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News / Clark County News

Killer convicted in 1979 eligible for parole

State board expected to reach decision in four to six weeks

By Laura McVicker
Published: April 12, 2011, 12:00am

A state parole board heard testimony Monday about why a convicted killer — whom police believe was behind a grisly string of Clark County homicides in the 1970s — should remain locked up.

Warren Forrest, a Vancouver native and Army veteran, was suspected of slaying at least six women in Clark County between March 1972 and October 1974. He was convicted in 1979 of one of the homicides and received a life sentence.

Now 61, Forrest is eligible for parole in 2014, and the Washington Indeterminate Sentence Review Board is hearing testimony this week before deciding whether to release him. Today, two board members will interview Forrest at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen to determine whether he’s shown significant signs of rehabilitation.

The board is expected to reach a decision in four to six weeks, according to Portland KATU-TV reporter Dan Tilkin, a Columbian news partner who attended Monday’s hearing.

Forrest was sentenced prior to an overhaul of the state’s sentencing guidelines that now mandate set sentences; prior to the current guidelines, defendants in certain violent crimes were given indeterminate sentences and their cases were to be periodically reviewed by a parole board.

This is the first time Forrest has been eligible for parole.

On Monday, family members of the women spoke vehemently before the board at its Lacey headquarters about why Forrest should never be freed.

Among them was Starr Lara, the sister of Jamie Grissim, a 16-year-old Fort Vancouver High School student who disappeared Dec. 7, 1971. Sheriff’s investigators later found Grissim’s identification in remote Dole Valley, about a mile away from where the remains of two young women also were found.

Investigators believe Grissim was Forrest’s first victim, according to 1970s police reports. However, her remains were never found.

Lara of Hillsboro, Ore., said Monday that she thinks about her sister every day and still seeks answers from Forrest about her disappearance.

“I’ve gone without my sister all these years,” Lara told the board, according to KATU video footage of Monday’s hearing. “And he doesn’t deserve any less of a secure place.”

She said he shouldn’t receive any privileges “because they didn’t get that.”

Forrest, a former Clark County parks employee, is serving his sentence for the 1974 murder of Krista Kay Blake. In addition to the slayings, he is suspect of attacking two other women. Both eventually identified Forrest as their abductor.

Forrest pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the kidnap and rape of one of his surviving victims and spent 3½ years at Western State Hospital near Tacoma. Meanwhile, sheriff’s investigators began piecing together a puzzle that led them to believe Forrest was a serial killer.

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Investigators, though, were stymied by the lack of physical and direct evidence linking Forrest to those disappearances.

In 1978, Forrest was charged with the first-degree murder of Blake and subsequently convicted by a Clark County jury and sentenced.

Monday, two of Blake’s sisters also spoke to the board, decrying the possibility of Forrest’s release.

In response, the board members told family members that it will be tough for Forrest to meet the burden required for an early release; he must show that he’s fully rehabilitated.

Should the parole board decide to release Forrest, he would first be enrolled in a three-year program that helps prisoners reintegrate into society by teaching them life skills, such as using a cellphone, Tilkin said.

Lara told the board that she doesn’t think Forrest has met that burden.

“I don’t think he’s ever shown remorse,” Lara said.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.