Had incest lead to murder?
On 23 November 1987, Isla and Bud Brink found their son Rick, 28, dead in the driver’s seat of his Chevy Blazer. He’d been shot twice in the head.
His truck was parked outside his new home in Park Township, Michigan, US. Inside the house, Rick’s wife Gail, 22, had been shot three times. They’d been dead for two days.
After two years, the investigation went cold. Gail’s mum Dorothea never gave up hope.
Early in 2013, following a cold-case investigation, a man was arrested. To Dorothea’s horror, it was her son Ryan Wyngarden – Gail’s older brother. And the key witness – Pam Wyngarden, Ryan’s wife of 24 years.
Noticing inconsistencies in her statement from 1987, cold-case detectives had called her in.
She’d finally cracked. She told officers that, on 22 November 1987, Ryan had confessed that he’d shot and killed Rick and Gail the previous evening.
And then she’d given her then boyfriend of three months a false alibi. She told police they’d both been babysitting.
Following Pam’s confession, police searched their house and found a gun. Ryan Wyngarden was also charged with murder.
But there was a yet more bizarre twist…
Pam revealed another disturbing secret. And a motive. ‘He said the reason he shot them was he didn’t want Rick to find out the intimate relationship between him and Gail and that he was jealous,’ she said.
As teenagers, she said, Gail and Ryan had sex.
Later, another of Ryan’s exes came forward. She said he’d also told her he’d had sex with his sister.
Were the murders a family affair? A crime of passion? Incestuous passion? Had he gunned down the couple in a fit of jealousy? Or shot them to keep Gail quiet?
In March 2014, Ryan Wyngarden went on trial for premeditated murder.
The prosecution said that Wyngarden had killed his sister and her husband out of jealousy, and because he was concerned she’d tell people about their incestuous affair.
Star witness Pam told the jury that he’d admitted killing Rick and Gail. He’d even taken her to the gruesome scene.
Despite this, Pam went on to marry Wyngarden and have three children. His defence said Pam was unreliable, and that the intended target was a known drug-runner-turned-police-informant. He’d lived in the house just before Rick and Gail.
Wyngarden’s defence also said there may be a motive to kill Gail after all. She worked at a car-part manufacturing firm, and could’ve been investigating ‘financial irregularities’.
Wyngarden denied killing his sister and brother-in-law.
He admitted three sexual encounters with Gail when they were teens. But he said, ‘We just groped each other a little bit. There was no clothing that ever came off.’
So who would the jury believe?