The Deaths of Rick and Gail Brink

This is one of those cases that as I sit down to type this I am not sure just how I feel about it.  This happens from time to time but generally by the time I am done here and have complied it all together I have taken a side.  The problem with this case is it nearly comes down to a he said/she said issue and without knowing more about the people, or seeing their demeanor and testimony in court I am unsure that I can adequately resolve that, at least with myself that is.  I welcome feedback and information from readers on all of my blogs but the ones that are like this I tend to like to hear even more.

On November 23, 1987 near Holland Michigan Rick Brink's parents and his boss went to his home after they realized that neither twenty-eight year old Rick or his twenty-two year old wife, Gail had gone to work that morning.  It was unusual for both of them.  They knew before they entered the house that something was terribly wrong.  Inside his Chevy Blazer in the driveway Rick sat in his truck. Rick also was not moving and had been shot in the head twice.  His wife, Gail lay on the couple's waterbed, also shot in the head.... three times for her.  There would be few leads in the case and no arrests for over 25 years.  What there was were rumors and speculation, although it seems not all that suspected things said them out loud, or at least to authorities.  Just about the only thing they could determine was that Rick and Gail had last been seen around 11pm on November 21st when they left a wedding reception.  No one had seen or heard from them sense.  Apparently it seems autopsy results placed their death between that time and the following day, nearly a day before they were discovered.

In 2011 a new cold case unit was enacted and two detectives started digging through the files.  They came across the Rick and Gail Brink murder file and began looking into it.  It would be more almost a year before they made their way around to interviewing some of the family members.  When they interviewed Gail's sister, Cheryl Murphee and one of her aunts they were a bit puzzled.  They both had mentioned that Gail and Cheryl's brother, Ryan Wyngarden had made several strange comments over the years to them. According to the aunt, the comments began at the funeral for the couple.  She claimed that he said to her "Do you think I could've killed them?" and later mentioned that they would probably still be alive had they let his parent park their camper in their driveway.  His aunt knew what he was referring to when it came to the camper.  On November 20th their aunt has spoken both to Gail and to Ryan.   Gail had called her and was complaining that Ryan owed her money, while Ryan had called and complained that he thought Gail thought she was better than the rest of the family and was refusing to allow their parents to park their camper in their driveway.  Apparently the elder Wyngarden's had sold their home for some reason and had been staying in Ryan's driveway but it was against county or city codes and they were going to have to move it.  Ryan had discussed the situation with Gail and she had said they could not park it at her home and according to his aunt Ryan was extremely angry about this.  Both his aunt and sister, Cheryl claimed to have heard Ryan say "Sometimes I wonder if I could have done it" referring to the murders. They stated that when they were initially made, like the ones at the funeral, they internally tried to tell themselves that he was just in shock and grieving.  It is unclear if the two family members had discussed it with anyone else, including each other until they were interviewed in 2011.

After their interview with Cheryl and her aunt of course the investigators were piqued I am sure. They looked back through the file and had discovered that at the time of the murders Ryan and his girlfriend, Pam had both been interviewed.  According to their alibi they had done laundry all evening, first at a laundromat and then later at a friends house.  Where I am a bit confused here is if the friend was ever interviewed to confirm their alibi.  Nothing in all of my research indicated that she ever was... not in 1987 and not in 2012 as far as I could tell.  Investigators learned that a few years after the murder Ryan and Pam had married and in fact were still married.  In October of 2012 they brought both Ryan and Pam into the police station for questioning.  This is when things just began to get a little sticky.

From the way I was able to piece things together it was at her first interview with officers that Pam informed them that the alibi they had given in 1987 was false and that they had in fact not been at the friends house.  She did however insist that she was sure that Ryan was not involved in the murders. She was not interviewed again until January 15, 2013 when investigators questioned her at her work. She had a human resource person sit in on the interview.  She would later say this was because Ryan had insisted she not talk to the police again without a lawyer and she figured this would be ok.  Once again she never implicated Ryan.  Apparently though it seems the investigators felt as if she was holding something back because they returned to her work three days later to interview her again. This interview also began at her work but Pam had decided that the human resource person did not need to be there.  When she started telling her story investigators decided they needed to move the questioning to their quarters.  It was there that Pam told the investigators that he had confessed to her many years prior that he had killed his sister and brother in law. Several months later apparently she elaborated even more saying that the day Ryan had taken her to the Brink's home the day after the murders, but a day before they were found, and she had actually seen the bodies.  She would claim that she never told then or over the next more than 25 years because she loved him but also that she feared him and he had threatened her several times over the years that if she did tell that she would meet the same fate. Ryan was arrested on January 18, 2013, the day Pam told authorities he had confessed to her.  

It was now up to investigators to figure the how and why since they believed they had the who.  As we all know DNA was not something that was around in 1987 so of course there is none of that in this case.  Add to this that nothing in my research indicated that much more evidence was gathered, including the fact I saw no reference to fingerprints.  But then again, as in so many cases we know, fingerprints, unless they were in strange places likely would not make a difference here.  Ryan had readily admitted being in the home and vehicles several times.  Over the next year, both prosecutors and the defense would build their case upon their theories.  Ryan never confessed in any way to authorities to the murders and maintained his innocence until the end.  The prosecutors believed, mostly based on information from Pam, that the motive behind the murders had gone back several years.  It had been brought to light that Ryan had possibly sexually molested Gail when they were young.  Now, playing devil's advocate here, as I often have to do while prosecutors maintained this theory based off of information from Pam but also from other family members, including another sister, Lynn, who also said Ryan and mentioned it throughout the years, the defense and Ryan would have a different take on things.  At his trial Ryan took the stand in his own defense and when talk of the sexual interaction he had an answer.  According to him that when he was about 12 and Gail was 9 they were both naked at some point and that while nothing supposedly happened they were both curious, and admits that given more time they may have explored more their mother had soon entered the room and nothing happened.  He then said a  while later the two had found marijuana in their fathers truck and while high had began touching each other.  He would claim nearly the same incident happened later, it being the last time, when he was about 15 and Gail about 12, where they were both high and only touching occurred.  He maintained that the incidents were consensual and that he never did anything more than touch.  His sister Lynn on the other hand would state that Ryan, during the years when it seems he was making what people thought were odd comments, that he had told her that he felt like he had raped Gail.  Pam would tell investigators that he had told her that his motive for the murders was jealously as well as the fact that he did not want Gail to tell Rick what they had done several years prior.

Ryan's trial began in March of 2014.  The prosecution's star witness was Pam of course.  They had a few other witnesses including Ryan's aunt and sister, Cheryl.  Pam told her story and his aunt and sister told of the strange comments he had made over the years.  Then there was a friend of Ryan's named Jim Meacham.  He would claim that he went to Ryan's home often in the mornings to drink coffee and just sit around and talk.  He claimed that on the morning of November 23rd he went to Ryan's home and that he had told him that his sister and her husband had died.  He said he did not ask questions and just assumed that it was due to something mundane.  He would claim that when he had been told of their deaths it was several hours before they were officially found.  The defense obviously tried to change his memory and failed but they would claim in their closing that the conversation between Ryan and Jim had to have likely happened the day after the discovery of the bodies.  Of course they could not say for sure, but they had valid points in the fact that it had been over 25 years since it had happened.

The defense hammered away at some other issues that should be pointed out.  First and foremost they of course claimed that Ryan was innocent and that the only "evidence" the prosecution had against him was the word of Pam.  Sure they had a few other things, like a jailhouse snitch also saying he confessed and the strange comments, but those things were not really proof.  They pointed out that the Brinks, who had only been married 18 months, had not lived in their home for a long period of time (although I cannot give you an exact time) and that the previous owner of the home had been someone who had dealt drugs out of the house.  This had been a long standing theory or rumor over the years and although it may have had some truth to some of it, it is more likely that the early theory or rumor had manifested over 25 years.  They would claim that it was more likely that the murders were a case of mistaken identity relating to the former owner than it was for Ryan to kill his sister and her husband because he was jealous of their success or because he had supposedly had a sexual relationship with her that he did not want brought to light.  When it came to the latter point they brought up that Rick was not Gail's first long term boyfriend, or even the first man she had lived with and there had been no issues between Ryan and any of the others.  The defense thought this theory that they couple was killed to hide two sibling fondling was weak.

To counter Pam's testimony or to poke holes in it I suppose the defense of course questioned her as to why she waited so long to come forward.  You have to remember, Pam and Ryan only knew each other a few months prior to the murders.  She would claim to investigators and in court that he had come to her just after the murders and confessed, and he then took her to the crime scene a day before it was discovered by Rick's parents and showed her the bodies and threatened her life if she ever told. Well, ok... we have that but then she would go on to marry him and have two children with him.  The defense would take issue with this and I have to admit that I agree with them.  They then questioned her on why it took her so many interviews with investigators to even tell them her story.  She would claim that she was fearful, not just of Ryan but of what kind of trouble she would get into.  She claimed she still loved him but she also did not want to go to jail herself or lose her children.  I have to go with the defense on this one when it comes to Pam. She was not married to him, nor did she have children with him at the time of the murders but yet claims she knew he had murdered his own sister and continued not only a relationship with him but then did in fact marry and have children with him.

While the defense did have a point in the weak motive and no forensics, the prosecution countered that by pointing out a few things, even if they were proof of nothing.   First they pointed out that each of the victims were shot only in the head/face area.  Statistically it is said, or as study as shown us, a lot of the time when someone is shot in the face or head it is a personally thing.  Seeing as the victims were obviously family members to Ryan that would qualify if we were to believe that theory.  The second thing the prosecutor used to counter the defense was that nothing was taken from the home. Not only were what we considered to be high dollar items left in the home but the victims had money in the home such as in Gail purse (and presumably Rick's wallet) that was not touch.  This showed investigators that this was not a robbery and again was a personal crime.

In the end on March 28, 2014, after about 4 hours of deliberating the jury returned with a guilty verdict for two counts of murder. Ryan was sentenced to life in prison which according to the Michigan Department of Corrections website is apparently actual life is he was given no possible release date.  In August of 2015 the courts heard Ryan's appeal.  The defense was asking for a dismissal of charges, or at the very least a new trial.  The basis they used for this was that the only real evidence used was Pam's testimony and they felt the jury should have seen her interviews with police to show what they claimed to be manipulation by the investigators.  They indicated to the court that Pam had a low intelligence level (although this is the only place I heard this stated) and was easily manipulated.  The courts disagreed with the defense and upheld the conviction and sentence.

So that is what there is on this case and even after putting it all together I just cannot say for certain how I feel about things.  The difficulty in the case is the fact that it was a cold case for so long.  Investigators admitted that in the initial investigation Ryan Wyngarden was not even a suspect even though because he was family he was questioned.  One of the biggest things that would have probably made a difference to me and swayed me one way or another I could not find the answer to. When Pam and Ryan were initially questioned they said they had done laundry first at a laundromat and then at a friend's house.  At trial, although Pam had stated that alibi to be false, Ryan stuck with it for the most part.  As I said before I could find no information if this friend was ever interviewed at any stage of the case to confirm the alibi.  Maybe the person died before the investigation was re-opened although that does not excuse the original investigators from not confirming the alibi.  Then again, maybe the person did and yet it could not be entered into the court records in 2014 if the person was unavailable.  It was just strange that there was never any other mention of this person.  The reality of it is, there was no weapon, no forensics and in my opinion the prosecutor chose a flimsy motive.  We all know that while a motive is not needed, juries want them.  I think I would have possibly found the motive more believable if they had said more about the recent argument Ryan had with Gail about their parents and their camper.  Then again it seems that Ryan had no sort of criminal record before the crime, nor did he seem to have one at any point in the next 25 years.  Of course we all know that not every person without a criminal record is a great person, some just have not gotten caught.  However, if I am to believe that this man viciously killed his brother in law, outside in the open in his driveway, and his sister while she lay in bed, I am going to be led to assume that same person had a record with the law.

To add to this the only real evidence they had against him came from things he supposedly said to other people and the main person was his wife.  It was said that Pam was the breadwinner of the family and Ryan was a stay at home dad who homeschooled the children, something she did not agree with.  So you have a wife, who apparently is not happy with the way her marriage is going, who claims her husband, who when he was only her boyfriend not only admitted to killing his sister and brother-in-law and threatened the same would happen to her if she told anyone when he showed her the bodies, telling this story, 25 years later to investigators.  I would have liked to have seen way more than this as evidence.  I do agree that comment that his aunt and sister stated he made over the years do seem rather odd and I give more weight to their statements than I believe to Pam's and yet that is not evidence.  Do I think Pam was manipulated as the defense claims?  That I am not sure about.  It did seem to take several different interviews for her to come out with the information, and I have not personally seen the videos of the interviews.  It could just as easily been a woman who was just ready for a divorce and found a way out, and not just a way out but a way to never have to worry with him again.  Now, of course I do not know this to be a fact, but I think it irresponsible to convict a man almost solely on the word of a person who claims to have known for 25 years and feared someone (although had never shown or expressed fear to others it seems) and did not tell.  She never stated that she had ever told anyone what she knew and this bothers me a bit too.  I mean, I cannot imagine not only not going to authorities at the time considering she was not married to him and could have more easily broken off ties with him, but then to never have told anyone else... ever, the odds of that seem slim to me. And, if she had told someone else why did that person not come forward?  I guess I have rambled enough as I try to make sense of this case.  The short of it is, I simply do not think the evidence was there to warrant a conviction.  That does not mean that I believe him to be innocent because I cannot truly say that without more evidence but evidence time is over as far as authorities are concerned because in their eyes they got their man.... maybe they did.


Comments

  1. Why did you delete my Submitted True facts.You were not in Holland,NO.That night,I was it's all true.My Sister Gail had told me back in July 1987. That she was threatened by 3 people. Out by her mailbox.2 men & 1 woman younger.I to my sister Gail. That makes no sense.After I brought my newborn son Tyler out their place. So they could see him.There's a lot more. That I wasn't allowed to be on the stand. In my brothers defense

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    Replies
    1. I have no idea what you are speaking about. I moderate comments but I do not delete comments unless they are simply plain mean or have personal information. Today is the first day in which I have had comments for this and I have add all of yours except for the last one to which basically repeated what the others here that I published stated.

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    2. I'm sorry.I wasn't seeing it on here. Until later. I had poor cell service. I don't know if you've read my statement yet. It posted on Facebook.All 4 pages of it. Its rather disgusting. That my brothers Daughter got married on Saturday. Last week & 2 of my brothers & myself.Were not invited.They were scared that I was going to go off on everyone. I can't wait till the Day that they find him Innocent of all charges. Because He didn't do it.All this garbage tore our Family Life apart.

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  2. Why is it. That you won't allow me to post the truth.Add me on Facebook. I'll accept it. I've got an ear full for you. I asked my brother Ryan Wyngarde's attorney David Hall to do something. He did it.I had asked him. When are you going to put me on the stand

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    Replies
    1. Again, see my comment above. I have not prevented you from posting on this page.

      Delete
  3. I've got nothing to gain over it. Except getting our family back together again. Because he's innocent of all charges

    ReplyDelete
  4. The night of the Murder. It was Snowing out. And Ryan's attorney had Proof that they were not in the house

    ReplyDelete

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