Psychic Detectives Allow Murderer to Escape Death Penalty

Live Science/September 21, 2009

Last month I pointed out how a self-proclaimed psychic detective failed to help find a young girl, Jaycee Dugard, who had been abducted and held captive for nearly 20 years. In addition to Dugard, Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart — and, well, every other missing person — psychic information failed to recover Brooke Wilberger, a university student missing since May 24, 2004. Police said they received more than 500 tips from psychics about Wilberger's location, though she has only now been found.

According to ABC News, "Five years after Brigham Young University student Brooke Wilberger vanished from an Oregon apartment complex, her remains have been found. Authorities told The Associated Press today that her suspected killer, Joel Courtney, told police where he'd left Wilberger's body following her 2004 disappearance. His admission was part of a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. It was not immediately clear where the remains were found. The Benton County District Attorney's office said Monday that Courtney, 42, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The deal allowed Wilberger's family to finally learn what really happened to their daughter after all these years."

It is a tragic end to the story, but with more than 500 psychic detectives offering information on the case (and five years of searching and investigation by police, her family, and others) why hadn't Wilberger's body been found years ago? Why wasn't a single psychic able to tell police where her body would be found? Why couldn't one of the psychics read the killer's mind, or contact Brooke's departed spirit, and locate the poor woman's body so that her family could find closure? Why didn't the psychics come forward to remove this murderer's bargaining chip and let him pay for his crime?

If psychics really had the powers they claim, they could save lives and prevent horrific crimes and miscarriages of justice. It would be an incredible boon to police and the families of missing persons, but their track record of failure speaks for itself.

Benjamin Radford is LiveScience's Bad Science columnist.

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