Roseburg shootings trigger mass murder memories in Klamath Falls

Prior to last week’s shootings in Roseburg, Klamath Falls had the unfortunate distinction of having the largest mass murder in Oregon history.

James Williamson worked as a dishwasher at Kitty’s Steak Pit, which later became Uncle Albert’s.

Dewitt Henry shot and killed six people there in July of 1977.

Williamson witnessed an argument that may have triggered the shootings…

“They were fighting about a bill, a bar bill that Dewitt owed Bill Ransom – and he refused to pay it, and about that time, Bill hit him.”

Williamson says he saw Dewitt Henry on the way out…

“And he looked at me and said, ‘I always liked you – just get on out of here.’  I knew when he was drunk you didn’t want to mess with the man, so I left.”

Dewitt Henry then shot and killed six people.

“One of them was a pregnant woman.”  Notes Klamath County Museum Manager Todd Kepple.  “Four of those who were killed graduated from Bonanza High School, so it hit that community particularly hard.”

Dewitt Henry also shot at two state troopers who eventually took him into custody.

Williamson didn’t know what happened until the following day…

“I went to work the next day, and heard he had set there with his rifle, and shot people as they walked out the door right after I left.”

Henry was convicted of six counts of murder.

He’s now serving a life sentence.

“So there are a lot of people in town that still remember the victims, remember the incident.”  Adds Todd Kepple.  “It brings back a lot of very unpleasant memories.”

Dewitt Henry was found ‘guilty’ in Multnomah County Court in 1979, and was sentenced to six life terms in prison.

The death sentence was not an option in Oregon at that time.

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