Deaths of four women in Oregon are now connected, police say

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The bodies of two women were discovered in wooded areas outside Portland, Oregon. The body of another woman was found in a culvert. Another was spotted next to a creek.

Law enforcement agencies across north-west Oregon have spent weeks investigating the deaths and whether they were linked. Last month, Portland police tried to quell fears that the deaths were connected.

Kristin Smith (left) and Ashley Real are two of the four women whose deaths, the police now believe, are connected.

But on Monday, nine Oregon law enforcement agencies said in a joint statement that the four deaths were linked and that they had identified at least one person of interest connected to the deaths of Kristin Smith, 22, whose body was found in February; Ashley Real, 22, whose body was found in May; and Charity Perry, 24, and Bridget Webster, 31, whose bodies were found six days apart in April.

As of Monday afternoon, no charges had been filed in the case, and the person of interest had not been publicly named.

“Based on the available information to investigators, there is not believed to be any active danger to the community at this time,” the agencies said in a statement.

It is unclear how the four women died, and the Oregon State Medical Examiner has not been able to determine the cause and manner of their deaths, the agencies said.

Bridget Webster, 31, and Charity Perry, 24, whose bodies were found six days apart in April.

The deaths have stoked fear and anxiety across north-west Oregon, with some residents wondering if a serial killer is in their midst.

The harrowing discoveries began on February 19, when the Portland Police Bureau received a report of human remains found in a wooded area south-east of downtown. Authorities were later able to determine that the remains were those of Smith, who had been reported missing on December 22.

On April 24, the body of Perry was found in a culvert near Ainsworth State Park, about 50 kilometres east of Portland. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said later that it was investigating the “suspicious death” of Perry, who had frequented downtown Portland in early March.

Six days later, on April 30, the body of Webster was found near a creek in Polk County, about 110 kilometres south-west of Portland. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office also described Webster’s death as “suspicious” and said she had also been known to visit the Portland area.

Then, on May 7, the body of Real was found in a wooded area about 30 kilometres south-east of Portland after a man who was fishing in a nearby pond called the police to say he had discovered human remains, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said.

Real had last been seen at a fast-food restaurant on March 27 and was reported missing to the Portland Police Bureau on April 4. Portland police said in a statement on April 19 that Real had “not been found or heard from, and leads have been exhausted”.

Perry’s mother declined to comment Monday. The families of the other three women did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The deaths of two other women, whose deaths have not been connected to the other four, have also added to fears among residents of north-west Oregon. On April 8, the Ridgefield Police Department and Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue responded to a report of a dead body at an abandoned property in Ridgefield, Washington, about 30 kilometres north of Portland. Authorities later identified the person as Joanna Speaks, 32, an Oregon resident, and said there were “indications the body was moved to this location”. Speaks’ death was being investigated as a homicide, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said in April.

Another woman’s body was found in a neighbourhood south-east of downtown Portland. The woman, who has not been identified, died April 24, according to the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office, which said it was seeking help to identify her.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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