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Families of slain Portland women fight for justice


(NewsNation) — After more than a year, authorities may be closing in on a person of interest in the slayings of four Portland women, killings that terrorized the Oregon city.

Five women, all under age 35, were found dead over three months in 2023. After initially saying the murders were unrelated, police later concluded the deaths were linked.

The victims included Kristin Smith, found in a field Feb. 19, 2023; Charity Perry, discovered near a state park April 24; Bridget Webster, found April 30; and Ashley Real, located in a rural area May 7. The medical examiner determined blunt force trauma as the cause of death for 32-year-old Joanna Speaks, whose body was discovered in a rural area. Police have not tied Speaks’ death to the other four women.

A person of interest in connection with the killings, Jesse Lee Calhoun, is jailed on a parole violation and could be released next month. The convicted felon had his sentence commuted in 2021 by then-Gov. Kate Brown for helping battle wildfires while imprisoned for burglary, car theft and assaulting an officer.

NewsNation spoke with the mothers of the women, who share a bond they never hoped to have.

  • The victims included Kristin Smith, found in a field Feb. 19, 2023; Charity Perry, discovered near a state park April 24; Bridget Webster, found April 30; and Ashley Real, located in a rural area May 7. The medical examiner determined blunt force trauma as the cause of death for 32-year-old Joanna Speaks, whose body was discovered in a rural area. Police have not tied Speaks' death to the other four women.
  • A person of interest, Jesse Lee Calhoun, is jailed on a parole violation and could be released next month. The convicted felon had his sentence commuted in 2021 by then-Gov. Kate Brown for helping battle wildfires while imprisoned for burglary, car theft and assaulting an officer.

“We are very thankful to have each other. We call ourselves the fighting families,” one mother told NewsNation.

“Putting our girls … they are our girls. Putting their faces together, saying, ‘Hey,’ something is up. Either we have a serial killer, or we have five homicidal maniacs. I don’t know which one would be worse,” another family member said.

There are indications of progress despite authorities’ silence.

“I think we all feel we are there,” a mother said. “We are at the end of this finish line. It is going to happen.”