Trial continues in 1988 South Bend murder case

NOW: Trial continues in 1988 South Bend murder case

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The trial continued today for a woman accused of playing a role in the 1988 murder of Miriam Rice.

Barbara Brewster is accused of abducting and killing Rice while she was walking her dog on Park Avenue in South Bend.  After a five day search, Rice’s body was found at Pinhook Lagoon. 

During the second day of the trial, eight witnesses testified for the state including three of the defendant’s family members.

Brewster’s son was just 5 years old at the time of the murder.

He says he witnessed his mother kill a woman in their van.

Brewster’s daughter, was 7-years-old at the time.

She testified today that she was forced to clean blood from the crime scene and clean the blood that had gotten onto her brother.

Robert Smith, Brewster’s son, says he was camping with his family when it all happened.

He said he left his family’s campsite with his mother, and her boyfriend, George Kearny, who already pled guilty and passed away in jail.

The plan was to bring back food for the family when Kearny stopped the vehicle, abducted a woman who was walking along a sidewalk, and threw her into their van. 

“George told my mom that she could kill her, or he would kill all of us,” Smith said. 

Smith said Brewster had no choice but to kill the woman.  “She bashed her skull in,” he said. 

Brewster’s son blames Kearny for the murder. He says his mother is not a violent person, but a victim of abuse and control. 

Smith says those chilling memories will never leave. “It’s like a projection that plays the same images over and over again. It never stops,” he said.

Paula Brooks, Robert’s sister, says Brewster forced her to clean the blood off of her brother’s body.

She says she was also forced to clean up a puddles and splatters of blood in the van.

Brewster’s son testified that he has always felt the impact of his mother’s accused role in Miriam’s murder. 

Saying he doesn’t sleep and he’s even tried to commit suicide multiple times. 

Brewster’s sister was the third family member to testify the second day of trial. She tipped off Crime Stoppers twice about Kearny and Brewster in 1988. The state presented the physical Crime Stoppers reports accusing Kearny of playing a role in Rice’s disappearance, additionally putting him and Brewster at Pinhook Park at the time of the murder. 

Throughout the second day of trial, the state laid out additional evidence including autopsy diagrams and even crime scene video of the scene from 1988, showing disturbing images of Miriam’s decomposing body.

The man who did the autopsy on Miriam Rice testified on Tuesday.

He was questioned for more than an hour, detailing the trauma and injuries Miriam suffered.

He showed diagrams of Miriam’s skull, noting that there were pieces of that investigators never found.

And noted, out of 22 bones in her skull, the majority of them were fractured.

He believes Miriam was hit in the head at least 3 times. 

A number of investigators testified for the state today as well.

One forensic scientist described evidence including Miriam’s socks and cigarette butts found on scene.

However, all of the items tested did not have enough DNA to complete testing or actually excluded Barbara Brewster all together.

The trial could possibly come to an end on Wednesday.

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