After Gov. Tina Kotek imposed a prison term that had been commuted by her predecessor, a man thought to be a person of interest in the killings of four women whose bodies were discovered in northwest Oregon is now incarcerated.
According to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case, Jesse Lee Calhoun, 38, is thought to be a person of interest in the killings of Kristin Smith, 22, Charity Lynn Perry, 24, Bridget Leann Webster, 31, and Ashley Real, 22, among others. Because they are not permitted to make public comments on the issue, the official requested anonymity on Tuesday.
Between February and May, the women’s bodies were discovered in wooded locations near Portland. The cause of the women’s deaths or the reason Calhoun is regarded as a person of interest in the investigation have not been disclosed by authorities. He is not facing any charges.
An email sent through the inmate communication system at Snake River Correctional Institution did not receive a prompt response from Calhoun, and a call to the most recent defense lawyer listed in Calhoun’s online court records did not receive a prompt response either.
Investigators ID Person of Interest in Oregon Murders
According to a statement released on Monday by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office, investigators have “interviewed multiple people” and have identified “at least one person of interest” in the crimes.
When then-Gov. Kate Brown shortened the sentences of 40 other prisoners in June 2021, Calhoun was already doing time for a 2019 conviction for a stolen vehicle and burglary. After deciding they did not pose intolerable safety threats to the community, Brown shortened the sentences of the offenders who had all participated in a prison firefighting program in 2020.
The commutation reduced Calhoun’s sentence by roughly a year; without it, he would have probably been released in the summer of 2022, months before the ladies vanished.
“I am absolutely horrified for the victims, their families, and all those who have experienced these losses,” Brown said in a statement sent by email to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Late last month, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Todd Jackson requested in a letter to Gov. Tina Kotek’s office that Calhoun’s commutation be revoked so that he might be put back behind bars to finish out his sentence.
“Since his release from custody pursuant to this commutation, Mr. Calhoun has been involved in criminal activity currently under investigation by Oregon law enforcement,” Jackson wrote in the June 30 letter. “In light of this, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and Multnomah County Department of Community Justice recommends Mr. Calhoun’s commutation be revoked.”
The Associated Press confirms the news on its official Twitter account:
Kotek concurred, and on July 7th, Calhoun was returned to prison to complete the final 11 months of his initial sentence.
After the bodies of the women were discovered over several months beginning in February, there was internet terror and conjecture that the killings were related. The Portland Police Bureau stated in June that the information at hand did not corroborate the rumor.
However, the bureau and a number of other local law enforcement organizations stated on Monday that there appeared to be connections between the murders of the two women.
However, investigators did not specify exactly what those connections might be, and the law enforcement authorities chose not to disclose more information about the case.
“We will never stop fighting for Kristin. We will make sure the whole world knows how wonderful she was and the truth about her life,” Melissa Smith, Kristin Smith’s mother, posted on Facebook. “We will get justice for her!!!“
Just east of Portland in Gresham, Kristin Smith, who occasionally went by the last name Reedus, was reported missing on December 22. Two months later, she was discovered in a forested area of a Portland suburb.
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After her daughter’s body was discovered, Melissa Smith said on a GoFundMe website, “I am deeply saddened, lost, and broken.”
In February, as family members looked for Kristin Smith, who was then missing, Hailey Smith, Kristin Smith’s sister, told KPTV, a Portland television station, “It’s quite like a piece of you is missing, that’s really the only way you can describe it.”
Near homeless shelters and other locations in Portland’s downtown, family members put up leaflets and searched for Smith. Over 600 people have joined the private “Justice for Kristin Smith” Facebook page since it was started more than four months ago.
Following the discovery of Webster’s remains in Polk County on April 30, Perry’s body was discovered in Multnomah County on April 24. Real, who had been reported missing in Portland a month earlier, was the owner of the fourth body discovered, which was in Clackamas County on May 7.
Diana Allen, Perry’s mother, revealed on Tuesday that Perry has mental health issues. Allen provided The Associated Press with a picture of Perry that was shot after Perry received a trophy for “spiciest chili” in a competition years ago.
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