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Barbara Brewster sentenced to 60 years for murder of Miriam Rice

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- In court Friday, 56-year-old Barbara Brewster was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the murder Miriam Rice in June 1988.

Brewster was found guilty of murder at trial in June 2019.

The other suspect in the murder, George Kearney, pleaded guilty in March 2019 to one count of murder. He died before he was sentenced, but the court later entered a judgment of conviction against him.

The break in the cold case came in March 2016 when Kearney came forward.

Background

Miriam Rice was 28-years-old on June 24, 1988 when she left her home in the 800 block of Park Avenue to walk her dog. She was married, had a 3 year old child and was 4 months pregnant.

About an hour later, Rice's family reported her missing when she didn't return from the walk.

The following day her dog was found hiding under a car on Riverside Drive.

Searchers found her body five days later down an embankment on Boland Drive, across the north lagoon of Pinhook Park. She was missing her bra and an earring.

The autopsy determined she died of multiple skull fractures.

There were no big breaks in the case until March 2016 when George Kearney came forward.

He told police he had recently been released from prison after serving 27 years. He said while in prison he received letters from Brewster's daughter questioning his involvement in Rice's death.

He said he came forward because he wanted to "clear the air."

At the time of Rice's death, Kearney, his then-girlfriend Barbara Brewster and Brewster's three children were camping at Pinhook Park, according to the probable cause affidavit.

He told police while at the park they saw a woman running along the pavilion and Brewster got something out of a black bag and ran after the woman.

He lost sight of Brewster but then heard screams. Brewster returned with blood on her hands, Kearney told police.

Brewster's daughter Paula, who was 7-years-old in 1988, spoke with investigators when she was 37-years-old.

She told police Kearney, Brewster and her 6-year-old brother Bobby left the campsite to get food while she stayed behind with her 2-year-old brother.

She reported hearing a scream from across the lagoon, reports said.

A short time later, Paula said Brewster, Kearney and Bobby returned and were covered in blood. Her brother looked traumatized and only told her "something bad happened," according to the probable cause affidavit.

Brewster and Kearney took their clothes and Bobby's clothes and burned them, reports said.

Paula was told to clean the blood out of the van. She found a bra and earring in the van while cleaning it, she told police.

The family then left the park and Paula told an aunt about what happened.

Her aunt called Crime Stoppers twice and Crime Stoppers confirmed receiving two phone calls from the aunt, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Investigators made contact Bobby in 2018, when he was 35 years old.

He told police he was in the van with Brewster and Kearney when they saw Rice walking her dog along the road.

Kearney pulled over, got out of the van, grabbed Rice by the hair and tried to force her in the van, he told police. Rice fought back, so Kearney hit her head on the side of the van and forced her inside, according to the probable cause affidavit.

He told police Kearney told Brewster to kill Rice, so Brewster beat her in the head with tools that were in the van, according to the probable cause affidavit.

He told police he has never spoken about what happened because Kearney threatened to kill him if he did.

In February 2018, police spoke with Brewster, who denied killing Rice.

She told police she was in the van with Kearney when he grabbed Rice and forced her in the van. She said he rendered Rice unconscious. Brewster told police Kearney dropped her and her children off at Pinhook Park, then left with Rice, according to the probable cause affidavit.

When he returned, Rice was no longer in the van, she told police.

Brewster denied being involved in Rice's death and denied being covered in blood. She told police they burned Kearney's and Bobby's clothes. She also allegedly admitted to having Paula clean up the van and they threw Rice's earring in the fire.

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