All 4 suspects in broker beating case will face murder charges
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- It's now clear a Yakima realtor was murdered. Vern Holbrook was severely beaten eight months ago and died over the weekend.
The Yakima County coroner tells me Vern Holbrook got a specific type of pneumonia caused by severe brain trauma. His death has been ruled a homicide. Prosecutors quickly decided all four suspects in the case will now face murder charges.
"Before this accident happened, you never would have known that he was in his 70s," Vern Holbrook's daughter-in-law Terra Rockenfield said. "Very vibrant, full of life, energetic. And, after he just was not the same person. From the very beginning just absolutely different."
Holbrook's family watched him struggle for eight months. During that time, he occasionally spoke, uttering a few words. But, there was no communication. He couldn't respond or answer questions.
"Nothing he did was ever on command," Rockenfield said. "He just wasn't capable of doing that anymore."
Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins tells me Holbrook suffered severe brain damage from the beating last May. Hawkins says that brain damage led to the pneumonia that killed him.
"He's comfortable," Rockenfield said. "He's not suffering anymore and he can finally be at peace and rest."
The coroner's findings change things for the four suspects accused of plotting and carrying out the attack. One of them, Jill Taylor, is Holbrook's former daughter-in-law.
"The whole family would like to see higher charges because it's just not right that you could do something like that to somebody and be free," Rockenfield said.
Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty tells me all of the suspects will be charged with murder. Prosecutors will decide by the end of the week whether the circumstances warrant the toughest charge of premeditated murder.
Prior to his death, the suspects were charged with attempted murder. All four suspects are due in court on new charges Thursday. Vern Holbrook's funeral is Friday afternoon at Stone Church. It is open to the public.