Dateline   |  April 28, 2014

Bringing Brooke Home, Part 6

Armed with a rough description of the young student's attacker, Albuquerque police quickly put the pieces of the puzzle together and arrest Joel Patrick Courtney, 38, a husband and father of three. Does he hold the key to finding Brooke?

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

>>> on a november night in 2004 , albuquerque police were on a man hunt. just blocks from the university of new mexico campus, a man had kidnapped a 22-year-old student off the street and sexually assaulted her. but when he carelessly tied her up and left her in his car in this apartment parking lot , she bolted, ran naked into traffic and thankfully had been rescued by this woman.

>> that could be my daughter. she's a human being . she did not deserve to be run down the road with no clothes on.

>> now albuquerque police officer ed taylor was among those looking for a suspect, a white male with a shaved head wearing a cap. police learned from a woman who lived in the apartments where the victim escaped that the man's name was joe , that he spoke spanish. she would say no more.

>> i went back to the substation and spoke to my supervisor. i told him, i believe if i went by myself, she will tell me more information.

>> why? why did you have that feeling?

>> i thought i had a connection with her. so i returned to the location and i told her, i said, this is what is going on. this is what happened. basically god forbid something like this were to happen to you or somebody you know and she reluctantly ended up telling me you might be able to locate the vehicle behind the restaurant just south of gibson.

>> riding solo, officer taylor followed the woman's directions and parked right here on this dead-end street was a red, two-door honda with a stuffed animal stuck to the window.

>> so i waited a little bit and a few minutes later i noticed three individuals walking out of that white house and walking towards me. i called out to them as joe . i said, " joe ," and he acknowledged me. and as he got closer, i said, is this your vehicle? he said yes. i had him turn around and i placed him into custody.

>> did you find anything on him?

>> i found a glass pipe he used to smoke crack o'cain cocaine and a small knife.

>> did he ever ask you why he was under arrest?

>> no i think he knew he was caught.

>> caught was this man, joel patrick courtney , soon identified by his victim and arrested on criminal sexual penetration, kidnapping and aggravated battery . joel courtney was 38 years old. he lived in this albuquerque suburb, rio rancho in this home with his wife and three young children. he had worked as a mechanic and fisherman and had lived all over the united states . a fluent spanish speaker, he also lived in mexico . but the man who appeared in family photos as the ever smiling attentive father also had a dark side . six months before, his wife had taken out a restraining order against him, reporting he had choked her.

>> the first time i saw him, i remember thinking it was as strong of a reaction that i had had to richard ramirez .

>> ramirez is the notorious night stalker , convicted of murdering more than a dozen people in the 1980s , now died in 2013 awaiting execution on california's death row . prosecutor theresa watley once crossed paths with ramirez in the courtroom.

>> he made the hair on my arms stand up. because he was so evil. the only other person that has done that to me was joel courtney .

>> when you first read the reports about this case, what went through your mind as a prosecutor?

>> that this is not the first time he had done this. you don't start grabbing people in broad daylight off the street and grab them in your car when you're almost 40. that's not the way the criminal mind works.

>> the new mexico prosecutor didn't know yet how right she was. and back in oregon, the wilberger family knew nothing yet of these developments as they faced the holidays still hoping brooke would walk through the door and take her place on the stairs for the family's annual christmas pageant and pictures.

>> smile, angels.

>> that's exactly what we kept thinking. this can't happen. this just can't happen. this is brooke , you know, she's too full of life. she's too dynamic and too much a part of us. i've got to keep hoping. and i've got to keep thinking positive.

>> this is my home, yay.

>> where was brooke ? six months had passed. was she still alive somehow somewhere? her sister stephanie was dealing with a lot of guilt. brooke was working for her when she disappeared.

>> i was driving somewhere and just reflecting on where we were so far and i remember thinking, gosh, i wonder what it will be like when i don't think about this every day? what could i have done differently? or what if this little thing had changed?

>> but something was finally about to change. the quick thinking that led to joel courtney 's capture in new mexico was about to lead to more questions, and investigators would soon want to know if this father of three, now charged in a daring abduction, could