Mothers of women in Portland ‘serial killer’ case cling to hope of accountability

‘I’m just really hoping that this is it. I don’t know – I guess I’m still kind of in shock by it all, but I’m just hoping that we got him,’ one grieving mother said

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 20 July 2023 21:09 BST
Related video: Deaths of 4 women connected to man who was released from prison early in 2021

The mothers of four women found dead in suspicious circumstances around the Portland metro area are hoping for accountability after police identified a person of interest in the case.

Between February and May this year, the bodies of six women were found in roadsides and woods in a 100-mile area of the city, sparking fears of a serial killer in the area.

Jesse Calhoun, a former convict who is currently behind bars for a parole violation in connection to another case, was identified on Monday as a person of interest in the deaths of four of the women, according to law enforcement sources.

The four women are: Ashley Real, 22, Bridget Leann Ramsey Webster, 31, Charity Lynn Perry, 24, and Kristin Smith, 22.

Calhoun, 38, hasn’t been charged with a crime and officials haven’t shared any information about what led to the sudden development in the case.

Diana Allen is the mother of Perry, who was found dead in a state park along the Columbia River Gorge.

Ms Allen said on Tuesday that she found out about the person of interest via the media, but added that she’s in communication with a detective working on the case.

“I’m in the dark about a lot,” Ms Allen told The Associated Press. “But the detective and I understand why this is required. We don’t need anything messing up this investigation.”

She added that she knows that her daughter died in April, but not the precise date or how she died.

The state medical examiner hasn’t been able to determine the cause or manner of death for any of the four women as of yet.

“This hurts so bad. My daughter had such bad mental health issues, and any hope of her getting better is gone. It’s gone now, and a horrid ache replaced it,” Ms Allen said.

Smith’s mother said she hopes that the identification of a person of interest can lead to some resolution.

The four women were found between February and May this year
The four women were found between February and May this year (Portland Police Bureau/Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office/Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

“I’m just really hoping that this is it. I don’t know – I guess I’m still kind of in shock by it all, but I’m just hoping that we got him,” Melissa Smith told KATU-TV.

Smith was reported missing in December and her body was located in a wooded area south of Portland in February. Her mother said that no parent should have to accept that their “child was killed and in a very disturbing, morbid, traumatizing way,” according to a GoFundMe fundraising page.

Darcie Byers-Ramsey, Webster’s mother of Ms Webster, took to Facebook to ask anyone who knew anything about the case to contact law enforcement.

“They aren’t looking to bust anyone if you have warrants or partake in drugs etc. We do not care about that. We just want answers,” she wrote. “Please help my boys, my family and I to get closure.”

Webster was found dead on 30 April in Polk County.

The fourth woman – Real – was last spotted at a fast food restaurant in Portland on 27 March and was reported as missing on 4 April. Her body was located more than a month later, on 7 May, in a Clackamas County forest by a man fishing in a pond in the area.

Calhoun was returned to state prison on 7 July after Oregon Governor Tina Kotek reinstated his sentence after it was previously commuted by her predecessor Kate Brown, a law enforcement official told the AP.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said in a Monday statement that the investigators have “interviewed multiple people,” adding they don’t think there’s an active threat to the public.

Calhoun was convicted in 2019 on charges of burglary and vehicle theft.

His sentence was commuted in 2021 – a key factor being that he had helped fight wildfires as a volunteer inmate firefighter. Calhoun had been set to be released in June of last year.

“I am absolutely horrified for the victims, their families, and all those who have experienced these losses,” Ms Brown told The AP on Tuesday.

Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Todd Jackson asked Ms Kotek last month that Calhoun be returned to prison and 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,” he said in a letter sent on 30 June. “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.”

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