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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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Portland police take over homicide case of woman found dead in Ridgefield

No arrests made in death of Joanna Speaks, 32, of Oregon

By , Columbian Local News Editor

The Portland Police Bureau has taken control of a homicide investigation for a woman whose body was found in April at an abandoned property in Ridgefield.

Investigators say they believe 32-year-old Joanna K. Speaks was killed in Portland and that her body was moved to the abandoned property, according to a Portland police news release. No arrests have been made.

On April 8, the Ridgefield Police Department responded to a deceased person, later identified as Speaks, at 8004 S. Fifth St., about a mile east of Interstate 5. Ridgefield police asked the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit and the Vancouver Police Major Crimes Unit to investigate.

The sheriff’s office previously said evidence indicated Speaks died elsewhere.

A vacant, boarded-up house and a small detached garage stand on the 5-acre property. Speaks’ body was found behind the garage, in tall grass and brambles, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Clark County Superior Court.

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office said she died from blunt head and neck injuries. Her death was ruled a homicide, meaning it resulted from another person’s deliberate action. The ruling does not make any judgments about criminal culpability.

Speaks’ family told deputies she spent her time in the Estacada, Ore., area. A police records search showed she had addresses in the past 10 years in Portland, Oregon City and the Milwaukie area in Oregon. Family also said she had lived in a tent in the Gladstone, Ore., area and that she spent much of her life either homeless or couch surfing. They also said she used drugs, the affidavit states. Speaks didn’t have a phone. She used Facebook Messenger and other people’s phones to communicate, they said.

She was arrested March 8 in Clackamas County, Ore., on a warrant. Deputies said she requested housing assistance when she was released from jail March 15. That’s the last time someone known to investigators saw Speaks, according to the affidavit.

Information showed she logged in to her Facebook and Google email accounts between March 16 and March 20. A family member of Speaks’ said she last spoke with her March 29. Speaks told her she was at an apartment complex near the Clackamas Town Center Mall, which is where officers had arrested Speaks earlier that month, court records state.

Anyone with information about this case should contact Detective Jeff Pontius at Jeffery.Pontius@police.portlandoregon.gov or at 503-823-0433 or Detective Steve Gandy at Stephen.Gandy@police.portlandoregon.gov or at 503-823-0449 and reference case number 23-804445.