Investigators say thumbprint, DNA, vehicle link suspect to Osakis murder scene
According to investigators, a thumbprint on a plastic shopping bag and a vehicle description connects Jeffery Allen Brooks to a murder scene in rural Osakis.
On May 31, Brooks was charged with second-degree murder in Todd County District Court for his alleged involvement in the death of Diane Fortenberry.
Fortenberry, 51, was killed May 20 when she stopped home after lunch and reportedly interrupted a burglary at her home at 20095 East Whitetail Trail, near the northwest shore of Lake Osakis, just off of County Road 10 in Todd County.
She died from blunt force trauma head injuries, according to an autopsy report.
A second-degree murder conviction carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
How did investigators link Brooks to the crime scene?
According to a criminal complaint filed with the court last week, investigators found Fortenberry's cell phone, purse and several other items stolen from her house in a dumpster at the Meadowland Estates mobile home park on 34th Avenue in Alexandria.
Authorities are not saying what led them to search that dumpster.
Among the stolen items uncovered in the trash, law enforcement also found a plastic Target shopping bag containing a pair of black slip-on shoes.
The items retrieved from the dumpster were examined by the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Forensic Laboratory.
Those lab results indicate a fingerprint found on the plastic Target shopping bag reportedly matched Brooks' right thumbprint and blood on the slip-on shoes matched Fortenberry's DNA.
A DNA analysis of a sample from the inside of the shoes is not complete.
Authorities said people inflicting blunt force trauma on others often have blood deposits on their clothing and footwear.
The criminal complaint also indicates that a citizen stopped at Fortenberry's home while law enforcement were there investigating and reported seeing a black male driving a dark colored vehicle in the area on the afternoon of May 20.
With that tip, investigators checked with local business owners.
At Head of the Lakes Resort, four miles from the crime scene, investigators reviewed surveillance video from May 20 and saw a black male seated at the counter in the resort's lodge around 12:45 p.m. The man reportedly had a shaved head, wore dark shoes, dark pants and a light-colored long sleeve shirt.
On May 21, another citizen called law enforcement and told them she saw a gray-colored car in Fortenberry's driveway around 1 p.m. on May 20.
A gray, 1989 Buick four-door sedan and a blue, 1994 Cadillac four-door sedan are both registered to Brooks.
Investigators also reported that Brooks was employed at Long Prairie Packing Plant in Long Prairie as recently as November 2010. A common route to travel between Alexandria and Long Prairie would take Brooks past the crime scene.
On May 27, a BCA agent and Todd County Sheriff's Office investigator watched Brooks drive into the Douglas County Library parking lot with a gray Buick.
The investigators spoke with Brooks near the entrance of the library and asked him about reports that a car matching his was seen in the area of the victim's residence on May 20.
According to the criminal complaint, when Brooks was asked where he was on May 20, he told investigators that he was in the Twin Cities visiting family.
Brooks then changed his story and said he drove to Sauk Centre to cash a check, then went to Osakis to the Head of the Lakes Resort where he intended to buy a fishing license, but didn't. He reportedly told authorities that he then drove to the Twin Cities to visit family.
Brooks' next court appearance is set for June 13.
Since 1995, Brooks has had several driving violations on his record as well as a burglary conviction in Stearns County in 2006.