An inmate was pardoned by Oregon’s governor. Two years on he’s a person of interest in four suspicious deaths

Police in Oregon say the deaths of four women whose bodies were found on roadsides may be linked, writes Ariana Baio

Thursday 20 July 2023 14:08 BST
Jesse Calhoun
Jesse Calhoun (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)

Authorities have reportedly identified a 38-year-old man as a person of interest connected to the suspicious deaths of four women in the Portland metro area, according to anonymous law enforcement officials.

Police have not officially named a person of interest in the case or announced any charges but several news outlets, including the Associated Press, have identified him as Jesse Lee Calhoun.

Officials believe the person of interest has some link to the deaths of Kristin Smith, 22; Charity Lynn Perry, 24; Bridget Leann (Ramsay) Webster, 31; and Ashely Real, 22.

All four women were found dead within 100 miles of one another either near or on the sides of roads between February and May of this year.

Police have not been able to determine the manners or cause of deaths.

Initially, amid rumours of a possible serial killer, police in Portland denied the four women were connected to a group of six deaths that all appeared to be similar.

However, the Multnomah County District Attorney later contradicted this, announcing in a statement on Monday that police now had reason to believe four of the deaths were linked.

They did not specify how they were connected other than identifying one person of interest. Authorities said they were able to determine the link after talking with multiple people who were connected to some of the victims.

Kristin Smith, 32, Charity Lynn Perry, 24, Bridget Webster, 31, Ashley Real, 22
Kristin Smith, 32, Charity Lynn Perry, 24, Bridget Webster, 31, Ashley Real, 22 (Portland Police Bureau/Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office/Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Court records indicated Calhoun has been in trouble with authorities multiple times.

In 2019, Calhoun was sentenced to four years and two months in prison after being convicted of first-degree and second-degree burglary.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office accused him of breaking into homes in the neighbourhoods of Troutdale, Fairview and Gresham. Investigators had linked him to a “handful” of other cases in Clackamas and Clark Counties as well.

When a SWAT team arrived that year to arrest Calhoun on outstanding warrants, he choked a police dog and kicked an officer, according to court records viewed by KOIN.

During his arrest, authorities found modified firearms, more than 500 rounds of ammunition and six grams of methamphetamine in his vehicle.

After his arrest, residents of the neighbourhoods and surrounding areas reported a “significant” drop in property crimes and burglaries.

Calhoun was originally set to be released in 2022 but served a shortened version of his 2019 sentence. In July of 2021, he was granted a “conditional commutation” by the then-governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, due to his service as an inmate wildland firefighter the previous year.

Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney Todd Jackson asked Governor Tina Kotek last month to lift Calhoun’s commutation so he could serve out the rest of his sentence.

In a letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Mr Jackson wrote: “Since his release from custody pursuant to this commutation, Mr. Calhoun has been involved in criminal activity currently under investigation by Oregon law enforcement.”

He continued: “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.”

Calhoun was taken back to prison on 7 July and is currently in custody at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Oregon, on unrelated charges, according to state records.

Josh Marcus contributed reporting to this story

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