George Bricking had 18 years of freedom after Christine Foster was found partially nude, stabbed more than 52 times and her skull crushed, dumped in a drainage ditch on the side of Dutch Hollow Road near Belleville.
On Thursday, Bricking was sentenced to 18 years in prison for second-degree murder in connection with her killing.
“I’m left with the task of meting out justice that is somewhere in the hearts and minds of the defendant, the people of the state of Illinois and the victim’s family,” St. Clair County Circuit Judge Zina Cruse said.
Bricking told the judge that he dropped acid, did cocaine and was drinking the night he met the 35-year-old single mother Foster outside the Downtown Abbey on East Main in Belleville just after 2 a.m. on May 20, 1995. Bricking stopped his motorcycle to watch a fight in the parking lot when Foster asked him for a ride home.
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“I don’t know if I did it or not,” Bricking said. “I know I was with her. It went all blank. If I did do it, I’m sorry.”
In February, Bricking pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as part of a plea agreement with a possible prison sentence of 10-20 years. Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Piper asked for 20 years after showing the judge crime scene phones. James Gomric, Bricking’s attorney, asked for 10 years.
Gomric pointed to Bricking’s lack of criminal history before the murder and after. He also told the judge Bricking, now 55, suffers from prostate cancer.
Foster’s body was found a few hours after her death by a man walking his dog with multiple stab wounds, her throat slit and her skull crushed.
Sherry Titchenal, Foster’s sister, read a statement to the court before Bricking’s sentencing, describing the condition her sister was in at the morgue.
Foster’s ear was cut off, her right eye was gone, her blond hair soaked in blood and the undertaker stopped counting the stab wounds at 52, Titchenal said.
“The brutality of her murder is something her family did not understand and never will,” Titchenal said.
Titchenal described seeing Foster in her casket, looking like a “battered stranger.”
Titchenal thanked prosecutors and now-retired St. Clair County Sheriff’s Lt. Jack Kaffer and former Capt. Steve Johnson for their dogged pursuit of the case. A row of sheriff’s detectives sat in the back row of the sentencing Thursday.
In 1995, a grand jury declined to issue charges against Bricking for the murder, failing to find probable cause. Bricking was released from prison and moved to Texas, but later returned to the Belleville area. The case went cold.
There were clues, such as the man’s ruby ring found clutched in Foster’s right hand. Bricking told police that he had a similar ring, but lost it down the drain at his mother’s home a couple of weeks earlier.
In 2012, the investigation was relaunched when St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department investigators reinterviewed a handyman, who came to repair the sink in the house Bricking shared with his mother. They also reinterviewed Bricking's mother, Jeannette Yarber, who told them she still had the receipt for the ring at her house. The receipt was collected as evidence and was tested for DNA. The search warrant also requested investigators be allowed to photograph the drain and seize the gooseneck portion for evidence. The search warrant also sought a buccal swab from Bricking’s cheek to obtain his DNA standard.
“If he could go back in time, Mr. Bricking would surely change things,” Gomric said.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said Bricking finally had his reckoning for a murder committed almost two decades ago.
“For nearly 20 years, this defendant walked the streets without any consequences for what happened that night in 1995,” Kelly said. “But these officers never gave up, Christine’s family never gave up and we owed it to her and every other victim to fight on with the evidence we had and grasp whatever justice we could.”