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Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
Shannon Cordon, Brooke Wilberger's oldest sister, receives a hug from searcher Ken Oar as her mother, Cammi Wilberger, receives a hug from searcher Mike Holloway after she thanked volunteers in '04.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The fourth anniversary of the disappearance of Brooke Wilberger has arrived with the suspect in her death awaiting trial charged with aggravated murder.

Wilberger was 19, wearing flip-flop shoes, and working a summer job scrubbing the lighting fixtures outside a Corvallis apartment complex her sister was managing.

Blond, blue-eyed, beautiful — she vanished on May 24, 2004, with nothing but the flip-flops left behind.

No body has been found.

But after years of investigation, and an attack on another young, blond, blue-eyed woman, prosecutors say all the evidence points to Joel Courtney.

Wilberger had just completed her freshman year at Brigham Young University after graduating in 2003 from Elmira High School and was very much the American dream — young, cheerful, smart, attractive with a loving family.

Courtney emerges as the American nightmare from the twisted details of a troubled adolescence contained in the court documents filed in his case.

Both his sister and his cousin were targets of his rape attempts and threats. He amassed a criminal record, mostly petty stuff, but enough to paint a disturbing picture.

His sister told investigators Courtney began using drugs at age 11, and she once had to hit him over the head with a clock to prevent a rape.

Their cousin said Courtney sexually abused her at least four times between the ages of 12 and 17.

By 15, Courtney had developed in interest in Satanism, his sister told police.

It was only luck and the bravery of a Russian foreign exchange student at the University of Mexico that tripped him up when she escaped after a brutal rape and called police.

Courtney was convicted of kidnapping and raping the young woman — who resembles Wilberger.

Now Courtney sits at the Benton County Jail in Corvallis while his attorneys prepare for his aggravated murder trial and prosecutors plan to ask for the death penalty.

Nobody involved in the investigation or the trial will talk about it, or comment on the troubling question of whether there could be more undiscovered victims.

But police in jurisdictions where Courtney traveled or lived over the years — Alaska, Florida, New Mexico and Oregon — told The Associated Press they have no active murder investigations involving him.

"There have been no DNA hits on him in our homicide cases or our cold cases," said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau.

Courtney, who turns 42 on June 2, grew up in the unincorporated area of Washington County that bears a Portland address before beginning a life moving around from Alaska, to Florida and New Mexico, working at times as a fisherman, mechanic and janitor.

He eventually married and settled in Rio Rancho, N.M., an Albuquerque suburb where he kept his record clean for more than a decade after serving time in jail in Oregon for a 1991 sex abuse conviction in Washington County.

But details that have emerged from the investigation, court documents and media interviews suggest a secretive and angry man who drank too much, used crack cocaine and frightened his wife and three children.

An Albuquerque police detective investigating the exchange student's rape in November 2004 made a call to Oregon to check on Courtney's criminal record, leading to the first major break in the Wilberger case.

Since then, the evidence accumulated in the case indicates Courtney was in Corvallis the day of Wilberger's disappearance instead of appearing as scheduled in Lincoln County Circuit Court in Newport for a hearing on a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants.

A green van like the one Courtney drove for a building maintenance company was spotted near the Corvallis apartment building and on the nearby Oregon State University campus.

Two apartment residents heard a scream, which one of them described as "bloodcurdling," at the time Wilberger vanished. Another witness saw a man fitting Courtney's description driving a green van.

The parents of Courtney's wife said his van was clean when he left but muddy when he returned to their home in Portland.

According to court documents, he did not explain his absence and told his in-laws that he had been the victim of a kidnapping before telling them he had to get out of Oregon because "the cops were after him."

Before he left, he visited the Oregon Health & Science University hospital emergency room in Portland for chest pains. Doctors reported he had extremely high blood pressure, a fact that a forensic psychologist for the FBI said was significant, given the timing.

The Wilberger family, meanwhile, has tried to make peace with what they now consider the inevitable.

A massive search by police, her family, friends, volunteers and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints failed to turn up any trace of Brooke.

"Everybody felt that everything that could be done was being done," said Tom Sherry, a family spokesman.

But he said the volunteers suffered along with the Wilbergers as the search grew cold.

"Every day we learned that people's emotions were very much tied up in this, going through the reality of what this girl is going through if she was still alive," Sherry said.

The Wilbergers, however, are "an amazing family" and remain committed to their religious faith and the principle of forgiveness, he said.

But the impact will be felt again when the case goes to trial, Sherry said.

"It will dredge up the worst feelings," he said.