Slocum’s family: ‘Hold your babies tight’

Brooke Slocum's maternal family members embrace after a brief statement. (July 21, 2014)

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of a pregnant 18-year-old who along with her boyfriend was murdered last week Monday warned others of the danger the Internet poses.

The body of 25-year-old Charles Oppenneer was discovered in Wyoming’s Gezon park on Wednesday. The next day, the body of his girlfriend Brooke Slocum was found in the trunk of Brady Oestrike’s car.

Brooke Slocum and Charles Oppenneer (courtesy photos)
(Brooke Slocum and Charles Oppenneer. Undated courtesy photos)

Oestrike and Slocum met through Craigslist, police said. Monday, investigators said Oestrike killed and decapitated Oppenneer after meeting the couple at Gezon Park for sex. They said Slocum was held in Oestrike’s house for days before he strangled her Thursday.

Slocum was 8 months pregnant with a baby girl she planned to name Audi. The baby did not survive.

“She loved her baby and we were all so looking forward to her arrival. There are now a pile of supplies needed to get started with a new born that now only serve as a painful reminder of what was to be,” Slocum’s great-uncle Rod Knepper said Monday, reading a statement on behalf of Slocum’s mother Deb Hotchkiss and her maternal family.

Knepper struggled to hold back the tears as he read a statement about Slocum and Audi. The rest of the Hotchkiss family stood behind him, arms around one another.

Deb Hotchkiss sobbed during nearly the entire statement. She rested her head on her husband’s chest as her son stood stoically next to her.

“Brooke was an incredibly caring and trusting individual,” Knepper said. “And like a lot of teens today, more naive to the ways of the world than they could ever imagine.”

He talked about the “evil forces” that took Slocum away from the family.

“She had planned on moving back to her mom’s when the time arrived to get Audi’s life started.  As fate would have it, the same evil forces that pulled her away from our family had once again pulled her away recently, and changed her mind from that plan,” said Knepper.

Knepper never named Oppenneer while speaking, referring to him only as the “other victim in the case.”

“God gave each of us free will and that is something no one can control,” he said. “The secret part of Brooke’s life that none of us knew about is a testament to that it is a world that we are convinced sucked in our impressionable trusting and giving Brooke.”

Knepper said his family hopes that the tragedy serves as a warning for other teens who may not realize what they’re getting into when they get online.

“We want to be advocate for informing just how important it is not to allow your children to have unsupervised access to the Internet,” said Knepper. “The only thing that we ask is that you hold your babies tight. Don’t let society make you feel insecure or guilty about what you filter from your children.”

Knepper finished his statement by saying simply, “We love you Brooke and Audi.” He then turned back to his family and they all embraced, sobbing for their lost loved ones.

A fund has been set up to cover Slocum’s funeral expenses. Donations may be made online or at Independent Bank branches under the name of Brooke and Audi Slocum.

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