Chief: Officers ‘carry’ cases like Craigslist murders

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — After the final remains of a man murdered by someone he met on Craigslist were found, the Wyoming police chief reflected on how the gruesome, heartbreaking case affected investigators.

“We’re just normal human beings that have emotions,” Chief Kim Koster told 24 Hour News 8.

In 2014, Koster was the administrative police captain for Wyoming police. That put her in charge of sharing information with the public as details emerged about the deaths of Charles Oppenneer, 25, and his girlfriend Brooke Slocum.

Oppenneer’s body had been found in a park. His head was missing. Slocum, 18 and heavily pregnant, was nowhere to be found. The next day, Brady Oestrike led police on a brief chase that ended when he crashed his car and killed himself. Slocum’s body was found in his trunk. Her baby didn’t survive.

“Immediately, we knew that it was a tragic case,” Koster recalled to 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday. “We knew that something had gone seriously wrong, obviously, and we were dealing with something I would say (was) evil.”

“It was something that I think touched almost every member of our community. People just were afraid. People were concerned. People were just wanting to know the details of what was happening,” she continued.

Time after time, Koster addressed the media in a calm and composed demeanor. She revealed Wednesday that there was pain there. The whole department felt it.

“I work with some of the strongest human beings. They’re strong emotionally, strong physically but this kind of stuff, it’s stuff that we carry with us for our career and for our life,” Koster told 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday.

“It’s not  something that just goes away the next day and I saw it in our officers at that time and I saw it again today,” she continued.

Investigators were able to put emotions aside and keep working around the clock.

This week, they learned that the last big question in the case had been answered. Oppenneer’s skull was found last week in a wooded area northwest of Grand Rapids.

“I’ve thought a lot about the Oppenneers today and Brooke’s family, too, just what they are going through to have this resurface,” Koster said. “I know there are a lot of emotions, I’m sure.”

A mother herself, Koster said investigations like this hit close to home, but she’s proud of the work by her department.

“You do ask yourself, ‘Did we do everything?’ And in this case, I know we did and that’s a comfort to me,” she said.

From counseling to peer support and exercise, Koster said the department has several wellness programs to help officers cope with tough cases like this one.

She was very clear that the emotions of her officers can’t compare to the emotions both families may be feeling.

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