Beloved student betrayed by friend, lured to her death in brutal love-triangle trap
10/13/2017 2:49 pm PDT
A young woman lured into the woods. A sick game ending in a barbaric murder. Taunting messages left behind for the cops and the victim's mother.
Who brutally tortured and killed Brandy Stevens-Rosine? The reason why is bone-chilling.
From the very beginning, Brandy Rosine shined.
"She was a happy, happy, happy child," Brandy's mother Carrie Rosine tells Crime Watch Daily. "She had that contagious outgoing energy that people just loved."
"Brandy was selfless and intelligent and loved others," said Brandy's friend Krysti Horvat.
"She is who I want to be when I grow up. She's a wonderful human," said Brandy's friend Sara Van Allen.
But the bubbly teen also faced some heavier challenges, with some struggles with her identity and who she was becoming.
"I knew before she did," said Carrie Rosine. "I accepted her any way shape or form, she was my daughter. And Krysti was there to help her along the way and guide her. She was amazing."
"I tried to help her through that, and tell her it's OK, just be yourself," said Krysti Horvat.
Brandy took that advice and flourished. As a college student, she was a double-major in psychology and sociology, with a plan for the future.
"She wanted to help people," said Krysti.
And one of the people Brandy wanted to help most was her girlfriend Jade Olmstead. They had met online and dated for several months right after high school.
"When I first met her I thought that she lacked confidence, I felt like she wasn't comfortable in her own skin," said Krysti.
"Very quiet," said Carrie. "But I also know Jade had some issues at home, kind of contributed that to why she was so quiet."
"Jade really struggled with her parents," said Jade's friend Natalie Morrow. "She came from a very religious household and then she came out as a lesbian. Her parents were not happy about it. They wanted her to change who she was and just flip the switch and not be gay anymore."
But Brandy accepted Jade for who she was, and was generous with the one she loved. Some saw Jade Olmstead as a drain.
"Brandy had told me that Jade didn't want to work. She took care of her a lot," said Sara Van Allen. "I think that Brandy did a lot of things for Jade, and that made Jade feel good."
"It was tough because I felt that Brandy could do so much better," said Carrie Rosine.
The relationship eventually ended when Jade stole money from Brandy and left town. But the exes stayed in touch.
"There'd be times where Brandy would say 'Take this phone number, it's Jade's, put it in your phone, I'm gonna delete it from mine, I shouldn't talk to her anymore,'" said Krysti Horvat. "And then the next week she's like 'Hey, can you give me Jade's phone number back.' They did go back and forth a lot. It was unhealthy because Jade knew that Brandy would do anything for her."
Like asking Brandy to pick her up in Maryland, about 300 miles away, and bring her back to Ohio.
"Within hours after Brandy dropped her off, Ashley and her parents came and got her," said Carrie Rosine.
Ashley Barber had dated Jade Olmstead before Brandy Stevens-Rosine.
"Ashley was very tough," said Jade's friend Natalie Morrow. "She liked to put out there that no one could mess with her. She was aggressive."
Jade, 18, and 20-year-old Ashley were now officially back together, and even living together at Ashley's parents house in Pennsylvania.
"Ashley wanted Jade all to herself," said Natalie. "I don't think that Brandy was trying to step into Jade and Ashley's relationship. I think that she just cared about Jade and wanted good things for her, so she always stuck around."
But being a friend of Jade's would prove to have deadly consequences.
It was a warm spring morning on May 17, 2012 at Brandy's grandmother's house. Brandy tells her grandmother she's going to visit her Rhiannon, a close friend who lives in Ohio. But instead of driving to Rhiannon's, Brandy drives almost 80 miles to see someone else. And on her way, Brandy texts Rhiannon the address -- and something else foreboding.
"She told the friend that she had an uneasy feeling about coming here," said Crawford County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Francis Schultz.
"The text was 'I have a funny feeling. This is the address of where I'll be,'" Carrie Rosine, Brandy's mother, tells Crime Watch Daily.
Was she overreacting or was something horrible about to happen? As day turns to night, her already-nervous grandmother becomes alarmed when she spots something the 20-year-old left behind.
"She didn't take her backpack with her that day, and she suffered from diabetes, and her insulin would have been in that bag," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Eric Mallory.
"Her grandmother began calling her cellphone. And the calls went straight to voicemail," said Crawford County D.A. Francis Schultz.
No answer that evening and no sign of Brandy the next morning. So Brandy's grandmother breaks the troubling news to Brandy's mother Carrie. She hadn't heard from her either. They report Brandy missing to the local Ohio authorities.
And as cops begin their investigation, Carrie launches her own, starting with digging into Brandy's cellphone records and calling everyone who had talked to her the day before.
Not long after Brandy went missing, her family was led right to Linden Street in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Brandy's phone "pinged" at a house somewhere on the street, so her mother went door to door passing out fliers. After an exhaustive search by friends and family they come up empty.
"I started to get more afraid," said Brandy's friend Sara Van Allen. "I think that right around that time was when I reached out to her mom with the messages from Ashley."
As in Ashley Barber, Jade Olmstead's girlfriend, who live together.
"I think Ashley was very insecure," said Jade's friend Natalie Morrow. "She couldn't stand the thought of Jade giving attention to someone else."
At the time of Brandy's disappearance, Brandy and Jade were just friends. Ashley's hate-filled social media message sent to Sara two months before was either an idle threat or a disgusting promise.
"She had said 'And I hope I get to kill her before her diabetes does,'" Sara tells Crime Watch Daily.
Did she take that threat seriously?
"At the time, no, because people say a lot of things when they are upset," said Sara.
But with Brandy Stevens-Rosine now missing, Sara checks Ashley Barber's social media and sees photos she's posted of marks on her arms.
"It just seemed a little bit too coincidental that Brandy was missing, and now Ashley has bruises all over her," said Sara.
Then five desperate days into Brandy's disappearance...
"Carrie said, you know, 'This is stupid, we know where she said she was going last, let's go. I'm sure we can find it in the daylight,'" said Krysti. "So we went."
The GPS leads them to Ashley Barber's parents' house. They're met outside by Ashley and Jade and Ashley's father.
"Jade came up to me, Ashley stayed back, and I said 'You know why I'm here,'" said Carrie Rosine. "'No I don't.' 'Well you know Brandy's been missing?' 'Yeah, but she's not here.'
"I said 'Well she was coming here, we have a text saying that she had a bad feeling, that this is the address that she'll be at, so this was the last known place of her location,' so I said 'She was here.' 'No, she never made it here,' she said. Said she never made it there."
Did you see Ashley's injuries while you were there?
"Yes, yes, she had a bandage on her arm, elbow area, upper arm area," said Carrie. "She said they were at the hospital when supposedly Brandy was coming, but she decided to turn back and not come back 'cause they weren't going to be there.
"I was very aggressive with Jade," said Carrie. "I finally told her, I said 'I don't believe a [----] thing you're saying,' and that's when Ashley came up from behind Jade and said 'Whoa, whoa, whoa.' I said 'Don't whoa whoa whoa me,' I said, 'My daughter's been missing for five days, this is the last known place that she was at.'"
Beyond enraged, frustrated and scared, Carrie and Krysti leave and give the information to the state police.
"They come and interview Ashley Barber and Jade Olmstead and they tell the same story. 'She was supposed to come, she called us and never showed up,'" said Crawford County D.A. Francis Schultz.
But the next day, an unbelievable discovery in the Barber's family garage changed the course of the case.
"Ashley Barber's mother reported to the state police that there was a car there and they didn't know whose it was," said Schultz.
The car's exterior matched Brandy's Kia Rio, but the interior did not.
"I said 'What was in it?' 'Well, nothing,'" said Carrie Rosine. "I said 'Then something's happened,' I said, 'because my daughter's car was a pig sty. I know my daughter's car and if there's nothing in that car, something's happened to my daughter.'"
"It's been staged. It's been cleaned," said D.A. Schultz. "You had a missing person who was supposedly was coming to this home. Barber and Olmstead tell the police she was never there, but yet the vehicle was found there."
The investigation goes from zero to 60, only to come to a screeching halt.
"When we went back to the residence the next day to talk to them, Ms. Barber and Ms. Olmstead, they in fact went missing, in the middle of the night had packed their belongings and left the residence," said Trooper Eric Mallory.
Cops are now looking not for one girl, but three.
"The car was sanitized," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Eric Mallory. "It was cleaned inside and out, and it was hidden."
Cops are desperate to talk to the Jade Olmstead and Ashley Barber, but now they're missing, too. They went on the run -- but not for long.
"An off-duty state trooper actually sees these two young females getting ready to get into a car and immediately knew these are the two women that our criminal investigators are looking for," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Eric Mallory.
"They were escaping. They were trying to leave," said Crawford County D.A. Francis Schultz. "The state police had been to their house two or three times, Brandy Stevens' mother had been at the home. I think they knew they were caught."
Jade Olmstead and Ashley Barber are picked up and taken to the station. Trooper Eric Mallory conducted their interviews separately.
"I started out interviewing Ms. Barber, and she wasn't being truthful with me," said Mallory.
Ashley changes her story from Brandy never making it to the house to telling Mallory that Brandy did come to the house, but left to see another woman.
"That second rendition of the story basically was that Ms. Stevens had showed up at the house and she had planned on meeting another young woman by the name of 'Jamie.' She was being very clandestine about this and she didn't want her parents to know or her grandparents to know," said Mallory. "Ms. Barber had indicated to me that after Ms. Stevens arrived at the house, they played video games and she said Ms. Stevens actually took a phone call, she went outside onto the front porch and had some sort of a conversation with somebody.
"When she came in she had looked like she had just won the lottery, and basically shortly after that she gathered her personal belongings out of her vehicle and she started walking down Drake Hill Road and she was never seen again," said Mallory.
"Basically they both stuck to the story that Ms. Stevens had showed up and was running off to meet another young lady, was never seen from again," said Mallory.
Could Brandy actually be with another woman? Anything is possible, but that seems unlikely, especially when Ashley changes her story once again, this time pointing the finger at Ashley's own father.
"Ashley Barber comes up with this fantastical story and blames her father," said D.A. Schultz. "She explains that Brandy, Ashley and Jade are down in the woods, by the fort and her father comes down and he's mad that that the vehicle is there, and he's mad that Brandy Stevens is there, and he says some disparaging things about lesbians and homosexuality, and Barber says that her father and Brandy end up getting in a fight. It's Ashley's father who uses the shovel and attacks Brandy Stevens."
While Trooper Mallory is interviewing the girls, investigators are in the woods 400 yards behind Ashley Barber's house, stumbling upon an absolute horror.
Warning: The details are quite graphic.
Ashley Barber and Jade Olmstead are being interviewed by Pennsylvania State Police in the disappearance of Brandy Stevens-Rosine.
As Trooper Eric Mallory is hearing their multiple versions of events, cops are in the woods behind Ashley Barber's home, uncovering a nightmare. This is no longer a missing-person case, it's a murder.
"They see an area where it looks like somebody was making a cabin or a campsite, and there's some fresh dirt that it looks like there had been a hole dug," said Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz. "They rope off the area and consider it a crime scene and eventually begin to dig in that area. They realize a human being has been buried there, and she's identified as being Brandy Stevens."
Brandy Stevens-Rosine, 20, buried in a shallow grave. When word gets back to the station that Brandy's body has been found, Ashley Barber suddenly changes her tone.
"Ms. Barber indicated to me that she had more information to tell me, but she wasn't going to say another word until she was able to look into Jade's eyes and wanted to be able to talk to her," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Eric Mallory.
After that, both girls agree to tell the true story. They are separated and recorded.
Warning: The details are quite graphic.
Mallory: "Ashley, let's clean the slate and just tell me what happened."
Barber: "It was planned."
Mallory: "How did you get Brandy to the house?"
Barber: "We just told her that we were gonna hang out."
"Jade Olmstead sent a message to Brandy inviting her to meet Ashley and for them to check out the fort, or the campsite that they were building in the woods," said D.A. Schultz.
The girls tell Mallory that when Brandy arrived, Jade led her down the secluded path to the fort and said the word "babe" -- "babe" was their code word.
Barber: "I heard her say 'Hey babe,' and I ran as fast as I could. And I came down and Jade had her arm around her neck. So I came up and I punched her in the face, I don't know how many times, but I know it broke her nose. Brandy was screaming."
Detective: "Do you know what she was saying, Ashley?"
Barber: "'Jade, stop it, I won't tell anybody, just let it go now, I told people where I was.'"
As Jade and Ashley continue to beat Brandy, she fights back, punching, kicking and begging for help.
Mallory: "She thought she was calling out to somebody, like 'help me,' or something?"
Barber: "Yeah, but it's like she knew somebody else was there, I mean my neighbor was cutting his grass in the back. I knew if she ran I was not going to be able to catch her, plus, you know, her car being there and stuff. So I started beating her head off the tree stump. That's when the blood started coming."
That's when the blood started coming, and that's when Jade grabbed a shovel.
Mallory: "How many times would you say you hit her with the shovel?
Olmstead : "I don't know, like four times. That's why Ashley has bruises on her arms, because I accidentally hit her while she was holding Brandy down."
Mallory: "Was anything being said either by you, Ashley or Brandy?"
Olmstead: "Brandy was screaming for her life."
Ashley then puts a rope around Brandy's neck and tries choking her while Jade savagely hits Brandy in the head with the shovel.
Mallory: "And what was Brandy's reaction after that?"
Barber: "She went limp, but she was gasping for air, and she was saying 'Jade, stop, Jade, stop.' The girl was laying in a puddle of her own blood. I started getting angry."
Mallory: "What what do you think made you angry about that?"
Barber: "That she wasn't fighting anymore."
Then, filled with rage...
Barber: "I pick up the back of the rope and I let her head hit the stump, probably 10 times."
As if it couldn't get any more horrific, Ashley and Jade then drag a severely beaten Brandy and push her into a grave that they've already dug.
Barber: "I picked up a big boulder because I could tell that she was still breathing and I walked over to the top of the grave and I smashed her face in."
The viciousness continues.
Barber: "We had a full bottle of water and I stood above her and poured it in her mouth and her nose."
It's a sadistic attempt to drown her. It's only then that Ashley and Jade begin to cover Brandy with dirt.
Mallory: "Do you think she was still alive when you buried her?"
Olmstead: "I don't know. I don't know."
But she was. In the most cold-blooded of acts, and as autopsy reports would later show, Ashley and Jade buried Brandy alive.
Olmstead: "Our intentions were to bring her over so we could kill her."
Mallory: "OK, there it is."
Cops found even more evidence of the girls' depravity. Ashley wrote a note that says, "I [----] murdered your 20-year-old mistake, she deserved it." Jade wrote, "Do I feel guilty? Answer: Not an ounce. I am proud."
"What they left on the trees and the diary, that's not remorse. That's almost like a badge of honor," said Trooper Eric Mallory.
Jade Olmstead and Ashley Barber were charged with first-degree murder. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life with no chance of parole. So what in the world could have been their motive?
"They never really came out and explained to the state police what their motive was," said D.A. Schultz. "I always believed that it was their crazy attempt to show one another how much they cared for each other. Jade Olmstead had explained to the state police that Ashley Barber was very jealous, and I believe when Ashley found out that Jade was still communicating with Brandy they decided that she had to go. Brandy Stevens wasn't bothering these two people and they basically lured her here to murder her."
Sara Van Allen is still haunted by Ashley's social media threat she didn't share until later.
"It definitely taught me a lot more to pay attention to the things that people say because I feel like had I said something, this wouldn't have happened," Sara tells Crime Watch Daily.
Through her own overwhelming pain and heartbreak, Brandy's mom believes there is a lesson in it all.
"Listen to your gut. You have a bad feeling, don't just text somebody you have a bad feeling, 'This is where I'll be if something happens to me.' If you have a bad feeling don't go. Don't go," said Carrie Rosine.
Brandy's family and friends are left to try to make sense of their loss and her senseless, barbaric death.
"The fact that she was taken in such an ugly way for such a beautiful person, a beautiful soul. It's just shocking, that's why I don't want her to be remembered by how she was taken, I want her to be remembered as who she was before," said Brandy's friend Krysti Horvat.
During police interviews and in the letter Ashley Barber wrote to her parents, she hinted this may have not been her only murder, saying "This won't be my last, and it was not my first." However, detectives believe Ashley was lying in an attempt to make herself look tougher and deflect some of the blame from Jade Olmstead.