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News / Northwest

Man pleads not guilty to killing 3 women and dumping their bodies in Oregon and near Ridgefield

By Associated Press
Published: June 6, 2024, 2:34pm

PORTLAND — A man accused of killing three women last year in the Portland area and dumping their bodies has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Jesse Lee Calhoun’s attorney entered the pleas Thursday to three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of abuse of a corpse in the deaths of Charity Lynn Perry, 24; Bridget Leanne Webster, 31; and Joanna Speaks, 32, news outlets reported. He did not speak during the arraignment in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Perry and Webster were found in Oregon, while Speaks was found in an abandoned barn in near Ridgefield.

Their bodies were found over several months starting in February 2023 — in wooded areas, in a culvert and under a bridge — in a roughly 100-mile (160-kilometer) radius, sparking concern that a serial killer might be targeting young women in the region. Speaks’ body was found in southwest Washington, in April 2023, but investigators have said they believe she was killed in the Portland area.

Police and prosecutors haven’t said what evidence they have linking Calhoun to the deaths. The deaths of two other women during that time period are still being investigated, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office has said.

The families of the three women have told reporters they struggled with addiction or mental health issues.

Calhoun, 39, was arrested in June 2023 on unrelated parole warrants and incarcerated at the Snake River Correctional Center in eastern Oregon. He was indicted in May in the women’s deaths. The Multnomah County jail on Wednesday listed Calhoun on its roster, indicating he had been transferred to Portland.

The indictment came weeks before Calhoun was due to be released from state prison, where he was returned last year to finish serving a four-year term for assaulting a police officer, trying to strangle a police dog, burglary and other charges.

He was initially released in 2021, a year early, because he was among a group of people in custody who helped fight devastating wildfires in 2020. Gov. Tina Kotek revoked the commutation, which was issued by her predecessor, Kate Brown, last year when police began investigating him in the deaths.

Even if Brown hadn’t commuted Calhoun’s sentence, he would have been released before the deaths occurred.