The cold-case murder trial for suspected serial killer Warren Forrest will begin Monday morning in Clark County Superior Court.
The trial is expected to last approximately three weeks, with jury selection likely taking a full day Monday.
Forrest, 73, is charged with first-degree murder in the 1974 slaying of 17-year-old Martha Morrison of Portland. Her remains were discovered Oct. 12 of that year by a member of a hunting party in a densely wooded area of Dole Valley in eastern Clark County. They were not identified until July 2015, however.
The former Battle Ground man is believed to be responsible for the abduction and slaying of at least six women and girls in Clark County in the 1970s, and he is a person of interest in another missing-person case:
- Jamie Grissim, 16, disappeared in December 1971 after leaving her foster home to attend class at Fort Vancouver High School. Her wallet was discovered in May 1972 beside a road in Dole Valley.
- Barbara Ann Derry, 18, was last seen in February 1972 hitchhiking along state Highway 14. Her body was found in March of that year, covered with boards and debris and partially undressed at the bottom of a silo at the Cedar Creek Grist Mill in northern Clark County.
- Diane Gilchrist, 14, left her residence in downtown Vancouver and was never seen again.
- Gloria Nadine Knutson, 19, went missing in May 1974 while walking home from downtown Vancouver. Her remains were found in May 1978 near Lacamas Lake.
- Carol Valenzuela, 18, went missing while hitchhiking. In October 1974, a hunter found skeletal remains of two women — Valenzuela and Morrison — in shallow graves in the Dole Valley area, about 100 feet apart and about a mile from where Grissim’s wallet was found.
Forrest has been convicted only in the murder of Krista Kay Blake, 20, who was last seen July 11, 1974, climbing into his light blue Ford Econoline cargo van near downtown Vancouver. He has been serving a life sentence for Blake’s killing since 1979.
The prosecution’s witness list names about 80 people, including some who testified in Forrest’s murder trial for Blake. Among them are two survivors who were attacked by Forrest.
Judge Robert Lewis is presiding over the case.
DNA evidence is key
Forrest worked for the Clark County Parks Department and reportedly had explored Dole Valley many times. The Dole Valley crime scene, where Morrison’s body was found, was 8 miles from Tukes Mountain, where Blake’s body was found.
Morrison went missing in September 1974, but her disappearance wasn’t noted until January 2010, when her half-brother, Michael Morrison, contacted police in Eugene, Ore. He said their father had reported his sister missing years earlier, but the police report was lost. The family didn’t realize it until another sister discovered the mistake.
Using DNA evidence from Martha Morrison’s half-brother, her sister and the exhumed body of her father, investigators were able to identify the decades-old remains on July 7, 2015.
In 2014, investigators began a review of physical evidence from Forrest’s adjudicated cases to determine if any might be used in unsolved crimes. One file covered Forrest’s murder of Blake and sexual assaults reported by a woman identified in court records as V, as well as Norma Countryman, who recounted her attack by Forrest in a Columbian interview.
Forensic scientists with the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory identified a partial DNA profile found on the air pistol Forrest used to torture V, which belonged to “an unknown female source.” On Nov. 23, 2015, the DNA was matched to Morrison.