Oregon man charged in deaths of 3 women found slain days apart in 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. — Police in Oregon and Washington state have charged a suspected serial killer in the deaths of three women whose bodies were found within days of one another in 2023.

Jesse Lee Calhoun, 39, has been indicted on three counts each of murder and abuse of a corpse, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday. He is being held at the Snake River Correctional Institute, where he is serving time in an unrelated case.

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The Associated Press reported that the indictment was handed down just weeks before Calhoun, who was convicted of burglary, assault of a police officer and trying to strangle a police dog, was due to be released.

Calhoun is charged in the deaths of Charity Lynn Perry, 24, Bridget Leanne Webster, 31, and Joanna Speaks, 32, prosecutors said. According to the AP, Perry and Webster were found dead in Oregon, while Speaks’ body was found in an abandoned barn in southwest Washington.

“Today’s indictment of Jesse Calhoun marks a significant step toward justice,” Multnomah County Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell said at a news conference. “We recognize that until today, there have been many questions and that their deaths have caused fear and anxiety across our area and for the families that have been waiting for answers.”

Perry’s mother, Diana Allen, told the AP that waiting for answers has been frustrating but that investigators “cared more about justice for Charity than they did for (her) feelings.”

“I have to have a level of respect for that,” Allen said.

Calhoun has been a person of interest in the deaths since last year, when authorities publicly announced that the deaths of at least four women, including Perry and Webster, had been linked to a single person.

He remains a suspect in the deaths of Ashley Real and Kristin Smith, both 22 when they died. A sixth woman found dead in the same time frame has not been identified.

The multi-jurisdictional investigation into the murders first came to light in June 2023 when The Oregonian reported that six women had been found dead over a three-month span and within 100 miles of one another.

Authorities initially denied the killings were connected, the newspaper reported.

They announced in July that four of the cases had been linked and that they had a “person of interest,” though they did not name Calhoun at that time.

According to records, Smith was reported missing Dec. 22, 2022, and her remains were found two months later, on Feb. 19, in a wooded area in southeast Portland. She was identified last May.

Speaks, of Oregon, was found April 8, 2023, in the barn at an abandoned property in Ridgefield, Washington. Her cause of death was blunt head and neck injuries, the Oregonian reported.

The bodies of Perry and the unidentified woman were found on the same day, April 24, 2023. Perry’s body was found in a culvert in east Multnomah County, and the Jane Doe was found in southeast Portland, according to the paper.

Webster’s body was found six days later in northwest Polk County, authorities said. A week after Webster was found, Real’s body was discovered in a wooded area of Clackamas County.

Calhoun was serving a four-year prison sentence in the 2019 case when he was released in 2021. The alleged killer was one of more than 40 inmates released as then-Gov. Kate Brown’s thanks for serving as volunteer firefighters to battle devastating wildfires in 2020.

All the women died while Calhoun was free.

The commutation of Calhoun’s sentence was rescinded in July 2023 after he had become a focus of the murder investigations, the Oregonian reported.

Officials told the newspaper that Calhoun reported to his probation officer as required while he was free, but the paper learned that Real had identified Calhoun as the man who attacked and choked her in November 2022.

Calhoun’s former girlfriend also linked him to Real, saying he’d once had a sexual relationship with the woman.

No charges were ever filed in the alleged attack on Real, who subsequently vanished four months later from southeast Portland, the Oregonian reported.

Real’s father, Jose Real, told the AP last year that his daughter was too scared to help police track down Calhoun.

The Oregonian reported that Calhoun’s ex also linked him to Webster through a video she described seeing on his cellphone.

At Friday’s news conference, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt acknowledged the “deep pain and grief” of the slain women’s families, the newspaper reported.

“This community holds you in our hearts and is here to support you,” Schmidt said. “There’s still more work to be done. Investigations are ongoing.”

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