Kyle Iboshi (KGW)
PORTLAND, Oregon — The man reportedly linked by investigators over the summer to the deaths of four women in the Portland area claims he didn’t do it. “I’m no killer,” Jesse Calhoun wrote in a message to KGW from behind bars.
Calhoun is currently being held at Snake River Correctional Institution in eastern Oregon on charges unrelated to the women’s deaths.
Over the past three months, Calhoun has exchanged messages with KGW using the inmate communication system. Calhoun claims he has been wrongly accused and paints himself as a victim.
“I have not been charged with anything for a reason,” Calhoun wrote. “I’m guessing they are trying to come up with whatever they can on me cuz they have no one else as a easier target as me\sitting duck.”
In July, the Associated Press, The Oregonian and Willamette Week all cited law enforcement sources who identified Calhoun as a person of interest in the deaths of Kristin Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster and Ashley Real. The women’s bodies were all found in separate wooded or secluded areas around Portland between February and May. Calhoun has not been charged in any of the deaths.
Charity Perry was 24 years old. Her mother, Diana Allen, said she knew it was the worst possible news when a detective phoned her in late April.
“I told him, ‘I know why you are calling me. I know exactly why you are calling me,’” a tearful Allen recalled.
Perry had struggled with schizophrenia and substance abuse for many years. Her body was found in a culvert near Ainsworth State Park in the Columbia River Gorge.
“Whoever put her there went out of their way for her not to be found,” Allen explained. “She didn’t get herself there on her own.”
Allen said her daughter was found shoeless. She claims Perry wasn’t stabbed, shot or beaten in the head. Her cause and manner of death, like the other women, remains undetermined, according to investigators.
Police have not disclosed publicly how the cases may be connected, except to say at least one person of interest is linked to all four of the victims. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office has not officially named a person of interest.
“To think that the person responsible for this is behind bars is a little premature because at this point and time, nobody has been charged,” said Allen.
In his electronic messages, Calhoun suggested he’s been blamed for something he didn’t do.
“I’m an easy target and my name was leaked,” he wrote. “The community wants blood and I’m the one who unfortunately got plastered on the news.”
On June 6, a police SWAT team tried to stop Jesse Calhoun in Milwaukie. He jumped into the Willamette River before police arrested him on a parole violation.
Calhoun had been released from prison early, his sentence commuted by then-Governor Kate Brown during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he was nearing the end of his sentence for stolen vehicle and burglary charges after helping fight wildfires in Oregon. His commutation was revoked when Multnomah County prosecutors argued in a letter that Calhoun had been involved in “criminal activity currently under investigation.” He was sent back to prison.
Currently, the earliest Calhoun could be released is June of 2024, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections. As a result, police and prosecutors have time on their side if they do plan to eventually charge Calhoun. There’s no rush to seek an indictment, explained Lewis & Clark College law professor Tung Yin.
“As long as you don’t start the speedy trial clock, then you can continue to investigate and try to piece together as much of the cases as possible, try and make it bulletproof,” said Yin. However, the law professor cautioned that if too much time passes memories might fade and evidence can be lost.
The Oregon Public Defense Services Commission confirmed a public defender was assigned to Calhoun on September 16. His court-appointed lawyer, Greg Scholl, did not respond to a request for comment.
A source close to the investigation said police are still waiting on results from forensic testing. No formal decision has been made on which cases will be taken to a grand jury, where the cases will be prosecuted or whether the cases will be consolidated.
“They are grasping for straws in a desperate attempt to hold somebody accountable,” Calhoun wrote from prison. “And I’m on the serving block.”
Diana Allen, the mother of Charity Perry, is cautious to avoid mentioning Calhoun by name or pointing fingers.
“You have to honor that you are innocent until proven guilty, no matter how strong your emotions are,” said Allen.
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