VICHY, Mo. — In 1998, during a bitterly cold winter, a Missouri family disappears without a trace. Alarm bells sounded when family members went to check on the family at their residence. There was no sign of Susan Brouk or her two children. Concerns heightened when family members realize the Brouks didn’t take their winter coats or snow boots and it was below freezing.
February 1, 1998
Susan had two children, 12-year-old daughter, Adrian, and 9-year-old son, Kyle. According to Kay Hayes, Susan’s sister, the family started to worry about Susan and the kids when they didn’t show up to a family event on Sunday, February 1, 1998.
Two family members decided to drive to the Brouk home to make sure everything was OK. It became clear that neither Susan nor her children were in the house. However, what concerned family members were Susan and her children’s winter gear remained. Alarmed, the family calls the police.
When former Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant, Ralph Roark did a walk through the house. Susan’s glasses were found in Adrian’s room and family members said Susan never left the house without her glasses.
Authorities don’t have much to go on so, they begin asking family members if Susan had any enemies or knew of anyone who would want to hurt Susan and the kids. Susan’s ex-husband is brought to the authorities’ attention rather quickly since the two had a strained relationship.
However, Susan’s ex-husband would later be cleared of suspicion and claimed he would never hurt his children.
February 3, 1998
Roark believed that if the Brouk family was forcibly taken from their home, the first step in finding them is finding Susan’s Bronco. Helicopters were deployed to survey the surrounding area in hopes of finding the Bronco. Since it was winter this helped investigators with the search because there were no leaves on the trees granting greater visibility.
During the search, authorities didn’t find the Bronco but they did spot something unusual half a mile from Susan’s home. There was something floating in a nearly frozen pond.
When the helicopter landed and Roark made his way to the pond he spotted a 16 gauge shotgun shell. The pond has a thin layer of ice over the surface and once Roark and his partner made it closer, Roark realized that what was floating there was a human body.
According to Roark, the body was floating on its back, head out of the water and part of the shoulders out of the water. When Roark recovered the body he realized the body was of a white female in her 30s or 40s. She didn’t have shoes or even a coat. She also has a large incision across her neck.
After pulling what he believed to be Susan Brouk, Roark then sees what looked to be two shadows further out into the pond. Roark goes to the pond and breaks the ice near the shadows and pulls out two dead bodies. The two other bodies are determined to be Susan’s children — Adrian and Kyle.
A medical examiner’s autopsy report showed that the cuts to Susan’s neck were not severe enough to cause her death immediately and that the actual cause of death was drowning. Autopsies also revealed that Susan and Kyle had hemorrhaging or bleeding under the scalp, indicating a blunt impact injury or blow to the head, and that there were two superficial cuts across Kyle’s neck, but that he, too, died from drowning. According to the PC, Adrian died from suffocation.
After the family positively identified the bodies as those of Susan and her children, investigators began the search for who could commit such a heinous crime. While searching through records a detective spotted something that caught his eye. A report of two missing teenagers was filed on February 1, 1998, and the teenagers only lived a mile away from the Brouk family. The two teenagers were Mark Christeson and Jesse Carter.
DNA testing performed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory showed that the DNA found on Susan’s body and sheets in one of the bedrooms of the house matched Christeson.
While the investigation continued, Christeson and Carter were traveling from Missouri to California. During their travel, they sold several items of Susan’s property to pay for gas and food. Christeson also pawned the sixteen-gauge shotgun at a pawnshop in Amarillo, Texas.
On February 9, 1998, a detective with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, stationed in Blythe, California, recognized Christeson and Carter from their photographs on a flyer that had been circulated by law enforcement officials, and later that day the fugitives were arrested. After being arrested in California the teenagers were sent back to Missouri to the Cole County Jail.
Once Christeson and Carter were back in Missouri Roark was finally able to talk to the two prime suspects. Christeson envokes his rights to an attorney. Carter confesses to Roark what happened to the Brouk family.
What happened to the Brouk Family?
According to the PC, Carter said Christeson wanted to have sex with Susan and concocted a plan to do that along with stealing her Bronco.
On Saturday, January 31, 1998, Christeson, then 18, and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, decided to run away from a home outside Vichy where they lived with a relative. On February 1, 1998, the teenagers waited until their relative left for work before they grabbed two shotguns.
The cousins planned to steal Brouk’s Ford Bronco. When they arrived at the home, Christeson and Carter tied the children’s hands with shoelaces. Susan came in from the kitchen and encountered Carter binding her children’s hands. Investigators said Christeson forced Susan into a bedroom and raped her. Afterward, Christeson brought Susan back out into the living room and Carter bound her hands with a rope. According to the PC statement, Susan said, You had your fun, now get out.”
At some point, Adrian recognized Carter and said his name. Since Adrian knew who Carter was this prompted Christeson to tell Carter “We got to get rid of them.”
The two teens then forced Susan and her children into the back seat of Susan’s Bronco and also loaded her television, VCR, car stereo, video game player, checkbook, and a few other small items. Christeson drove down the highway, down a gravel road, and then across a neighbor’s field to a pond at the edge of a wooded area.
They forced Ms. Brouk and her children to the bank of the pond. According to the PC, Christeson kicked Susan just below her ribs with enough force that she was knocked to the ground. Christian then tried to cut her throat but the knife wound was not deep enough to cause immediate death. As Susan laid near the pond, she told her children that she loved them.
Carter said they cut Kyle’s neck and then drowned him in the pond. However, Adrian got free and began to run away. Christeson grabbed the shotgun and shot at Adrian but missed. He yelled at her to come back or he would shoot her and she made her way back to Christeson and Carter. They proceeded to drown her in the pond.
The cousins then picked up Susan, who was still alive even though she had lost a substantial amount of blood and tossed her into the pond.
Sentencing of Christeson and Carter
To reduce his sentence Carter testified against Christeson and the jury found Christeson guilty of all three counts of capital murder. Christeson received the death penalty.
The 37-year-old was sentenced to death in 2017 nearly 19 years since the Brouks were murdered and is reported to have died 8 minutes after the drug was administered. Because Carter agreed to testify against his cousin he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.