A look back at the murder of Brittany Phillips, a 13-year journey her mother hopes ends with answers

Posted at 8:49 PM, Feb 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-23 23:26:39-05

TULSA - A mother's scorn is possibly the strongest force there is, and it's what's driving a cold case 2 Works for You has followed since it happened in 2004. 

Dr. Maggie Zingman has been on this journey for a very, very long time. 

"She was my best friend and there's a lot of people who are going to miss her," she told us in 2005. 

"I want him to rot in a jail cell for the rest of his life," her son told us on the day of Brittany's funeral in 2004. 

What Dr. Zingman didn't know back then was the woman sitting before us now still wouldn't know who should rot in jail; but she'd dedicate her life to figuring it out. 

"Like many parents I thought, 'this will never happen to me,'" she said. 

She recalled how it started. 

"I opened the door to this young sheriff standing in the rain and he had a piece of paper in his hand and he just quickly said to me, 'Are you Maggie Zingman?' I said yea. He said, 'You need to call Tulsa Police your daughter's been murdered.'"

She had left Brittany a voicemail days before. 

 "Now Britty, please call me, I know you're ok but I just need to hear from you." 

Next thing she knew she's standing in Brittany's apartment swarming with investigators. 

"Brittany had left TCC with a friend, they were going to college," said Tulsa Police Detective Eddie Majors. "Brittany dropped the friend off at her apartment complex at 51st and Memorial, Brittany drives home."

The last time her friend saw her. 

"After a few days the friend goes over to Brittany's apartment and getting no answer they go and check the well-being, and find Brittany deceased inside her apartment," said Detective Majors. 

Police said there were signs of an altercation before she was raped and strangled to death. 

"All I could think about was how long she was hurt, how long she was dead," said Dr. Zingman. 

Investigators tested DNA from the scene. 

"Any kind of crimes that are even remotely similar we're looking into," Tulsa Police Detective Jeff Felton told 2 Works for You in 2005. 

They came up with nothing. 

Dr. Zingman's final goodbye to her daughter through a blanket. 

"I just rubbed my finger down her nose and just, I said, 'I'm sorry Britty. I'm sorry this happened, I'm sorry I didn't protect you, I'm sorry that they won't even let me touch you,'" she cried. 

"It's probably the case I spend my most time on," Felton said. 

Police figured the murderer could be anywhere. 

"And I thought, so how do we get this story beyond Tulsa? or beyond Oklahoma."

She had an idea. 

"This killer may be elsewhere and somebody may have a case similar to this," she told 2 Works for You in 2006. 

And "Caravan to Catch a Killer" was born; growing into a traffic-stopping, bright purple and pink car. 

"They tell me I'm brave or courageous, and I just tell them, I'm just a mother."

She's driven hundreds of thousands of miles, turning corners across the country and turning up tips. 

"By still telling her story I'm also telling the story about why we need DNA laws."

And turning heads, Dr. Zingman partnered with a state representative for stricter DNA legislation. 

"We are asking for DNA samples from individuals upon arrest," Former State Representative Lucky Lamons told 2 Works for You in 2009. 

"Even if it doesn't solve our murder, it's going to save lives," Dr. Zingman said. 

But possibly the most shocking part of her journey so far came last month. 

"We know his hair color, his eye color, his skin complexion, where he is originally from as far as his family," said Detective Majors. 

She got a call from him, he had the first composite photo of Britany's killer. 

"I started shaking, I had this really sick feeling to my stomach, because I thought maybe I'd know the picture right away," she said. 

She didn't know him, but something did strike her immediately. 

"It was the type of person that she might've been attracted to."

It made sense, but that didn't make it any easier. 

"Basically I don't see him as human."

She doesn't see compassion behind those piercing blue eyes; but she does see a chance, both she and detectives received dozens of tips. 

"It does give me hope, but I've had to learn to just, 'I'll believe it when I see it.'"

Her journey from a devastated mother with no voice to an activist, law-changer and survivor has brought her not only a new focus in life, but it's also brought her closer to the one thing she needed; the one thing she started this journey to do. 

To catch a killer. 

If you've seen the face in the sketch or know anything about Brittany Phillips' murder, call Crime Stoppers at (918) 596- COPS. 

Follow Dr. Zingman's efforts to find her daughter's killer here

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