't out there anymore?

>> not until probably 1:00. i had fixed lunch for my children and for her and she hadn't shown up.

>> what starts going through your head when she doesn't come in for lunch?

>> it's a large complex. there's over 100 apartments. so i wasn't like immediately worried because i thought she could be cleaning, you know, laundry room somewhere. i even said something like, well, let's take out the search party. tongue in cheek and took my little kids out with me and we started just walking around, looking to see if we could see her. just to tell her her lunch was ready.

>> you're not in a full-blown panic at this point?

>> no. no.

>> but before long, stephanie would come upon these. near a lamp post brooke had been cleaning, her flip flops were on the pavement.

>> the little piece of plastic that goes between your toe was ripped out on one and there were muddy toe prints sliding down the actual sole of the shoe so it was clear she was trying to stay put and stay grounded when she lost her shoes.

>> you knew that right then?

>> immediately. yeah.

>> still, though, no panic, no cries for help for a couple of hours until 3:07 when stephanie 's husband placed a very calm call to 911.

>> 911, what is your emergency?

>> yeah, i've got somebody that is missing, a worker of mine we can't seem to find.

>> missing from where?

>> i'm a manager of oak park apartments and this worker happens to be my sister-in-law. she's 19.

>> when is the last time anybody saw her?

>> around 10:30 .

>> where had brooke wilberger gone? why couldn't anyone find her? brooke 's mom was about to learn of her daughter's disappearance in a phone call with one of her sons.

>> i said, where is brooke ? and he said, we don't know. i said, what do you mean you don't know? he goes, we don't know where she is. i said, spence, don't tease me. what are you talking about? and he goes, no, seriously mom, we can't find her. and right then i just had this chill go through my whole body.

>> coming up, a whole community turns out to search for brooke while the police start their investigation by focusing on her family.

>> stephanie was just grilled about, you know, where was she?