Police: Suspected Portland Serial Killer Was Released From Prison Early by Former Oregon Governor

Suspect James Lee Calhoun
Multnomah County Sheriff

An Oregon prisoner released early for good behavior is a suspected serial killer linked to the bodies of four women found in the greater Portland area from February to May this year, police believe.

James Lee Calhoun, 38, was arrested on June 6 for a parole violation, and he has not yet been charged with any of the deaths, Willamette Weekly reported. He attempted to evade arrest by jumping into the Willamette River in Milwaukie.

Over the course of four months, the Oregonian reported that the bodies of six women were found. Kristin Smith was found February 19 in southeast Portland; Joanna Speaks was found April 11 in Ridgefield, Washington; Charity Perry was found April 24 at Ainsworth State Park in eastern Multnomah County; Bridget Webster was found April 30 in Polk County; and Ashley Real was found May 7 in Clackamas County. Authorities found an unidentified woman’s body April 24, but did not suspect foul play. 

At first Portland police released a statement saying there was no reason to believe these cases were related to each other.

According to a source close to investigations, it was “premature” to dismiss any connections among the cases. 

The bodies of JoAnna Speaks, 32; Charity Lynn Perry, 24; and Bridget Leann Ramsey Webster, 31, were all found within three weeks of each other. Investigators learned that  the women often frequented Southeast 82nd Avenue and an area near the Clackamas Town Center. Speaks died of blunt force trauma to the head, and Perry and Ramsey died under “mysterious circumstances.” 

With a record dating back to 2004, Calhoun was called a “prolific thief and career criminal” by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office following his arrest in 2018 in which he had “meth, several guns, and more than 500 rounds of ammunition,” the Willamette Week reported. In November 2019, he pleaded guilty in separate cases to charges of burglary, “unauthorized possession of a stolen vehicle, and injuring a police officer and a police dog when they attempted to arrest him.”

Calhoun’s expected release date after a 20 percent reduction due to good behavior was originally set for June 30, 2022, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections. However, Gov. Kate Brown (D) shortened his sentence by 11 months after he assisted in fighting wildfires, and he was released July 22, 2021. He was among the more than 1,000 inmates who received clemency from the former governor as part of her pandemic-era criminal justice reform.

“I’m absolutely horrified for the victims, their families, and all those who have experienced this loss,” Brown said in a statement.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) has since revoked Calhoun’s commutation.


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