We All Scream For Ice Cream
Someone broke into the house and stole Ruth Anne's Christmas presents that year. Ruth Anne was only four on Christmas of 1979, but she wouldn't be getting much older. Ruth Anne and her big sister, Bethany, 6, liked to walk up to Herfy's on Hawthorne for ice cream cones and treats. It made them feel like big girls to walk three doors down from their house to the restaurant on the busy street.
Mommy didn't like the neighborhood, though; she didn't think it was safe. The burglary on Christmas Day was weird, stealing only the baby's toys after she had opened them. That wasn't all. She often felt as if someone had been in the house when they were out, there was never anything missing before though.
This would be their last Christmas here. She had already sold the house. February first they would leave Portland for good. She was so glad. Oregon never had brought her much luck.
She shouldn't have let Ruth Anne walk to Herfy's by herself that Friday. Bethany was at a slumber party, so she couldn't go with her. The sun had just broken through the heavy sky. Most of all Ruth Anne wanted to. She knew she was big enough to go by herself. She really wanted to.
Her mother watched her as far as she could from the window. The restaurant was only three doors down from their house. Of course she would be all right, but her little rain coat disappeared behind a bush and that was the last time that Ruth Anne O'Neil's mother ever saw her alive.
Ruth Anne's mother went looking for her right away. After five minutes she was overcome with dread and she had to. Her heart almost stopped when she found Ruth Anne's rain boots in a garbage can behind the restaurant. The police found her later that night after an intensive search of the neighborhood. First they found her raincoat. Then the dollar bill with her mother's note on it. She was on a rubbish heap in a backyard nearby. She had been drowned.
The state medical examiner, Dr. William Brady said the "position of her body and location of clothes was extraordinary", but he would not elaborate. He said the autopsy revealed no bruises or evidence of any other physical or sexual abuse. The girl was found wearing denim pants and a knit sweater, but no underclothing. Her socks and shoes were found neatly placed near the body.
It didn't take the police long to find the killer. On Monday they took Michelle Gates, a 13-year-old neighbor, into protective custody. The archaic Oregon juvenile justice system didn't know what to do with a thirteen-year-old girl who killed.
As soon as you started talking to Michelle it became apparent there was something seriously wrong. She calmly admitted drowning the little girl. She also admitted drowning her three year old cousin, Natyah Ottino, in the duck pond at Washington Park Zoo in 1978. Up to this point Ottino's death had been thought to be an accident.
Michelle spent two years in a school for disturbed children in Maine. When she was 18 she was finally convicted of the juvenile equivalent of homicide. She spent nine months in detention. In 1991 Michelle, then 25, successfully petitioned to have her juvenile record expunged. That same year the Oregon State Legislature added homicide and sex crimes to the list of offenses that could not be expunged.
In 1992 Michelle Gates, now calling herself Michelle Shorthouse, was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder and arson. According to the FBI she had hired an ex-boyfriend from Bellingham, WA to kill her present boyfriend's ex-wife and burn down her house. The fire was set and the house was destroyed, but the ex-boyfriend balked at murder.
Cooperating with the FBI the ex-boyfriend made recordings of telephone calls with Gates in which she discussed where the woman should be shot and how many times. She also wanted him to kill the woman's husband and make it look as if they had surprised a burglar.
Why did Michelle Gates want the woman dead? She was mad at her because she told people about her past. Michelle thought that with his ex-wife dead her present boyfriend might finally marry her. Best of all she could adopt the woman's five year old son.