In less than three months, six women were found dead in remote wooded areas of Portland, Oregon, raising fears among locals that a serial killer might be behind the deaths.
However, authorities have addressed the concerns and made it clear that they have found no evidence linking the cases.
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The women’s bodies were found within 100 miles of each other, the Portland Police Bureau said in a press release over the weekend.
Police have not determined if all were murder victims, but they were all under the age of 40.
Although news of the deaths circulated widely on social media, the Portland Police Bureau said there was no reason to believe the deaths were linked.
“These discussions have caused some concern and apprehension in our community and we wish to reassure the speculations are not supported by the facts available at this time,” the department said the statement on Sunday.
The body of 22-year-old Kristin Smith was discovered on February 19 in southeast Portland. Police said the cause of her death has not yet been determined.
JoAnna Speaks, 32, was found dead on April 8 in a barn at an abandoned lot in Ridgefield, Washington, about 35 km north of Portland, authorities said. She died from blunt force trauma to her neck and head, according to the Clark County Medical Examiner.
24-year-old charity Lynn Perry was found April 24 in a culvert on the East Historic Columbia River Highway in Multnomah County, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy John Plock.
On the same day, an unidentified woman was found dead in a tent in Portland, police said, adding that she may have been a Native American and there were no signs of a crime.
Bridget Webster, 31, was spotted on a country road in Polk County on April 30 and Ashley Real, 22, was found in a wooded area on May 7.
“It’s just so heartbreaking and really hard to put into words,” said Robyn Speaks, sister of JoAnna Speaks, of the Portland deaths.
“It touches us more than it’s real, and we keep seeing all these new girls on the news.”
JoAnna Speaks stepsister Ariel Hamby said she was horrified and heartbroken.
“She was an amazing sister, a wonderful daughter and an amazing mother,” said Hamby. “This isn’t just about my sister anymore, even if it’s not a single person doing it.”
Webster’s step-grandfather gave only his first name, Tom, after being inundated with calls about the women. Tom said he raised Webster “until she left when she was a freshman in high school.”
“She was a good girl until I lost touch with her years ago,” Tom said, adding that he changed her diapers and taught her how to play basketball.
Several police and sheriff’s departments are investigating the cases, and the Portland Police Bureau said it is also working with county and state coroners.
“One of the most important things they will be investigating is the manner of death and the weapon,” said former FBI Special Agent Bryanna Fox.
“If that’s consistent across all of these sacrifices, then that’s going to be a big point.”