Playing cards draw tip that helps solve 1993 murder

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

Updated: July 9, 2011, 12:18 AM

 

A onetime Vancouver man, Brad Richard Ballantyne, 37, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder in the 1993 slaying of a woman in Northeast Portland, police say.

And officers say a playing card led to his arrest.

Since May 2009, decks of playing cards featuring unsolved murders have been sold in jails and prisons in the greater Portland area and Clark County.

One of those, describing the Portland woman’s slaying, led to a tip that made it possible for the Portland Police Bureau’s Cold Case Homicide Unit to arrest Ballantyne in Clark County in the summer of 2010, officials said.

The victim, Kimberly Jean Dunkin of Portland, was found dead of a gunshot wound to her head on Jan. 1, 1993, slumped in the driver’s seat of her blue 1973 Chevrolet Camaro, according to a bulletin issued Friday by Portland police.

Police say Dunkin, 30, had gone to a New Year’s party alone at a home near Sandy Boulevard and 77th Avenue, and left sometime in the very early morning.

“A witness saw Dunkin’s car parked in front of 4927 Northeast Skidmore Street at 6 a.m. At the time the witness saw the car, he noticed a person slumped over in the driver’s seat, but thought the person was asleep,” the bulletin said. “At 10:30 a.m., the same witness walked by the car to check on the person and observed Miss Dunkin’s body. Homicide Detectives believe Dunkin had been dead since at least 6:00 a.m.”

In 2008, cold case detectives took another look at Dunkin’s murder, encouraged by her family, the bulletin said.

“Kimberly Dunkin’s sister, Karin Dunkin, regularly contacted members of the Cold Case Homicide Unit and members of the Portland media over the past several years. The family never gave up hope. Their tenacity was also critical to the successful resolution of Kimberly’s case.”

The bulletin added: “As a part of the plea negotiation, the family had the opportunity to confront Kimberly’s killer Brad Ballantyne privately in a jury room on the 5th Floor of the Multnomah County Courthouse. The family handled this encounter with such passion, restraint, grace, and class, that Sgt. Paul Weatheroy, the supervisor of the Cold Case Homicide Unit, said, ‘I have never seen anything like this in my 25-year law enforcement career.’ ”

“The partnership between the Portland Police Bureau’s Cold Case Homicide Unit and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, specifically lead prosecutors Gary Meabe and Jim Hayden, was instrumental to the success obtained in this case,” police said.

Besides the sergeant, the Cold Case Unit consists of four full-time detectives and several retired investigators, most from the Portland Police Bureau.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and National Institute for Justice pays the retired detectives to review cold cases, the bulletin said.

Ballantyne, sentenced to 25 years in prison, is not to be confused with Bradley Pehrson Ballantyne, 55, who lives in Woodland.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.<I>