The following is a brief account of the life of Vera Jo Reigle:
Vera Jo was born to a troubled family in Findlay, Ohio. At the young age of eleven, she was raped by her own father, Willard Reigle (now serving a 20-year sentence). Then she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and it was suspected that her IQ may have been in the borderline mentally retarded range. This made learning very difficult, but with the help of special classes in school, she just managed to graduate. But despite this one accomplishment, circumstances didn’t get better for Vera.
Vera began dating a boy named Zachary Brooks who was only 13-years-old (when she was 19 herself). This may have seemed like a predatory situation…and it was – just not the way that people thought. Because of Vera’s intellectual deficits, people who knew her well described her as having the approximate capacity of an 8th grader. But Zach would grow older and stronger. He would also listen closely to his mother’s advice – the one who was encouraging the relationship from the start.
Why would Cheri Brooks (Zachary’s mother) do that?
One hypothesis was that Vera, who was estranged from her own mother, was collecting disability checks. And, as soon as she moved in with the Brooks family, those checks went straight to Cheri. But, the truth was much more sinister than that.
Unfortunately, it would take several long years, dozens of calls to police, and a dead body before anyone else figured it out.
In the meantime, Vera continued to live with the Brooks clan, in a home where a pig also lived (and was allowed to defecate where it wished). When police responded to a distress call from Vera, who claimed she was being held against her will, they found her cut, beaten, and bloody. However, she would only say that she had recently gotten into an altercation – she was fine and liked living there.
When Vera’s cousin Danny Bixler (21) got out of prison (for burglary, etc), he and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Nicole Peters, began staying at the Brooks home too. Then, one cold winter night, they took Vera out for a walk, arriving back to the Brooks home without her.
By 2am, train operators slowed when they saw a bloody naked woman lying on the tracks. Police arrived to find Vera Jo Reigle stabbed, strangled, and beaten to death – then left to be run over by the train.
Soon Bixler and Peters were being charged with aggravated murder.
Bixler got a sentence of 40 years and Peters received a sentence of 23 years.
Case closed, right? Actually, this is where things get interesting…
You see, Bixler and Peters had no motive of their own for killing Reigle. In fact, they hadn’t really been involved with Vera Jo, despite Danny being her cousin. The only real ties that Peters and Bixler had were to the matriarch of the house, Cheri Brooks. You see, Cheri Brooks had always wanted to be surrounded by children – specifically a baby girl (even though she had multiple children taken from her due to sexual abuse allegations). And, as soon as Vera met her son Zachary, Cheri encouraged the two to get pregnant (something Cheri had done multiple times before with all her sons). Then, when she found out that Vera was pregnant with a baby girl, Cheri knew that she had to possess her.
The furor got so bad that Cheri had forced Vera to drink castor oil on Cheri’s own birthday to induce labor, despite the baby’s due date being weeks away (it nearly worked, the baby was born the next day). Cheri named the child (“Willadean”) and told everyone that the baby was hers. She even instructed Vera to stay away from her own child, refusing to let her hold, comfort, or give affection to the child. Cheri then became increasingly aggressive with Vera, encouraging her sons and their friends/girlfriends to abuse Vera. She blamed every wrong or mistake on Vera (including things she couldn’t possibly have done), inciting an anger in the younger Brooks boys. Then, when Cheri’s eldest “Punky” was killed by an errant motorist, she concocted the story that Vera had been with him that night and had pushed him out in front of the car.
It didn’t take long for a revenge plot to be hatched. The remaining Brooks boys, Cheri, Bixler, and Peters planned the murder of Vera. Then, they carried it out. Finally, when it was all over, it took Cheri Brooks less than 24 hours (after the discovery of Vera’s body) to call authorities and request that her son Zachary be given full custody of baby Willadean.
Luckily for Willadean, this didn’t come to pass. She was adopted out – hopefully never to see any of the Brooks clan again.
But what of Cheri? Zachary? All the other various girlfriends, friends, and relations that watched the abuse and listened to plans of murder? Surely the authorities could see that this was much more like a cult following the demands of their leader than an isolated event involving a few young people…
Listen to tonight’s show to find out what happened…