Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
TOOELE — A Pleasant Grove man was charged Thursday with taking his ex-girlfriend to a remote area of Tooele County, shooting and killing her, then trying to hide her body, prompting a nearly weeklong search for the missing woman.
Brandon Scott Zipperle, 28, is charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, plus possession of a gun by a restricted person and two counts of obstructing justice, second-degree felonies. His fiancee, Elizabeth Anne Ludwig, 28, of Pleasant Grove, was charged Wednesday with three counts of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
Zipperle is accused of killing Brooklyn Elise Odland Tyree, 23, and leaving her body in the Five Mile Pass recreational area partially hidden in sagebrush and under a sleeping bag.
On May 3, Zipperle picked up Tyree and her 7-month-old boy, Braxton, at Tyree's Salt Lake apartment. Zipperle is the father of the child. After he was taken into custody, Zipperle "admitted to taking the victim out to Five Mile Pass, shooting the victim, hiding her body, disposing of her belongings, and having the co-defendant pawn the firearm that was used to kill the victim," according to charging documents. Braxton was found safe by police with Zipperle.
Tyree's body was found by a father and son recreating in the area on May 6, according to the Tooele County Sheriff's Office, though she was not immediately identified. An autopsy determined that Tyree was shot in the back of the head, court documents state.
That same day, Salt Lake police contacted the Tooele County Sheriff's Office stating that Tyree was missing and provided detectives with surveillance video from May 3 showing Tyree leaving her apartment complex.
"The clothes Brooklyn was wearing in the video were identical to the clothes on our victim, making it obvious our victim was Brooklyn," the sheriff's office said.
Investigators also collected cellphone data from both Zipperle and Tyree and learned they were together in the Five Mile Pass area on May 3.
On May 10, Zipperle went to the Adult Probation and Parole office for a previously scheduled meeting. Sheriff's deputies were waiting for him when he arrived and took him into custody. After questioning him, he admitted to killing Tyree and was arrested, according to the sheriff's office. A motive for the crime has not been released.
During a search of Zipperle's home, a shoe was found with a tread pattern similar to shoe prints found at the scene of the killing. That shoe belonged to Ludwig, according to the sheriff office's statement. She was then questioned and ultimately arrested for helping Zipperle hide Tyree's body, pawning the gun used to kill Tyree, and disposing of other personal items belonging to the victim, according to a police booking affidavit.
Prosecutors have requested that Zipperle remain in jail without the possibility of posting bail pending his trial.
"These facts speak for themselves — killing a person is the very definition of being a substantial danger to the community. For everyone in the community's safety, (Zipperle) needs to be incarcerated during the pendency of these charges. Furthermore, (he) is charged with the crime of aggravated murder, which carries a sentence of either life without parole or a minimum-mandatory sentence of 25 years and has a life cap," according to prosecutors' motion to have Zipperle held without bail.
Prosecutors also noted that when Zipperle met with his probation officer, his purpose was to get permission to leave the state to possibly go to Kentucky and his car was already packed.
Tyree's disappearance also prompted former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, a friend of Tyree's family, to send an open later to Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown and Mayor Erin Mendenhall calling for their resignations, or for Brown and "other police officers who blew off Brook's family" to be fired. Anderson believes Salt Lake police did not take Tyree's case seriously at first, despite evidence that pointed to foul play.
"I am writing as a friend and personal advocate … regarding the outrageous failure and refusal of the Salt Lake City Police Department to investigate the disappearance of Brook and the incredibly rude, indifferent and dismissive conduct of police officers toward those friends and family members," Anderson said in his letter.
Not only did Zipperle have a violent history — being convicted of attempted theft in January and aggravated assault in December for shooting at another person at a campsite — but he sent bizarre messages to Tyree's family members after she went missing and their son mysteriously ended up with him, Anderson said.
On May 6, Zipperle sent a message to Tyree's family stating, "She was tired of her family n taking care of Braxton she left em w me n left n y'all will never see my son again," according to Anderson. When the family then asked where Brook was, Zipperle allegedly replied, "Don't know n don't care anymore."
The Salt Lake City Police Department released its own statement Tuesday night saying it takes all community complaints seriously.
"To ensure our investigation into the missing person's case was professional, respectful, thorough, and in line with our community's expectations, we will comprehensively review the steps taken by our department. We welcome and will fully cooperate with the Salt Lake City Police Civilian Review Board with any requests they have pursuant to the mayor's direction for this independent body to review these allegations.
"The Salt Lake City Police Department knows our community wants more answers about the handling of this case. Those answers will come through the appropriate investigative mechanisms in place," the statement said.