Suspected serial killer Warren Forrest, who’s accused in the slaying of 17-year-old Martha Morrison in the 1970s, pleaded not guilty Friday.
Forrest, 70, was arraigned in Clark County Superior Court on one count of first-degree murder in the Portland girl’s 1974 death. Her remains were discovered Oct. 12 of that year, by a member of a hunting party in a densely wooded area of Dole Valley. They were not identified until July 2015.
Friday’s hearing was brief, with Forrest stating his name for the record and confirming his plea. He slid on his eyeglasses to sign paperwork and quietly chatted with his attorney as he walked back to the holding area.
His trial is scheduled for April 6.
Prosecutors filed the murder charge against Forrest in December. The long-anticipated charge came following a breakthrough in Morrison’s cold case. Blood found on an air pistol Forrest used to torture another woman in 1974 was identified as Morrison’s.
The former Battle Ground man is believed to be responsible for the abduction and slaying of six women and girls in Clark County in the 1970s, and he is a person of interest in another missing person case.
Forrest has only been convicted in the murder of Krista Kay Blake, 20, who was last seen July 11, 1974, climbing into his light blue van. He has been serving a life sentence for Blake’s killing since 1979.
After the hearing, Norma Countryman, one of two known victims to survive an attack by Forrest, told news media that it’s difficult for her to attend his court hearings.
“But it’s also a good thing. It’s why I’m here, because I guess I need to go through it. I need to work it out,” she said.
Her feelings about Forrest facing a new murder charge, she said, are “jumbled up.”
“Some days I’m not sure what I feel, except just very emotional,” Countryman said. “I wish that I could just forget it … but I can’t. I’m not the only one that matters. There are so many other people that matter, so many other people who show up for this.”
Countryman said she attends the hearings for herself and also for all of Forrest’s suspected victims and their loved ones.