NATIONAL NEWS

A ‘person of interest’ is being held in Oregon deaths of 4 women after governor revokes commutation

Jul 18, 2023, 12:51 PM | Updated: 3:04 pm

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A man considered a person of interest in the deaths of four women whose bodies were found in northwestern Oregon is being held in a state prison after Gov. Tina Kotek reinstated a prison sentence that was commuted by her predecessor.

Jesse Lee Calhoun, 38, is considered a person of interest in the deaths of Kristin Smith, 22, Charity Lynn Perry, 24, Bridget Leann Webster, 31, and Ashley Real, 22, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. The official requested anonymity Tuesday because they are not authorized to comment publicly on the case.

The women’s bodies were found in wooded areas around Portland, Oregon, between February and May. Officials have not released any information about how the women died or why Calhoun is considered a person of interest in the investigation. He has not been charged.

Calhoun did not immediately respond to an email sent through the Snake River Correctional Institution’s inmate communication system.

Scott Leonard, a court-appointed attorney who represented Calhoun in the 2019 burglary case, said he no longer represents Calhoun and had no comment.

The Multomah County District Attorney’s office said in a statement Monday that investigators have identified “at least one person of interest” in the cases and have “interviewed multiple people” as part of the investigation.

Calhoun was serving time for a 2019 conviction of stolen vehicle and burglary charges when then-Gov. Kate Brown commuted his sentence along with the sentences of 40 other prisoners in June 2021. The inmates had all helped fight wildfires in 2020 under a prison firefighting program, and Brown commuted their sentences after determining they did not present unacceptable safety risks to the community.

The commutation shaved about a year off of Calhoun’s sentence, who otherwise likely would have been released in the summer of 2022, months before the women went missing.

“I am absolutely horrified for the victims, their families, and all those who have experienced these losses,” Brown said in a statement emailed Tuesday to the AP.

Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Todd Jackson wrote to Gov. Tina Kotek’s office late last month, asking that Calhoun’s commutation be lifted so he could be reimprisoned to serve the rest of 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.”

Kotek agreed, and Calhoun was taken back to prison on July 7 to serve the remaining 11 months of his original prison term.

The women’s bodies were found over a series of months starting in February, sparking fears and speculation online that the deaths were connected. In June, the Portland Police Bureau said that speculation was not supported by the available facts.

On Monday, however, the bureau joined with several other local law enforcement agencies and said there appeared to be links between the women’s deaths after all.

Investigators didn’t detail just what those links might be, however, and the law enforcement agencies declined to release additional details 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!!!“

Kristin Smith, a resident of Gresham, just east of Portland, who sometimes used the last name Reedus, was reported missing Dec. 22 and found in a wooded area in a suburb south of Portland two months later.

“I am deeply saddened, lost and broken,” Melissa Smith wrote on a GoFundMe page after her daughter’s body was located.

“It’s quite like a piece of you is missing, that’s really the only way you can describe it,” Hailey Smith, Kristin Smith’s sister, told KPTV, a Portland television station, in February as family members searched for the then-missing woman.

Family members hung up fliers and looked for Smith near homeless shelters and other sites in downtown Portland. And a private “Justice for Kristin Smith” Facebook page with over 600 members was created over four months ago.

Perry’s body was found in Multnomah County on April 24, followed by Webster’s remains, which were found in Polk County on April 30. The fourth body found, in Clackamas County on May 7, belonged to Real, who had been reported missing in Portland a month earlier.

Perry’s mother, Diana Allen, said Tuesday that her daughter struggled with her mental health. Allen shared a photo with The Associated Press of Perry that was taken after Perry won a “spiciest chili” prize in a contest several years ago.

“She was so proud of it,” Allen said. “She had an amazing personality when she had her mental health under control.”

The state medical examiner has not determined the cause or manner of death for any of the women, prosecutors said in a statement.

Investigators from nine law enforcement agencies, including the prosecutor’s offices in three Oregon counties and the Oregon State Police, have been collaborating on the cases, authorities said.

___

Boone reported from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press writers Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska and Lisa Baumann in Seattle contributed to this report.

National News

Associated Press

The UN condemns increasing gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti that is undermining peace

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms” the increasing gang violence and criminal activity in Haiti that is undermining peace, stability and security in the country and the region. Friday’s resolution expresses grave concern at illegal arms and ammunition flowing into Haiti and their link […]

3 hours ago

Actor Alec Baldwin reacts during his trial for involuntary manslaughter for the 2021 fatal shooting...

Associated Press

Inside the courtroom as case dismissed against Alec Baldwin in fatal shooting of cinematographer

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A nearly three-year legal saga for Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer ended Friday without a verdict but with tears of relief for the actor and a small coterie of family who had settled into a somber daily routine on wooden benches inside a windowless New Mexico […]

3 hours ago

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listens to a speech during the opening of the High-L...

Associated Press

UN chief urges funds for Palestinians, saying Israel is forcing Gazans ‘to move like human pinballs’

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief appealed for funding Friday for the beleaguered U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East, accusing Israel of issuing evacuation orders that force Palestinians “to move like human pinballs across a landscape of destruction and death.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a donor’s […]

5 hours ago

Meals on Wheels employees take advantage of an assembly line to prepare bags of food for clients, F...

Associated Press

Houston community groups strain to keep feeding and cooling a city battered by repeat storms

HOUSTON (AP) — The deafening hum of a generator was a welcome noise Thursday evening at a Houston independent living center where several dozen seniors had lost power in the wake of Hurricane Beryl. Joe and Terri Hackl, who had pulled up with the backup electricity source after delivering hundreds of meals all day, estimate […]

6 hours ago

Twin sisters Jo and Joy Banner pose for a photograph in front of their business, Fee-Fo-Lay Café, ...

Associated Press

Historically Black Cancer Alley town splits over a planned grain terminal in Louisiana

WALLACE, La. (AP) — Sisters Jo and Dr. Joy Banner live just miles from where their ancestors were enslaved more than 200 years ago in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Their tidy Creole cottage cafe in the small, river-front town of Wallace lies yards away from property their great-grandparents bought more than a century […]

6 hours ago

Jake Schneider talks about the Republican National Convention coming to Milwaukee next to the bronz...

Associated Press

Deeply Democratic Milwaukee wrestles with hosting Trump, Republican National Convention

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee loves its Miller Beer, Brewers baseball and “ Bronze Fonz ” statue. The deepest blue city in swing state Wisconsin, Milwaukee also loves Democrats. So it can be hard for some to swallow that Milwaukee is playing host to former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention next week while […]

6 hours ago

A ‘person of interest’ is being held in Oregon deaths of 4 women after governor revokes commutation