Ex-governor ‘person of interest’ in Oregon serial killer’s death of four women was among 1,000 inmates released early because they were at risk for COVID

Ex-governor 'person of interest' in Oregon serial killer's death of four women was among 1,000 inmates released early because they were at risk for COVID

A ‘person of interest’ in the murders of four Oregon women over a three-month period in or near Portland is a career criminal, according to a local news report, who was released from prison over Covid concerns.

Jesse Lee Calhoun, 38, of Portland, was sentenced to four years in prison in November 2019 for theft, unauthorized possession of a stolen vehicle and injuring a police officer and a police dog while attempting to make an arrest.

He was released in July 2021 by then-Oregon Governor Kate Brown — one of 1,000 inmates released early because of the pandemic.

The Willamette Week reported Monday that he is a ‘person of interest’.

The first of his four alleged victims was reported missing about a year and a half later.

Brown said he was ‘absolutely horrified’ by the news, the Wilmette Week reported.

Jesse Lee Calhoun, 38, was arrested on July 6. Local media have named him as the prime suspect in the murders of four Portland-area women whose bodies were found between February and May. He was released from prison in early July 2021 due to covid

Christine Smith, 22 (left), first victim: She was discovered on February 19. On April 24, the second, Charity Perry, 24 (right), was found dead

Bridget Webster, 31 (left), was found on April 30 and Ashley Rial, 22 (right), was found on May 7.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office in Portland has not named Calhoun.

They said Monday that no charges have been filed against anyone, but the community is not currently in any danger.

The women were between 22 and 31 years old, and their bodies had been found in Portland and rural areas since February, with the latest being found in May.

A body was found near a creek in Polk County, about 45 miles southwest of Portland.

The state medical examiner has not determined the cause or manner of death for either woman, authorities said. They are all from the Portland area.

Officials did not use the term ‘serial killer’ when announcing the connection between the deaths.

‘Investigators and prosecutors from multiple law enforcement agencies are working together… and have determined that there are connections between four cases: Christine Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster and Ashley Real,’ the prosecutor’s office said.

Investigators from nine law enforcement agencies and the prosecutor’s office in three Oregon counties, as well as the Oregon State Police, are cooperating on the cases, authorities said.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said they do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the public.

The first of the four – 22-year-old Christine Smith – was found dead in the woods in Pleasant Valley on February 19. From Gresham, Oregon, she was reported missing by her family on December 22 and her body was identified on May 25.

Two months later, on April 24, Charity Perry, 24, was found dead at Ainsworth State Park.

The following week, on April 30, Bridget Webster, 31, was found dead near a creek in Polk County, 45 miles south of Portland.

And a fourth victim, 22-year-old Ashley Rial, was discovered on May 7, a month after she went missing from a fast food restaurant.

Another woman killed in the area — 32-year-old Joanna Speaks, found dead in an abandoned barn on April 8 — is not believed to be connected.

Calhoun was arrested on unrelated charges on July 6 and is currently in custody at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.

The local news site reported that he is expected to be charged with four counts of murder in the coming days.

Calhoun has a lengthy criminal record, with felony convictions dating back nearly 20 years.

He was said to be a talented artist, who told booking officials that he achieved his life painting designs on vehicles.

His first felony conviction was in 2004: when he was arrested again in 2018, with meth, several guns and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office called him a ‘major thief and career criminal’.

He was given four sentences in 2019, set to run concurrently.

But he was among the 1,000 inmates who benefited from depopulation at Brown’s prison during the pandemic.

The Democrat used significantly more of the governor’s pardon power than his predecessors and shortened the sentences of 912 nonviolent inmates at risk of contracting Covid; 130 pardons granted; Clear death row; And nearly 50,000 people have been convicted of possession of marijuana, Willamette Week reported.

Kate Brown was Oregon’s governor from 2015-23 and commuted Calhoun’s sentence in July 2021. He said he was ‘absolutely horrified’ by the news of his alleged crime

Tina Kotek, who replaced Brown, was asked to revoke Calhoun’s conditional communications on July 3.

Calhoun further reduced his sentence by joining a group of convicts who helped fight the wildfires.

Last month, concerns over the deaths of the women grew, as it emerged that many of the victims frequented the same area.

On July 3, the current governor, Tina Kotek — who took over from Brown in January — was asked to rescind Calhoun’s change.

His is the first and only parole that has ever been revoked.

Kotech spokeswoman Elizabeth Sheppard said, ‘The Governor’s Office received a request from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office on July 3, 2023 to revoke Jesse Lee Calhoun’s parole status and fulfilled the request on the same day.’

‘We have no further comment as this is a pending investigation.’

Calhoun was arrested July 6: The 6-foot-4 suspect, who has a history of resisting arrest, tried to escape by jumping into the Willamette River in Milwaukee.

Brown, who left office in January, told the Willamette Week he was shocked by Calhoun’s arrest.

“I am absolutely terrified for the victims, their families and those who have suffered this loss,” he said.

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