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ELMIRA, Ore. (AP) -- The disappearance of Brigham Young University student Brooke Wilberger has led this community to offer self-defense classes for women.
Wilberger, 19, a 2003 Elmira High School graduate, vanished from a Corvallis apartment complex in May. The idea for the free classes arose at a community prayer service for Wilberger.
Laurie Forbis, a pastor at Fern Ridge Faith Center, said she looked at the young women in the circle and thought of her own 28-year-old daughter.
"She looks a lot like Brooke, very petite and blond," Forbis said. "She is very strong and athletic, but she has never been trained in how to spot an attack or how to resist. When I heard about Brooke, I felt sick to my stomach."
Forbis contacted Fern Ridge School District Superintendent Ivan Hernandez, who offered free use of the Elmira High School gym. She went to her fellow members of the Fern Ridge Ministerial Association, who agreed to promote it within their congregations. The Chamber of Commerce and the city of Veneta both agreed to promote the classes.
Two martial arts instructors volunteered their services.
"As pastors, we pray every week for the safety of our community," Forbis said. "This is something we can do to put feet to our prayers."
The focus of the two-day seminar is to teach women how to recognize an attack and to defend against it.
"You can't speculate on whether self-defense would have helped in the Brooke Wilberger case," said Melinda Kletzok, a member of the Faith Center. "But certainly providing girls and women with tools for self-defense is a healthy and proactive thing to do."
No one has been charged in Wilberger's disappearance, but investigators have identified four people of "significant interest."
One of them has been identified as a suspect in court papers. Sung Koo Kim, 30, of Tigard, is in a Multnomah County jail on theft and burglary charges after allegedly stealing women's underwear from college dormitories.
Kim's lawyer has said her client has an alibi for the day of Wilberger's disappearance. The authorities have said there is "no probable cause" to arrest Kim in the case.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)