Jury selection starts in double homicide cold case

Ryan Wyngarden at the start of double murder trial of Gail and Rick Brink (March 5, 2014).

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) – A Zeeland Township man charged with the murder of his sister and her husband more than 26 years ago was in court Wednesday for the first day of his trial.

In January 2013, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department investigators announced that an arrest had been made in the 1987 double homicide of Gail and Rick Brink. The suspect, 50-year-old Ryan Wyngarden, is Gail Brink’s brother.

A possible motive to the killing was revealed during a 2013 preliminary hearing. It was alleged Ryan Wyndgarden shot and killed his sister and her husband out of jealousy because Ryan had a sexual relationship with his sister going back years.

Gail Brinks was 22 and her husband was 28 when the couple were found shot to death in their Park Township home on Nov. 23, 1987.

Gail Brink was found in her bed. Rick Brink was found behind the wheel of his SUV in the home’s driveway. There were no signs of forced entry into the home and nothing was stolen. The murder weapon was a .22-caliber gun that has never been found.

Jury selection began Wednesday morning. Dozens of people were questioned by the prosecutor and the defense attorneys.

The trial could last up to several weeks.

The investigation into the slayings became a priority case for Ottawa County’s Cold Case Team in the summer 2011. Detectives conducted about 200 interviews and follow-ups.

“It was those additional interviews. Those additional pieces of the puzzle that were able to be put together that led up to the point,” said Ottawa County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Bennett said in January 2013.

Court records obtained by 24 Hour News 8 in January 2013 revealed it was another interview of Ryan Wyngarden and his wife that gave detectives the break they had been looking for in the case.

Those records show cold case detectives interviewed Wyngarden and his wife in October 2012, but got conflicting statements.

The wife eventually told investigators she had lied, and that right after the murders she provided police with a false alibi for Wyngarden, telling authorities in 1987 that Wyngarden was with her the weekend the murders happened.

“She originally lied to investigators about Ryan Wyngarden, her boyfriend at the time, in that he was not with her that weekend, and he also actually revealed that Rick and Gail were murdered on Sunday, November 22, 1987, which is prior to any knowledge of their deaths being discovered,” Ottawa County Sheriff’s Detective Venus Ripper testified during a hearing in 2013 to determine if there was enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for Wyngarden.

Ripper told the court during follow-up interviews Wyangarden’s wife told detectives Wyngarden came to her home the day after the murders and told her “that he had killed Rick and Gail Brink, that he had shot them at their home, that he did not want the police contacted.”

The wife told detectives Ryan was very upset and crying when he showed up at his future wife’s home. That information broke the case wide open.

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