The families of two of the four women believed to have been killed by an Oregon serial killer criticized the way police handled the investigation and its slow progress.
Jesse Calhoun, who is being investigated and labeled a ‘person of interest’ in the deaths of four women, had previously attacked and strangled one of them, his father claimed.
But Calhoun wasn’t arrested until months after the alleged assault, only after the women’s murdered bodies were discovered scattered throughout northwestern Oregon.
The bodies of Kristin Smith, 22; Charity Perry, 24; Bridget Webster, 31; and Ashley Real, 22, were found over a three-month period in wooded areas, under a bridge and in a culvert within a radius of about 100 miles, stretching from rural Polk County southwest of Portland to the Columbia River Gorge east of the city.
Melissa Smith, the mother of Kristin Smith, said in a video on Facebook that she reported her daughter missing in December to police in a Gresham suburb of Portland, but said: “They didn’t give me the help that I needed.”
Jesse Calhoun is a person of interest in the deaths of Bridget Webster, 31, Kristin Smith, 22; Charity Lynn Perry, 24; and Ashley Real, 22. He was serving a 50-month sentence for assaulting a police officer, attempting to strangle a police dog and stealing
Ashley Real’s body was last found on May 7. Her father, Jose Real, said Friday that he called police Nov. 11 after she appeared at her Portland home in tears, saying Calhoun strangled her.
She had marks on her throat, he said, and he took her to a hospital.
A Portland police officer took an initial report from Real and her daughter and gave it Officer Calhoun’s name. The police wanted her to help find him, but she was afraid to help, she said.
Because the location of the alleged assault was outside of Portland police jurisdiction, the department referred the case to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
Real said he never heard back from the sheriff’s office, even though he and his wife called repeatedly.
Details of the attack were first reported by the oregonian.
“The police did not do their job and now my daughter is dead,” he told the newspaper.
Kristin Smith, 22, (left), was the first victim: she was discovered on February 19. On April 24, the second, 24-year-old Charity Perry (right), was found dead.
Bridget Webster, 31 (left), was found on April 30, and Ashley Real, 22 (right), on May 7.
Melissa Smith also said police were slow to act on her daughter’s case after she was reported missing. Family members posted fliers about the missing woman and searched parts of Portland.
Kristin Smith’s body was the first of four discovered in the woods outside a Portland neighborhood on February 19.
“I didn’t get the help I needed to find her and that worries me,” Smith explained in a 10-minute video posted online.
“After some of the girls disappeared, that’s when I started getting phone calls and looking for a new detective.”
melissa smith praised the new detective assigned to him at the Portland Police Bureau for pursuing the case more aggressively.
“I hope we catch him,” he said of Calhoun’s arrest. ‘I want nothing more than justice. I know that Kristen was murdered and I have faith that the police department is going to piece this together.
‘I don’t know if they are linked to the other girls. I’m in contact with the families of some of the other girls.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that investigators and prosecutors from nine law enforcement agencies have found links between the four deaths, with at least one person of interest.
The statement did not name the person, but a law enforcement officer with knowledge of the investigation named him as Jesse Lee Calhoun.
The official requested anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly on the case. Calhoun was arrested June 6 by members of two sheriff’s departments with the assistance of the US Marshals Service, the official said.
Melissa Smith, Kristin Smith’s mother, said in a Facebook video that she reported her daughter missing in December to police in suburban Portland Gresham, but “they didn’t give me the help I needed.”
Jose Real, the father of 22-year-old Ashley Real, said Calhoun strangled his daughter months before she was found dead.
Portland Police Sgt. Kevin Allen wrote in an email that the department cannot comment on any reports or information related to Calhoun due to “an active criminal investigation underway.”
Deputy Sheriff John Plock also said he was unable to comment due to an active investigation.
Real said he was grateful his daughter was found and that he was able to visit her remains at a Clackamas County cemetery.
“I can tell her, ‘dad is here, mija…you know how much I miss you,'” Real said, using a loving Spanish term for daughter.
“Maybe you don’t have a daughter, you don’t have a son now, but believe me, when someone loses a daughter or a son, it’s very sad,” Real told KMTR.
I can’t protect her. I can’t be with her that day. I always want to take care of her and I feel very sad because I miss that day, I miss that day,” Real said.
Calhoun has a long criminal record, with felony convictions dating back nearly 20 years.
He was reportedly a talented artist, telling reservation officers that he made his living painting designs on vehicles.
His first felony conviction was in 2004: When he was arrested again, in 2018, with methamphetamine, multiple weapons and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office called him a “prolific thief and career criminal.”
In 2019 he was given four sentences, scheduled to run concurrently.
Calhoun was released from the Columbia River Correctional Institution on July 22, 2021, nearly a year before his projected release date.
Kate Brown was governor of Oregon from 2015 to 2023 and commuted Calhoun’s sentence in July 2021. She said she was “absolutely appalled” by the news of his alleged crimes.
Tina Kotek, who replaced Brown, was asked on July 3 to revoke Calhoun’s conditional commutation.
But he was among the 1,000 inmates who benefited from then-Governor Kate Brown’s reduction in the prison population during the pandemic.
Calhoun was one of 41 inmates whose prison sentence was reduced by a year in 2021 by then-Governor Kate Brown after they helped fight the devastating 2020 Oregon wildfires.
Calhoun was released from the Columbia River Correctional Institution on July 22, 2021, nearly a year before his projected release date, the Oregon Department of Corrections said Friday.
He was serving a 50-month sentence for assaulting a police officer, attempting to strangle a police dog, burglary and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Sen. Tim Knopp, the Oregon Senate’s minority leader, blamed Brown for letting “violent criminals” out early. But even if Brown hadn’t commuted Calhoun’s sentence, he would have been released months before the deaths occurred.
The district attorney’s announcement said no charges have been filed in connection with either death, but Calhoun is back behind bars.
Governor Tina Kotek revoked her commutation on July 3.
The 6-foot-4 suspect, who has a history of resisting arrest, jumped to the Willamette River in Milwaukie and attempted to escape when found on July 6.
Brown, who left office in January, told Willamette Week that she was surprised by Calhoun’s arrest.
“I am absolutely horrified for the victims, their families and all those who have experienced this loss,” she said.
Calhoun will now serve the remainder of his sentence, with his new release date projected to be June 9, 2024, Oregon Department of Corrections spokeswoman Amber Campbell said.