Exoneree Brandon Olebar

At a Glance

  • Innocent Years Served: 10 Years
  • Sentence: 16 1/2 Years
  • Wrongful Conviction: First-Degree Robbery, First-Degree Burglary
  • Year: 2003
  • Jurisdiction: King County
  • Released: December 2013
  • Exonerated: December 2013
  • Cost of Wrongful Incarceration*: $415,275
  • Lost Wages**: $430,822

About Brandon

In 2003, Brandon Olebar was 19 years old, living in Auburn, Washington.

The Investigation

On a February evening in 2003, Brandon’s sister Nacoel Olebar went to the home of her abusive ex-boyfriend, Bryan Vogelbacher, who refused to open the door. A number of men — possibly as many as eight or nine — accompanied Nacoel and broke through the front door and attacked Vogelbacher. The victim knew some of the attackers, and identified Nacoel’s uncle, Edward Loney, as the individual who “pistol whipped” him. He stated that others punched and kicked him until he was able to get to safety within his house. Following the attack, Vogelbacher contacted police to report the incident, including the fact that each attacker had a feather tattooed on their face. He also relayed that a number of items were stolen from his home.

Two days after the crime, Vogelbacher looked at a photographic lineup made up of Nacoel’s male friends and relatives. He identified Nacoel’s 19-year-old brother Brandon as one of the attackers, even though Brandon did not have a tattoo on his face.

Brandon, Nacoel, and Loney were each charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary. Nacoel was found incompetent to stand trial by the court. However, Loney and Brandon went on trial together. The jury convicted Loney and Brandon of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary. Loney was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Brandon was sentenced to 16½ years in prison. Nacoel later pled guilty and was sentenced to just over one year in prison. No one else was charged with participating in the attack.

Post-Conviction and Exoneration

Brandon contacted the Washington Innocence Project for assistance after his appeals were denied. Brandon’s then wife, Melissa Olebar, in the time since his conviction, identified four of the people who took part in the attack. Nacoel was located and gave a detailed account of the attack, including the names of some of those involved.

Three of the actual perpetrators signed sworn statements stating that they took part in the attack, and that Brandon was not involved or even present. On December 20, 2013, the charges against Brandon were dismissed and he was released.

Brandon at the Stand for Innocence dinner

*Based on the average annual per-person incarceration costs in Washington State as of May 2019. Does not include the financial cost of trial, appeals, community supervision, retrial, or related civil proceedings.
**Based on the average salary by age https://smartasset.com/retirement/the-average-salary-by-age; not including retirement or social security contributions.