Police close murder case

By Stewart Warren

A DeKalb High School graduate confessed to choking and raping Lisa Garretson and setting her body on fire to conceal the Aug. 1988 murder, DeKalb police announced Tuesday.

Brett M. Hooghkirk, 18, formerly of DeKalb and currently of Colorado, was charged with first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated arson and concealing a homocide.

Tuesday, DeKalb County Associate Judge Richard Larson ordered Hooghkirk held at the DeKalb County Jail until his bond hearing Thursday. At the hearing, Hooghkirk, handcuffed and wearing leg irons, quietly answered Larson’s questions about his assets.

Hooghkirk said he had a car and some cash, but did not own any property. Hooghkirk left the courthouse smiling.

Hooghkirk was not a new suspect in the 17-month investigation. DeKalb Police Chief Don Berke said Hooghkirk’s “name was first brought up within the first week of the fire and her death,” and police interviewed him several times recently.

Garretson had “hundreds of acquaintances” and Hooghkirk was only one of them, Berke said. The former member of DeKalb High School’s wrestling, track and football teams lived within six blocks of Garretson’s 110 State St. apartment, Berke said.

Hooghkirk moved to Texas after his June 1989 high school graduation and then moved to Colorado after Nov. 1, 1989, DeKalb Police Lt. Richard Moudy said.

DeKalb police drove to Colorado and interviewed Hooghkirk, DeKalb State’s Attorney Mike Coghlan said. Investigators asked him to return to DeKalb about 10 days ago to further discuss the case, Berke said. Hooghkirk returned willingly, he said.

Court documents state Hooghkirk “had sexual intercourse with her (Garretson) against her will” and that “physical evidence at the scene of the murder corroborates the defendant’s confession. Specifically, hair in the victim’s hand, fire at the scene, a contusion to the victim’s head and other physical evidence.”

Cocaine and marijuana were found in Garretson’s apartment.

Beth Swedberg, 18, was a classmate of Hooghkirk’s and said “he was a ‘druggy-jock'” who was only interested in sports and drugs.

Gerald Garretson, Lisa’s oldest brother, thanked the DeKalb Police while showing an apparent sympathy for Hooghkirk’s family. “Our feelings go out to the family of the accused. I certainly know how they must feel, as we felt, starting seventeen months ago.”

Between 1983 and 1984, Garretson shared another apartment in the same house with Kristy Brean, 28, of Chicago. “I think drugs played a major part in her death,” Brean said.

“We—her friends in Chicago—had started to realize that Lisa was in pretty deep with drugs. The people she associated with were abusers,” Brean said.

At the time of her death, Garretson worked full-time at Cardinal Glass, 1651 State St., and part-time as a waitress at Kishwaukee Country Club. Garretson earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from NIU in 1984.