Joel Patrick Courtney
The Community Gets Involved
The community rallied. Brooke grew up in Veneta, a very small town of only 3,000 people, thirty miles south of Corvallis, itself a university town of only 50,000. Among friends, schoolmates, hometown folk and the LDS church family, within days, over four thousand flyers with Brooke's picture covered the area, and reached every state of the union. Being prepared for an emergency is one of every Mormon's goals, and they were certainly prepared to get the word out about Brooke.
Her photo showed up on huge bulletin boards by the Interstate, and on buses all over the county. Public Service announcements showed up on television. Every gas station, every café, every convenience store had her flyer in the window. They held vigils. They held press conferences. They went on America's Most Wanted television show. Brooke's parents were featured on Good Morning America. Local real estate agents and property managers searched vacant properties and outbuildings. They held self-defense classes for women. At nineteen, Brooke was too old for the Amber Alert system for missing children, but as several high-profile cases recently have shown us, media pressure keeps the case alive. And those who loved Brooke were prepared to keep the pressure on.
Police received over eleven hundred tips, including four hundred from psychics. Theories abounded, stretching to the idea of Brooke being kidnapped and sold into white slavery in some exotic location.
Six hundred and fifty volunteers searched four thousand acres of field and woodlands around the Corvallis area. They searched the rivers and wetlands in canoes and kayaks. They searched the mountains on horseback.
But Oregon is vast and relatively unpopulated. There are thousands of acres of woodlands. Thousands of acres of wilderness.
A website, www.findbrooke.com was established with a downloadable flyer in a variety of languages; in the first twenty-four hours, the site received 26,000 hits. Brooke's disappearance hit a nerve with Americans and news of her abduction spread like wildfire.
Police began to focus in on four "persons of interest," but in the tumult, Brian's tip, of seeing the erratic green minivan, was almost entirely overlooked.