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News / Northwest

Police: Oregon kidnap suspect killed 2 men before cornered

By ANDREW SELSKY, Associated Press
Published: February 1, 2023, 2:52pm
2 Photos
Law enforcement officers aim their weapons at a home during a standoff in Grants Pass, Ore., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.
Law enforcement officers aim their weapons at a home during a standoff in Grants Pass, Ore., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. Police said the standoff involving a man suspected in a violent kidnapping in Oregon who was barricaded underneath the home has been "resolved." (Scott Stoddard/Grants Pass Daily Courier via AP) Photo Gallery

SALEM, Ore. — The suspect in a violent kidnapping in Oregon — a man who spent little time behind bars for a similar crime in Nevada — killed two men before being cornered by officers and fatally shooting himself, police said Wednesday.

Benjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, died at a hospital Tuesday night, hours after he shot himself while hiding in a crawlspace underneath a house in Grants Pass. In a news conference the next day, law enforcement officers revealed details on the intensive manhunt for Foster, including finding the bodies of the two men in a rural area north of Grants Pass.

Richard Lee Barron Jr., and Donald Owen Griffith were killed sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, Oregon State Police Capt. Kyle Kennedy said.

The men lived together in the unincorporated community of Sunny Valley and apparently did not know Foster, who police said left a gruesome scene and stole some of the victims’ belongings, including their dog.

He had been the subject of a manhunt after a woman was found unconscious, bound and near death in a house in Grants Pass on Jan. 24. Authorities say Foster tortured the woman, who remained hospitalized in critical condition on Wednesday.

Foster was seen walking a dog Tuesday in Grants Pass, according to police.

Authorities converged on the neighborhood with rifles and at least one armored vehicle and searched the house where they had found the woman the previous week. Officers didn’t initially find anyone, but then they sent a sheriff’s department robot into the crawlspace and found signs Foster was hiding there. His presence was confirmed by a camera, Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman said.

The officers expected a gunfight, but instead Foster shot himself in the head, according to Hensman. Foster was said to be unconscious and still holding a .45-caliber pistol while wedged under the house, and officers had to remove floorboards to extract him.

The fugitive had narrowly eluded a raid last Thursday in the unincorporated community of Wolf Creek, and police warned the public the next day that he was using dating apps to find people who could help him avoid authorities or to find new victims.

Foster then was seen Tuesday in the same neighborhood where the woman was found. He barricaded himself under the same house as police arrived in full force. Foster then shot himself, was taken into custody and died at a hospital, police said.

In 2019, before moving to Oregon, Foster held his then-girlfriend captive inside her Las Vegas apartment for two weeks. He reached a deal with Clark County prosecutors in August 2021 that allowed him to plead guilty to one felony count of battery and a misdemeanor count of battery constituting domestic violence.

A judge sentenced Foster to between one and 2 1/2 years in a Nevada prison. After factoring in the 729 days he had spent in jail awaiting trial, Foster could have been made to serve almost 200 additional days under the maximum sentence. Instead, he was released the day he was brought to prison, according to Nevada corrections department officials.

Hensman said last week that it was “extremely troubling” that Foster wound up being sought for attempted murder in Oregon instead of doing time in Nevada.

The attack on the woman and ensuing search by local, state and federal agents has rattled residents of Grants Pass, a town of some 40,000 in southwest Oregon.