Idaho crime spotlighted in 'Dateline Mystery'

The victim, attacker and others will offer details on national television.

krodine@idahostatesman.comJuly 9, 2014 

  • WHEN, WHERE

    "Dateline" airs from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday on Channel 7 and other NBC affiliates.

  • OTHERS INVOLVED IN CRIME

    Jeremy Sanchez and John Wurdemann are both serving multiple life sentences. Ken Wurdemann got the shortest sentence, up to 13 years, and was paroled in 2012. He recently returned to prison on a parole violation after he failed to pay court-ordered restitution.

After interviews and anticipation spanning a year and a half, Linda LeBrane is a little wary of watching the two-hour program about her case when it finally airs Friday night.

Starting with a seven-hour interview with Keith Morrison of "Dateline" in January 2013, the Port Townsend, Wash., resident said she felt pretty good about participating in the program.

She said it was hard to relive that June night in 2000 when four people forced her off Interstate 84 in western Canyon County and took her to a beet field where they robbed her, beat her with a baseball bat, slit her throat and set her car on fire.

The program reportedly broadens to include efforts to establish innocence for one of her convicted attackers and, this past March, the release of that inmate, Sarah Pearce. LeBrane's anticipation is now mixed with worry about how her case will come across.

"Dateline Mystery" is expected to include extended interviews with Pearce, Pearce's mother and Boise State University professor Greg Hampikian, whose Idaho Innocence Project worked to overturn Pearce's sentence in the belief that she was wrongly identified.

Pearce's conviction was not overturned. She remains convicted of six felonies in the LeBrane case. But the judge who initially sentenced her to 15 years to life converted that sentence in March to time served and released Pearce on five years' probation and more than $50,000 in restitution. She went home to Homedale with her mother and other overjoyed family members.

LeBrane is convinced Pearce was the ringleader of the group that terrorized her.

Pearce, 31, who spent nearly 12 years in prison, has always insisted that she was innocent, the victim of a "tragic misidentification."

Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak, who headed that office when Pearce's case was reopened, also is expected to be featured in Friday's program.

On Tuesday, Dateline's Facebook page posted a brief video preview (watch it below), opening with what happened to LeBrane on June 15, 2000. Then, in cliffhanger fashion, Morrison says: "There's no changing the evil act that festered unsolved for two years, until ..."

Kristin Rodine: 377-6447

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