SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – A jury found Barbara Brewster guilty in the 1988 murder of South Bend mother Miriam Rice.
The jury returned its verdict after about 90 minutes of deliberation Wednesday afternoon, ending the three-day trial.
Brewster did not testify in her own defense Wednesday. However, before closing arguments, jurors watched a videotaped interview of her from February 2018. Cold case investigator Tim Corbett questioned Brewster about her involvement of what happened on June 24, 1988.
Brewster said they saw a woman walking her dog that night. George Kearney, Brewster's boyfriend at the time, got out of the van, attacked and abducted the woman, and shoved her into the van. She said Kearney then dropped off her and her children back at their campsite at Pinhook Park and drove off with the woman. She said when Kearney returned, she saw blood in the van.
In the video, Brewster admitted that Kearney burned his clothing, her son Robert's clothes and other effects found in the van. And a week later, when she confronted Kearney about the missing woman, he told her he "took care of it" and she "wouldn't be found."
Brewster's lawyer noted that a terrible crime happened but said all of the evidence did not prove his client killed Rice. He highlighted the Crime Stoppers tip from Brewster's sister Helen that referenced only Kearney as a suspect, as well as the fact that no DNA evidence linked Brewster to the crime.
Rice's body was found on June 29, 1988, in the 1600 block of Boland Drive, near Pinhook Park. Kearney pleaded guilty to the murder before dying in the St. Joseph County Jail in March. He was posthumously convicted of the crime.
The case had been cold for 30 years before Kearney and Brewster were arrested in July 2018.
During Tuesday's testimony, the jury heard from forensic pathologist Dr. Rick Hoover, who provided some of the gruesome details of Rice's violent death, including that between 10 and 15 percent of her skull was never recovered.
After Wednesday's verdict, the Rice family released the following statement:
Miriam is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend whose life was taken in a senseless and evil action which is beyond comprehension. And this act of evil did not stop with the brutality inflicted upon Miriam— it also took away the life of her second child. No verdict will reverse these losses and a part of our lives remains gone forever. Yet, today’s guilty verdict was the long-awaited result toward the justice we prayed and hoped for since June 29, 1988.
We also know that if Miriam were here she would be the first in line to thank the following people and groups for all they did to bring some sense of closure to all of us— the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office and their Victim Advocate Team; the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit; the band of retired police officers and detectives who pursued information and evidence over the past 18 months; the many witnesses who showed courage in their testimonies throughout the trial; and a jury which gave days of their lives to hear the painful story which unfolded.
For us, many of these people and groups have become a part of our lives. And, we also know, they were constantly motivated to achieve justice as they learned how precious Miriam was to us. We are forever grateful for their tireless and professional efforts in achieving this just result.
The Family of Miriam.
For all of the stories following the Miriam Rice murder, related arrests and trial, click on the links below:
Michiana Unsolved: The Miriam Rice Murder
Man speaks of friendship with Miriam Rice murder suspect
Miriam Rice murder suspect back in St. Joseph County
Miriam Rice murder suspect Kearney has initial hearing
UPDATE: Miriam Rice murder suspect in court Monday
Suspect pleads guilty in 1988 Miriam Rice murder
UPDATE: One of the suspects in Miriam Rice's murder dies
Trial pushed back for Miriam Rice murder suspect
Prosecutors to move forward with case against Miriam Rice murder suspect
Murder suspect faces plea deadline
Murder trial begins in the 1988 slaying of Miriam Rice
Detailed testimony continues in Rice murder trial; suspect's children testify