The families of two of the four women believed to have been killed by an Oregon serial killer have blasted how police have handled the investigation and its slow progress.
Jesse Calhoun, who is being investigated and identified as a ‘person of interest’ in the deaths of the four women, had earlier attacked and strangled one of them, his father said.
But Calhoun wasn’t arrested until months after the alleged attacks — only after the women’s murdered bodies were discovered scattered across northwest Oregon.
Body of Christine Smith, 22; Charity Perry, 24; Bridget Webster, 31; and Ashley Real, 22, were found in a wooded area for three months under a bridge and in a culvert in a nearly 100-mile radius that stretches from rural Polk County southwest of Portland to the Columbia River Gorge east of the city.
Melissa Smith, Christine Smith’s mother, said in a Facebook video that she reported her daughter missing to police in the Portland suburb of Gresham in December, but she said, ‘I wasn’t given the help I needed.’
Christine Smith’s mother, Melissa Smith, said in a Facebook video that she reported her daughter missing to police in Gresham, a Portland suburb, in December, but, she said, ‘wasn’t given the help I needed’.
Jose Real, the father of 22-year-old Ashley Real, said Jesse Calhoun strangled his daughter months before she was found dead.
Here are my thoughts on yesterday’s newsbreak. Any news reporters are welcome to take it and share
Posted by Melissa Smith on Tuesday, July 18th, 2023
Ashley Real’s body was last found on May 7. Her father, Jose Real, said Friday that he called police after she cried at his Portland home on Nov. 11, saying Calhoun had choked her.
She had marks on her neck, he said, and she took him to a hospital.
A Portland police officer took an initial report from Rial and her daughter, and she named Officer Calhoun. Police wanted to help find him, but he was afraid to help, she said.
Because the location of the alleged assault was outside Portland police jurisdiction, the department referred the case to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
Rial said he and his wife called repeatedly but never heard back from the sheriff’s office.
Details of the attack were first reported by The Oregonian.
‘The police didn’t do their job, and now my daughter is dead,’ she told the newspaper.
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.
Melissa Smith also said police were slow to act on her daughter’s case after she disappeared. Family members posted flyers about the missing woman and searched parts of Portland.
Christine Smith’s body was the first of the four to be found in the woods outside the Portland neighborhood on Feb. 19.
‘I wasn’t given the help I needed to find him and I have concerns about that,’ Smith explained in a 10-minute-long video posted online.
‘After some girls went missing, that’s when I started getting phone calls and got a new detective.’
Melissa Smith praised the new detective at the Portland Police Bureau for more aggressively pursuing the case.
‘I’m hoping we get him,’ he said of Calhoun’s arrest. ‘I don’t want more judgment. I know Kristen was murdered and I have faith that the police department is going to piece it together.
‘I don’t know if they are involved with other girls. I am in touch with a few other girls’ families.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that investigators and prosecutors from nine law enforcement agencies have found connections in four deaths with at least one person of interest.
The man was not named in the statement, but a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation named him as Jesse Lee Calhoun.
The official requested anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly on the case. Calhoun was arrested June 6 by members of two sheriff’s departments with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, officials said.
Jesse Calhoun, who is a person of interest in the deaths of Bridget Webster, 31, and Christine Smith, 22; Charity Lynn Perry, 24; and Ashley Rial, 22. He is serving a 50-month sentence for assaulting a police officer, attempting to strangle a police dog and burglary.
Calhoun was released from Columbia River Correctional Institution on July 22, 2021, nearly a year before his expected release date.
“Due to an active ongoing criminal investigation the department cannot comment on any reports or information regarding Calhoun,” Portland Police Sergeant Kevin Allen wrote in an email.
Sheriff’s Deputy John Plock also said he could not comment because of the active investigation.
Rial said she is grateful her daughter has been found and that she can view her remains in a Clackamas County cemetery.
‘I can tell her, ‘Daddy’s here, Mija… you know how much I miss you,” Real said, using an affectionate Spanish term for daughter.
‘Maybe you don’t have a daughter, you don’t have a son now, but believe me, when someone loses a daughter or a son, it’s very sad,’ Rial told KMTR.
‘I can’t protect him. I can’t be with her that day. I always want him to be taken care of and I feel very sad because I miss that day, I miss that day,’ said Real.
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.
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.
But he was among 1,000 inmates who benefited from then-Governor Kate Brown’s reduction of the prison population during the pandemic.
Calhoun was one of 41 prison inmates whose sentences were commuted by then-Gov. Kate Brown by one year in 2021 because they helped fight the 2020 wildfires in Oregon.
Calhoun was released from the Columbia River Correctional Institution on July 22, 2021, nearly a year before his expected release date, the Oregon Department of Corrections said Friday.
He is serving a 50-month sentence for assaulting a police officer, attempting to strangle a police dog, theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Senator Tim Knopp, the leader of the minority Oregon Senate Republicans, on Tuesday blamed Brown for rushing out “violent criminals.” But even if Brown hadn’t commuted Calhoun’s sentence, he would have been released months before his death.
The district attorney’s announcement said no charges have been filed in either death, but Calhoun remains behind bars.
Governor Tina Kotek rescinded her changes on July 3.
The 6-foot-4-inch suspect, who has a history of resisting arrest, jumped into the Willamette River in Milwaukee and tried to escape when he was found on July 6.
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.
Calhoun will now serve the remainder of his sentence with his new projected release date of June 9, 2024, Oregon Department of Corrections spokeswoman Amber Campbell said.
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