Michigan man brutally murders woman in revenge against ex-wife, other women
04/23/2018 2:03 pm PDT
A friendly bar in the middle of nowhere. A safe haven? Or the flashpoint of something truly terrifying? What hellish fate befell Heather Young?
It's just a little clearing in the forest in Onaway, Michigan, a few miles from the Canadian border, population slightly over 800. It's a town so small that the local hot spot is literally a cabin in the woods.
"Safe place, no trouble," said Michigan State Police Det. Sgt. Richard Rule. "It's a decent place to get some good food and have some conversation with people you know."
Heather Young was a 42-year-old mother of three with an athletic build and youthful personality visiting this quaint little village of cherry trees and dairy farms with her boyfriend Terry Gary. Heather's father David Dentler said his daughter had been looking forward to the summer trip for weeks.
Heather is finally meeting Terry's daughter Aly, who lives in Onaway with her husband and kids. It's supposed to be a chance for them to get to know Heather. But within days of arriving in Onaway, those plans completely fall apart.
"They had a tiff," said Det. Rule. "Things weren't working out. Terry's daughter Alisha needed to have Terry and Heather leave."
Terry sides with his daughter and stays in Onaway. With that, Heather says she's going home to her mom, Gail, who lives 300 miles away. But the despondent Heather Young never makes it.
Gail Walker reports her daughter missing. It's not long before cops discover something that really scares her mother: it's Heather's car abandoned in an Onaway parking lot. Police soon zero-in on the small town's popular watering hole, the Cabin Bar and Grill.
"This is a small village, people know everyone, it's safe here, we're relatively crime-free," said Det. Rule.
With Heather Young's fresh breakup with Terry Gary still stinging, she soaks up some alcohol and the comfort of strangers.
"She had just had a situation with Terry where she was going to be leaving him, and she had come in here before with him, so she was comfortable here," said Det. Rule.
Heather pours out her heart to a kindly older gentleman named Brenton Walker.
"Her and her boyfriend had gotten into a fight, she needed somewhere to stay, and he said 'Well I have an extra room,'" bar owner Daneille Starks tells Crime Watch Daily.
The Good Samaritan offers Heather a shoulder to cry on and an extra room at his cabin to sleep off her sorrows. It's late, and Brenton's kindness is a welcome relief.
"She agreed to go with Brenton to his house," said Det. Rule.
The next day, Brenton Walker is back at the Cabin Bar and Grill.
"We just sat down at the bar, talking to these two ladies, and they were teasing him, you know, about 'Maybe did you get [----]' or whatever," said Daneille Starks.
An embarrassed Walker tells Starks that definitely didn't happen, and that Heather left without saying a word the next morning.
"He said 'No, she left early this morning before I even woke up,'" said Starks.
Investigators got a treasure trove of useful information from the old man going over the property and walking around. Police believe Brenton Walker might be the last person to see Heather Young alive.
Warning: Some details are very graphic.
Somewhere deep in the forests of northern Michigan, Heather Young is missing.
On a recorded phone call with police, Brenton Walker says his motivations with Heather were completely platonic.
"All we did was have some drinks, that's it. Had some drinks and we talked. It was mostly her talking. That's it. She was talking about him."
The "him" Walker is referring to is Terry Gary, the ex-boyfriend Heather broke up with just hours before she pulled up a stool at the bar.
"She was really afraid and I don't know why. She didn't want to go back, that's for damn sure."
In their desperate search for Heather, cops next put Terry Gary on tape and on the hot seat:
"Were you guys fighting?"
"No, I tried to --"
"Did you hit her?"
"I did not lay a hand on her."
"We're not going to find her in some pucker-brush somewhere with your fingerprints all over?"
"Oh, God no. I'm not that guy. I had three zero-tolerances. You don't hit women, you don't rape kids and you don't steal from me," Terry Gary says.
After that interrogation, they no longer consider Terry Gary a suspect. That's because cops can't shake the nagging feeling that Brenton Walker knows more than he's telling. And now he's clamming up.
"I don't appreciate the way you guys are coming off with this and then to make me do it all over again, and I'm repeating the same stuff to you."
"I get that you're not happy having to talk to me. You know, we're not --"
"I'm not happy about the whole situation, to be honest with you. You know what? I'm hanging up."
Michigan State Police Det. Richard Rule is now convinced Heather Young is not just a missing person. And a search warrant proves Brenton Walker is no Good Samaritan.
"There was a lot going on inside Brenton. And that all came out to bear in the summer of '16," said Det. Rule.
During a search of his place, Walker stays quiet, but his mobile home was screaming murder.
"We had found the firearm," said Det. Rule. "There was a significant amount of her blood found in the trailer."
And most chilling of all, a burn pit right outside Walker's front door. Sifting through the ashes, detectives find buttons, human bones and Heather Young's jewelry.
"Her ex-husband still had that leather necklace with cross, and we saw the picture and we find the cross in the fire remains," said Det. Rule.
The evidence is painting a disturbing picture of what really went on that night.
"It was the only firearm in the house we found," said Det. Rule. "That seemed to be a trigger, because you could see in his face, 'OK, now they've got the gun, they've got the case, all these people are walking around in booties' and whatnot, so that's when I think it really started to sink in with him."
Det. Rule puts Brenton Walker in handcuffs and keeps him talking.
"He was gonna trust me. I was gonna tell him exactly what was going on, and I was trying to gain that confidence in him that the best thing to do was to confess," said Det. Rule.
And Brenton Walker finally does confess. Det. Rule captured it all on cellphone video.
"It just [----] happened! I snapped!"
Heather Young, a woman who just needed a place to sleep, touched a nerve and unlocked a pent-up rage. In Walker's twisted mind, Heather became every woman who ever did him wrong.
"No woman will ever in my life try and do something like that to me again."
"She kept talking about her ex-boyfriend, her boyfriend situation, and blaming the boyfriend, blaming the boyfriend, and this, according to Brenton, just brought up a rage that was inside of him because he felt that women that he had been with before had blamed him," said Det. Rule.
And Walker's switch is flipped.
"And she came in and started doing that right off the bat, and it just triggered something, I didn't plan it. All I did, walk out in the front room straight to the gun, got it, shot her in the [----] leg, she tried to hobble."
"I don't know if he was going to go kill her, but he decides to then repair her wounds and everything's gonna be OK, take her to the hospital," said Det. Rule. "And then things go again, take a turn."
"She came outside. When I realized she came outside, came out here, shot her in the [----] chest, knowing I was gonna kill her, I had no choice then, it was already no point of return.
Now, casually sipping water and smoking cigarettes, Brenton Walker admits to a horrifying new level of sadism and vengeance.
"The fire was going, I remember putting her in the fire 'cause I wanted her to still pay."
Walker says he left Heather Young's bleeding body in the pit to burn for 18 hours. But the madman wasn't finished. Not even close.
"The body's burning, he comes back, he removes the body, and proceeds to use a chainsaw," said Det. Rule.
"I was still pissed off the next day, took her over there and cut her up, [----] dumped her like a piece of [----] meat, because that's what I was treated like, that's what she was treating this other person like, and I don't give a [----] what he was doing, he might have done every bit of that, but where in the [----] was your part?"
It's all Det. Richard Rule needs to hear. Walker was locked into a squad car.
But there's one lingering question: Where's the rest of Heather Young?
Shackled in the back of a patrol car, Brenton Walker suddenly tells cops where he dumped Heather Young's body after brutally murdering her.
"Bad. It's not human, I know that."
"He said I'll take you to where her body is," said Det. Richard Rule. "And he led us right to that location."
In the summer of 2016, Brenton Walker loaded Heather Young's body onto his ATV and transported her far into a green field near an electrical tower.
"They have trails back there, there's water back there, nobody knows you're there," said Det. Rule. "It's a perfect place for that type of situation."
Police audio is recording as Walker leads investigators through the tall grass to the place he left Heather Young in pieces, describing again what he did, and why.
"She came in right away, blaming the guy. My wife did that to me, and it wasn't right, it wasn't true. I got the chainsaw and cut her up. I wanted her to pay like I paid for what my wife did to me."
Two miles from the scene of the horrible crime, Walker stops cold and points to a row of trees near a powerline.
"So just inside the woods a little bit and you'll probably smell her, and you'll find the parts."
"We found the remains of Heather Young, charred and burned, cut up with a chainsaw," said Det. Rule.
"A whole body there. There's probably 10 or 12 pieces."
"He had been trying to tell people that he had visions of burning people, lighting people on fire, 'and I enjoyed it,' and I believe had we not caught him that this could have happened again," said Rule.
"Like I said, I just went through it with my wife. She's lucky she's not around, 'cause she's on my list. She was next."
Brenton Walker tells cops he went into a rage, and pleads guilty to the second-degree murder of Heather Young.
But if Heather's family is expecting any remorse from Walker, they are horribly disappointed.
As Presque Isle County Judge Scott Pavlich sits stone-faced and Heather Young's parents look on in horror, Brenton Walker doesn't express a single ounce of humanity or remorse.
"I'm by no means sorry about what I did."
Unbelievably, he's proud.
"Well, now, when I was given the opportunity to follow through with something that I've known for some time I'm capable of doing, it felt great. I feel vindicated because of it. I've never felt better in my life."
"When push came to shove, he immediately degraded Heather Young and her family," said Det. Rule.
"The fact that it happened to this particular individual was because, number one, she reminded me a lot of my ex-wife and other women I've been with -- a liar and a whore."
"It was really hard. I mean you don't know, you have no idea how bad I wanted to walk across that room and just do something horrible to him," said Heather's mother Gail Walker.
When it's her turn to speak, Gail instead hopes "something horrible" visits Walker in prison.
"I hope you live in misery and pain for the rest of your life, and you will be every prisoner's 'little Susie,'" Gail Walker said in court.
"Meaning that 'I hope you'll be very popular in the shower with all the guys,'" Gail tells Crime Watch Daily.
"He's standing there with a smirk on his face? That is not right. And they need to get the death penalty back into Michigan."
"I wanted to kill him so bad I can't hardly sleep at night thinking about my daughter," said David Dentler, Heather's father.
But the real fireworks explode as Heather's daughter Loree Cunningham stands to speak. Her fury is uncontainable.
Brenton Walker was sentenced to 45 to 70 years in prison.
But that's nothing compared to the life sentence of grief and anger for those left behind.
"I know I am going to need to forgive him and I am going to have to forgive him from the bottom of my heart," said Gail Walker. "Not today."
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Brenton Walker in prison for comment. He declined our request for an interview.
The prosecutor's office decided not to charge Heather's daughter Loree Cunningham with anything following her courtroom outburst.