2 suspects charged in 1988 death of Miriam Rice
Two people have been charged with murder in the 1988 death of Miriam Rice.
The 28-year-old was pregnant with her second child when she was kidnapped and murdered along the St. Joseph River.
Rice's body was found just north of Pinhook Park in South Bend. The coroner ruled that she died of a skull fracture.
On Monday afternoon, two arrests were announced at a news conference by Commander Tim Corbett of the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit and St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter.
The suspects have been identified as George Kearney and Barbara Brewster (aka Barbara South aka Barbara Clarke aka Daisy Golden). Both have been charged with murder.
"For a six and seven year old to come forward, even though it's 30 years later is probably one of the hardest things that I think anyone could ever do,” St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said.
Paula Brooks and Robert South, two of Brewster's children, spoke with St. Joseph County Investigators.
"After 30 years you must think that you're free but that's not the case,” County Metro Homicide Commander Tim Corbett said.
Paula, who was just seven at the time, said they were all camping at Pinhook Park when her mom, George and brother left for food. She said she later heard screaming, the three returned covered in blood, and she was told to burn their clothes.
Robert, then six, told investigators he was too scared to come forward sooner because Kearney threatened to kill him if he told. He said was in the van with the two suspects when Kearney "smashed" Miriam's head into the van and yelled at his mother to kill Miriam as he beat her.
After the crime, Paula told investigators that she told her aunt, Helen Partin, about the murder. Partin said she initially didn’t know what to believe, but later called Crime Stoppers after seeing news that Miriam was missing.
In March 2016, Kearney talked to investigators, he said, after getting many letters in jail from Paula questioning his involvement in the murder.
"It certainly peaked a little bit of more interest and it led us in the direction to find the other witnesses,” Cotter said.
Kearney and Brewster blame each other for the actual killing.
After the murder, Miriam's then-husband Jeffrey was subjected to rumors. But investigators say he was cleared long ago.
"Jeff Rice had absolutely nothing to do with it. In my opinion, not only did he lose a wife, and a child, he lost part of himself in this,” Corbett said.
In a statement given to investigators, Jeff wrote:
"For our entire family, these arrests were a long-awaited step toward final justice. It is the culmination of exceptional cooperation between the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit and the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office, along with the tireless and dedicated work of some very special retired police officers. Our entire family is forever grateful to these people and know every ounce of their energy will now be dedicated to convictions and ultimate justice."
Kearney is currently in custody and awaiting court in St. Joseph County. Brewster is awaiting extradition from Calhoun County in Alabama.