Vandyke pleads guilty to capital murder charge

Published 2:39 pm Monday, April 20, 2015

A Chilton County woman will spend the rest of her life in prison after pleading guilty to a capital murder charge for the 2010 death of a Clanton woman.

Tanya Renee Vandyke, 44, pleaded guilty to capital murder involving murder in the commission of rape in the first degree, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, for the death of Tracy Brown, 44, who was Vandyke’s first cousin.

Vandyke, who lists an address in Billingsley, stood before Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds shortly after 10:30 a.m. and pleaded guilty to one of her charges. She was originally charged with two counts of capital murder involving murder in the commission of rape in the first degree and murder in commission of sodomy in the first degree in connection with the death of Tracy Brown, 44, of Clanton, in 2010.

As part of her plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the capital murder charge involving murder in the commission of sodomy in the first degree.

Vandyke’s case was scheduled to go to trial Aug. 24, according to court records.

Dressed in a bright orange jail jumpsuit with chains around her wrists and ankles, Vandyke started crying when Reynolds read her sentence.

Vandyke will spend the rest of her life at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.

In May 2014, a Chilton County jury heard gruesome and graphic details about the way James Osgood and Vandyke attacked Brown on Oct. 13, 2010, in Brown’s bedroom.

Osgood was a co-defendant in the case and was Vandyke’s boyfriend at the time of the murder.

He was sentenced to death in June 2014 by Reynolds on two capital murder convictions.

Both Osgood and Vandyke forced Brown at gunpoint to perform sexual acts with both of them before Osgood slashed Brown’s neck several times with a knife or knife-like object and later in the back twice before she died on the bedroom floor of her trailer off County Road 24.

After five years of dealing with the haunting reality surrounding the murder, the family of Tracy Brown said on Monday they can finally move forward.

“We know nothing will bring Tracy back to us, but this will help us move forward with our lives,” said Brown’s stepmother Jackie Wileman. “This has been a tremendously long road for all of us, but it is nice that we can have some closure.”

Wileman stood in court alongside Brown’s stepsister, Trish Jackson, and other members of Brown’s family, while Vandyke was sentenced.

“We weren’t sure we would live to see the end of this, but we hope to never hear Tonya’s name ever again,” Wileman said in court. “This will never leave us.”

Jackson also spoke in court describing the murder as “unimaginable.”

“I’m not sure Tanya is sorry for what she did,” Jackson said. “To murder my sister and her cousin. Life without parole is pretty easy. We grew up together, and I just don’t understand.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office C.J. Robinson spoke to the family outside of the courtroom after the hearing.

“This has been a long road and I know nothing will ever bring Tracy back, but this is a chapter of the book that can be closed,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the healing process for Brown’s family could begin and described the crime as one, if not the, grizzliest crimes in the history of Chilton County.

“Not just because of Tracy Brown’s brutal death, but because of the slow agonizing way she died,” Robinson said. “It is scary that anyone can care so little for human life that a family member was tortured and murdered to fulfill a sick fantasy. James Osgood is on death row and Tonya Vandyke will die in prison with no hope of ever leaving. Tracy Brown deserved justice, and although it took almost five years, I feel like that was finally served today.”

Jackson said she will struggle to move forward with many questions still left unanswered.

“There are so many things that I still want to know that I may never know,” Jackson said.

Jackson said prior to the murder Brown was starting a new chapter in life, which involved helping others and becoming more independent.

“Tracy liked to help others, and she had just started a new phase of her life,” Jackson said. “Growing up, Tracy was super fun and everyone wanted to be her friend.”

Jackson said Brown was a mother and would be a grandmother of two children.

Wileman said Brown is buried near family in Albertville, and family members place flowers on her grave for her birthday, Easter, Christmas and other special occasions.

“We want to make sure she is not forgotten,” Wileman said. “We will always think about the horrible events that happened, but we will never forget Tracy and we will hold on to the memories we have of her.”