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News / Clark County News

Witnesses describe DNA evidence in Warren Forrest murder trial

Testing ID’d Portland teenager who went missing in 1974

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Local News Editor
Published: January 31, 2023, 5:25pm

Suspected serial killer Warren Forrest’s cold-case murder trial continued Tuesday with the state focused on the DNA testing that helped identify the victim’s remains.

Forrest, 73, is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 17-year-old Martha Morrison of Portland. Her remains were discovered Oct. 12, 1974, by members of a hunting party in a densely wooded area of Dole Valley in eastern Clark County. However, they were not identified until July 2015.

More than a dozen people testified Tuesday on the process behind creating a DNA profile for Morrison’s then-unidentified remains and comparing it with family reference samples to make an identification.

Most of the witnesses were current or former employees of Bode Technology — a private DNA laboratory in Virginia — and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, a national resource for the identification of missing and unidentified individuals.

Bode tested Morrison’s skull in 2012 to work up a DNA profile and provided that data to the center, which handled the family reference samples and data entry into the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.

Morrison’s half-brother, Michael Morrison, initiated the missing persons process in 2010 and submitted his DNA as a family reference sample. Their sister submitted a family reference sample in 2013, and tissue from the siblings’ deceased mother was obtained as another family reference sample. In 2015, Martha Morrison’s father’s remains were exhumed and sent to Bode for analysis, according to trial testimony.

Forrest’s murder charge followed a breakthrough in Morrison’s cold case. Blood found on an air pistol Forrest used to torture a 20-year-old Camas woman in October 1974 was identified as Morrison’s.

The trial began Jan. 23 and was scheduled to last three weeks, but it has moved quicker than anticipated.

The prosecution plans to call five more witnesses before it rests today. The defense may call one witness; it was unknown if Forrest will testify. Closing arguments will follow either late this afternoon or Thursday morning.