Dateline   |  April 28, 2014

Bringing Brooke Home, Part 2

The Wilbergers, along with the Corvallis Police Department, launch a herculean search effort, leaving no stone unturned in the quest to find their beloved Brooke. The only clue in her disappearance ...those flip flops. Where could Brooke Wilberger be?

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

>>> on a sunny, spring day in corvallis , oregon, the clock was ticking. 19-year-old brooke wilberger had disappeared about 10:30 a.m . as she worked cleaning lamp posts in the parking lot of the oak park apartments. just a block away from the bustling campus of oregon state university . at 1:00 p.m ., her sister stephanie got worried when brooke didn't show up for lunch.

>> it just wasn't like her, you know. she was always on time .

>> by 3:00, stephanie 's husband called police.

>> we've looked everywhere we could think to look for her here.

>> word was spreading among brooke 's five siblings. their sweet by feisty little sister had disappeared.

>> when did they call you, brice?

>> it was mid afternoon sometime. i knew something was seriously wrong when the comment was, we can't find brooke . it didn't take anything longer than that.

>> brice picked up his mother who was trying not to panic.

>> a lot of people talk about that maternal feeling that you sometimes get inside. did you get a feeling?

>> i just kept thinking, you know, maybe she met up with one of her friends that was going to osu. no, brooke wouldn't do that. it's not brooke .

>> by late in the afternoon with brooke now missing for hours, cell phones started buzzing.

>> i was sitting at my son's tee ball game and i got a phone call from one of our patrol lieutenants at the time who said, john, we have a missing girl.

>> captain jonathan sassaman and lieutenant tim brewer of the corvallis police department were about to begin a journey unlike any they had ever experienced.

>> i asked him, what do you think? is this real? he had the natural gut instinct that this was not a walk away , not a runaway, that something bad had happened.

>> when the captain arrived at the apartments, he was struck by how few clues he had to work with.

>> it is a parking lot with a pair of flip-flops and a bucket with soap and some water under a lamppost.

>> also left behind, brooke 's wallet, purse, cell phone , and car. nobody, it seemed, saw anything but someone heard something about 10:30 that morning, a blood curdling scream. the evidence pointed to an abduction, but investigators started with questions for the people closest to the victim. first question, where was brooke 's boyfriend, justin? it turned out he was serving a two-year mission for the mormon church 4,000 miles away in venezuela. next, brooke 's family.

>> we needed to go through, is the family a suspect? and we had to get that work done and we had investigators doing that.

>> stephanie was just grilled about where was she, why don't you know where she was and did you do it?

>> that had to be awful.

>> it was terrible. we made the decision that we as a family, we would do anything to get brooke back, whatever the police asked us to do, we will do it. if they suspect us, that's okay. we don't care. we want to find brooke .

>> and soon a community came together. within hours of brooke 's disappearance, dozens, then hundreds of people showed up, many from the wilberger's church. others, concerned citizens and cops.

>> she could be anywhere. we have to look everywhere.

>> they came in droves that first evening and every day after with one goal, find brooke .

>> by golly, come hel or high water , we are going to find her.

>> but for detectives, the sheer number of searchers presented a challenge.

>> as an investigator responsible for this, we're looking at, is our bad guy here? it's not uncommon for people who commit the crime to circle right back around, be present, learn, see what's going on.

>> by this time, the fbi had also entered the investigation. supervisory special agent joe boyers' first question, had brooke been taken by someone who lived at the apartment complex ? and could that person be among the tens of thousands of oregon state students who would soon be leaving town for the summer? agent boyer asked fbi profilers for help.

>> they asked us, do you have a crime scene ? no, we don't, other than flip-flops in a parking lot . do you have any witnesses? no, we don't. do you have a vehicle description? no, we don't. do you have a body? no, we don't. they said, frankly, there's very little we could do for you at this point.

>> with so little evidence, investigators found themselves thinking back to another crime, a crime many here in corvallis barely recall. on another day in may, nearly 30 years to the day and one mile away from where brooke disappeared, a young oregon state student vanished. it wasn't until her body was discovered and her killer caught that people here realized this town had been visited by one of america's most notorious serial killers , ted bundy . authorities in corvallis wondered if there was now another sexual predator bold enough to abduct a young woman in broad daylight.

>> it was a rough day for the sex offenders in our county because there was a team who went out and put their finger on every single one of them.

>> how many sex offenders are there in this area?

>> i think that was something that was very startling to realize is how many there actually were.

>> when police told brooke 's family there may be 2,000 sex offenders in the area, they were horrified.

>> when they tried -- when they get into details and i just have to lay back on the bed because i would become nauseated. you know, just the whole trauma of it was too much.

>> it just took a couple days, i think, to sink in that something bad had happened and that she was really gone.

>> there seemed to be little question, brooke was gone and in grave danger. the family took to the airwaves. her father, greg --

>> if anyone has seen brooke at all, if they would just please call in.

>> tips poured in to police hotlines.

>> we have dozens and dozens of brooke wilberger sightings in practically every state.

>> everybody that went for a walk in following days who saw someone who looked out of place called us up.

>> the search expanded daily. at times it seemed the whole state of oregon was pitching in to find brooke .

>> i have daughters this age and i want to help.

>> more search teams , dozens of square miles .

>> what is the geography like around here? where could someone have taken brooke ?

>> limitless. we're ten miles from interstate 5. we have a north-south highway running right through corvallis . we have an east-west highway running through corvallis . you could drive five miles from corvallis and be in a very remote area.

>> in the deep woods ?

>> absolutely.

>> but despite the odds, within days investigators were hot on someone's trail.