Jesse Lee Calhoun, 38, of Portland, Oregon has allegedly been linked by detectives to four of six women found dead earlier this year in the Portland metro area, according to Willamette Week.
Calhoun was released from prison in 2021, twelve months early, after being granted clemency at the direction of former Democrat Gov. Kate Brown. Brown began to issue mass commutations during the Covid-19 pandemic, which included early release to prisoners that were either considered to be well-behaved, were nearing the end of their sentences, and were vulnerable to the virus, the outlet reports.
Calhoun, who has been described by law enforcement as a "prolific thief and career criminal," was one of the more than 1000 prisoners that had been granted early release under Brown's criminal justice reform policies. Calhoun's clemency has since been revoked and he has been placed back into custody.
On June 1, 2022, the Oregonian reported that the bodies of six young women had been found in the greater Portland area, prompting speculation of a potential serial killer. Those bodies included Kristin Smith, found in Southeast Portland on Feb. 19; Joanna Speaks, found in Ridgefield, Washington on April 11; Charity Perry, found at Ainsworth State Park on April 24; and an unidentified woman, also found on April 24, in Lents; Bridget Webster, found in Oregon's Polk County on April 30; and Ashley Real, found in Clackamas County on May 7.
While the Portland Police Bureau had released a statement on June 4 that indicated the department had "no reason to believe these 6 cases are connected," the tone changed on June 6 after three of the victims "shared similar circumstances and had frequented the same places in the months before their deaths, according to a source close to the investigations," according to the Oregonian.
Following the report that connected the deaths of three victims, authorities contacted Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek’s office about Calhoun, which prompted Kotek to end Calhoun's commutation, allowing for him to be placed back into custody.
"The governor's office received a request to revoke Jesse Lee Calhoun’s commutation status from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office on July 3, 2023, and fulfilled the request the same day. We do not have further comment as this is a pending investigation," Elisabeth Shepard said, Gov. Kotek’s spokeswoman.
On Monday, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office and the PPB released a joint statement saying that detectives had identified an unnamed "person of interest" linked to the deaths of Kristin Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster, and Ashley Real.
On June 6, Calhoun was arrested and taken into custody during a multi-agency manhunt that included the Multnomah and Clackamas county sheriff’s offices and the U.S. Marshals Service. He is being held on a parole violation at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Oregon. Calhoun has not yet been charged with any of the murders, Willamette Weekly reports.
During the arrest, Calhoun attempted to escape law enforcement by plunging himself into the Willamette River in Milwaukie. Officers subdued him in the river and took him into custody.
Calhoun has an extensive criminal history of felony convictions dating back to 2004. In 2018, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office called him a "prolific thief and career criminal" after he was arrested with meth, several guns, and more than 500 rounds of ammunition. In 2019, Calhoun was convicted after pleading guilty to multiple felonies which included burglary, unauthorized possession of a stolen vehicle, and injuring a police officer and a police dog, according to the paper.
Calhoun has served multiple prison sentences, with the longest being 50 months.
After learning of Calhoun's arrest, Brown told Willamette Weekly: "I'm absolutely horrified for the victims, their families, and all those who have experienced this loss."
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