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Convicted killer to face charges in ’74 Clark County case

Convicted murderer and suspected serial killer Warren Forrest will return to Clark County to face new charges of killing a teenage girl in the 1970s.

Forrest, 70, faces new charges of first-degree murder in the death of Martha Morrison, a 17-year-old Portland girl whose body was found in Dole Valley in 1974. The Battle Ground man is serving a life sentence in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for the 1974 murder of another Vancouver teenager.

Investigators saw a major break in the decades-old cold case in 2015, when blood found on an air pistol Forrest used to torture yet another woman in 1974 was identified as Morrison’s. The DNA evidence, combined with Forrest’s “consistent criminal pattern,” are the basis of a body of evidence against a man suspected of killing at least six women and girls in this area.

A single conviction

Forrest has been convicted of one murder: that of 19-year-old Krista Blake, who was last seen on July 11, 1974, climbing into Forrest’s light blue Ford Econoline cargo van in Vancouver. It would take five years before Forrest would be convicted.

On Oct. 1, 1974, however, another victim, identified in court documents as V, reported to Clark County sheriff’s deputies that Forrest had sexually assaulted her and tried to kill her. According to the probable cause affidavit, the 20-year-old woman was in Portland when Forrest lured her into his blue van, pretending to be a photographer and promising her a job.

Forrest drove her around Portland for some time before strangling her, rendering her unconscious and tying her up in the back of his van. Forrest drove to a rural area in Lacamas Park, sexually assaulted her and shot her with darts from an air-powered pistol. Then he once again strangled her into unconsciousness and left her in the woods. When V awoke, she realized she’d been stabbed several times, according to court documents.

Forrest was acquitted of the charges against V by reason of insanity and committed to Western State Hospital. He was forever barred from disputing V’s accusations, the circumstances of which would later play a major role in the current charge against him.

In 1976, while Forrest was in Western State Hospital, Blake’s remains were discovered in a shallow grave at the Tukes Mountain maintenance facility. The blood-soaked front of Blake’s shirt displayed a series of small punctures, as though she’d been stabbed by an ice pick, awl or darts. Again, Forrest pleaded insanity, but several examinations “did not support the claim that he was insane,” according to court records. He was convicted of first-degree murder and imprisoned.

Morrison identified

On Oct. 12, 1974, in a densely wooded area of Dole Valley in rural Clark County, a hunter discovered the skeletal remains of a dark-haired woman between large logs. It would take 40 years to identify the remains as belonging to Morrison, who had disappeared from Portland in September 1974.

Colleagues and supervisors of Forrest, who worked for the Clark County Parks Department, reported the man had explored Dole Valley many times, and was interested in property there, according to court documents. The Dole Valley crime scene was eight miles from Tukes Mountain, where Blake’s body was found.

But police did not find out about Morrison’s disappearance until January 2010, when her half brother reported her missing to the Eugene, Ore., Police Department. The half brother reported Morrison was a “free spirit” who was known to hitchhike. She hadn’t been heard from since 1974, when she evidently moved from Phoenix to Portland, according to court records.

Using DNA evidence from Morrison’s half brother, sister and the exhumed body of her father, investigators were able to identify the decades-old remains on July 7, 2015.

In 2014, investigators began a review of physical evidence from adjudicated cases to determine if any might be used to solve unsolved crimes. One file was Forrest’s murder of Blake and sexual assaults reported by V and another woman. Forensic scientists with the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory identified a partial DNA profile found on the air pistol Forrest used to torture V, which belonged to “an unknown female source.” On Nov. 23, 2015, those remains would be matched to Morrison.

Investigators told The Columbian in 2017 that the DNA evidence could have implications for another unsolved homicide. The body of Carol Valenzuela, 18, was also found by hunters in 1974, 120 feet from Morrison’s body. Prosecutors have not brought charges against Forrest in that case.

Detectives have believed for decades that Forrest is also responsible for the homicides and disappearances of several other young women. Detectives believe Jamie Grisim, a 16-year-old who disappeared in 1971 on her way home from school, was his first victim. His name also comes up in connection with Barbara Ann Derry, whose body was found in 1972, and Gloria Knutson, who went missing in 1974, although he has not been formally charged with any crimes connected with those women.

Forrest is expected to appear in Clark County Superior Court on Monday.


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