Thursday, July 20, 2006

Michele Gates Haunts My Dreams

Several years ago I came across a front page article in the Oregonian about a 13-year-old girl who had drowned her 4 year-old neighbor. The story scared me and I must admit, thrilled me a little. The idea of a cold blooded killer who is also a 13 year-old girl was hard to believe. There is no doubt she was cold-blooded. While talking with police she admitted killing her 3 year-old cousin nearly two years before. She is said to have bragged of the killings to other inmates at the children’s home she spent far too little time in.

Michele Gates was good at covering her trail, fighting to expunge her juvenile record and then changing her name to Shorthouse. Even the changing spelling of her first name – originally she was referred to as Michelle, later it was Michele. The obsession never seemed to go away, though.

Volunteering as a swim instructor for children at the YMCA pool, how scary is that? Even the murder plot she was finally convicted of had children involved. She was trying to get custody of her boyfriend’s five-year-old son, by killing the boy’s mother.

I wrote We All Scream For Ice Cream six years ago. I like to use it as a writing example, because I am proud of it as a story. And it scares the hell out of me. In essence that’s what all crime writers do. They scare the hell out of us. We’re worse than horror writers that way.

Since 2000 I have dreaded the day that Michele Gates Shorthouse would be released from prison. I had no luck in finding information about her in the prison system, (thanks to Steve Huff and Imahologram for teaching me more about these arcane arts) but I could count. I knew that someday soon she would be free.

Imagine how I felt last April when I got an email from a stranger asking me about We All Scream…. He said he was interested in my story and that he had recently met a woman. She had recently been released from prison… Could she be….

Well, yes. Could be and she is. My email friend said “…in all honesty, you would never think this woman is capable of any of the things that she has been found guilty of… I am also curious about your opinion on whether someone who commits such heinous crimes can ever be truly rehabilitated?”

It took me a while to respond to that email. Just to be that close to being in touch with Michele Gates scared me. He told her he found out about her on the internet. A Google search on her name brought up my blog first. She would definitely know that I have written about her.

Then there’s the question of rehabilitation. My basic belief is that people can change. It’s almost an article of faith for me, if people can’t change then there is really no hope for any of us. Yet my experience tells me that killers who get away with it tend to kill again. You see it over and over. Whether the motive is money or sex or power, if they get away with it, they’ll do it again.

I believe that in the wrong circumstance every one of us is capable of killing. I believe that in the case of Michele Gates, there but for the grace of God go I and you, everyone. I believe that through God’s grace even Michele Gates can be saved and transformed.

But would I trust her with children? Absolutely not. Would I trust her in any way? Probably not. This woman has been presenting us with a terrible challenge for nearly 30 years, what do you do with children who kill?

The Gates case changed the law here in Oregon. No longer can juvenile records be expunged when they involve violence or sex crimes. Under Measure 11, children who kill go to jail. But still Michele Gates Shorthouse is out there. Is she still drawn to children and water?

I hope we never know the answer. I hope we never hear of Michele Gates Shorthouse again.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Steve Huff said...

I think someone like this will only show up in the news again. Certain personalities are beyond rehabilitation, always have been.

You can't grow a conscience one day after more than 40 years of not having one.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Steve Huff said...

People can't grow a conscience after 40 years of not having one.

No rehabilitation. Only one hopes that a person may find a preoccupation that is relatively harmless, in the end.

I'm a cynic in these matters, though.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Walter said...

Michel Shorthouse is working at a CHRISTIAN thrift store in Spokane !!!!!!!!!!That should be a perfect opportunity to do what she does best,portray her "helpful,innocent and caring"side to take advantage of the "weak minded"individuals out there who does not know her dark past. God be with us and any one else who crosses her path.

10:48 AM  
Blogger jw said...

Michelle was a neighbor growing up. I have always wondered what happened to her

4:28 PM  
Blogger krista said...

honestly i dont know her but she is my cousin and no i dont think she can change it has been said that she has a mental disease to where she cant feel feeling like ones of remorse or guilt so who is to say she will ever change of course we all hope for the best..

4:55 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

I was also a neighbor. I lived on that street from attending freshman year high threw 1986 when I sold and moved to Calif. What I know-as a child she was standing there when her grandfather trying to shoot mothers boy freind shoot her mother by error who died she was raised by grandmother I belive. When she drown B the police came to my door asking if they could search my back yard because B was no where to be seen Michelle was holding his hand and looking quite worryed she had as it turned out drown B in pool and drug her body to back of fast food at corner and put her in dumpster.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was nearly a victim. She was my babysitter and I am still fearful of water to this day. My mother fired her after a suspicious comment she made about playing games holding me under water.

Killer babysitter lol. Ugh

9:12 PM  
Blogger savannah3 said...

It's hard to find out much about Ms Gates Shorthouse.
Curious if her parents or family were connected and
could delay trials and get her records expunged.
Why was she sent to Maine serve her whole 2 year
Juvenile sentence and why so short? Why at 19
years old in the middle of a murder investigation
was she treated with kid glvoes and so little to be
found out about the details of her trial anywhere
internet newspapers medial archives etc?. Was she
protected by powerful people?

New to Portland.

10:53 PM  
Blogger jd chandler said...

Yes, Savannah3 it is hard to find information about her, but I think it is mostly because people have forgotten her (and she is good at hiding). She didn't have any special influence. The authorities did not know what to do with a pre-teen killer, especially a girl. There are several cases in the 80s of children killers and no-one knew what to do with them.

She had her record expunged because the law allowed that at the time. After her case got some attention the law was changed and it is not possible to expunge a juvenile record that includes violence or sex crimes -- it was known as the Gates Law at the time.

Her second murder investigation was handled by the FBI and I don't think you could say she was treated with kidgloves - she was convicted of attempted murder because no-one died in that case.

Welcome to Portland.

9:14 AM  
Blogger larryo said...

I hope I am not too late to this table. None of you even come close to understanding Michelle, and that includes you at the top of the list, JD. I was her lawyer. Probably no one is in danger from Michelle anymore, but I would have to talk to her to really know that. Michelle was a very sweet, down-to-earth young girl, except for one thing . . . And if you knew anything about her early life - especially if you knew about the people involved in her early life - what happened eventually would appear to you, as it does to me, almost scripted.

10:59 PM  
Blogger jd chandler said...

Larryo - not too late. I would be happy to hear your side of the story - or michele's. you can email me at jdchandler2002@yahoo.com

7:53 PM  
Blogger DGL said...

Wow.....Most of you people have no clue of what you are talking about, especially the writer, when talking about the case. And like all good fictional writers, you can take a story, embellish on it and make someone sound like a monster!! That is not the case with this person.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Helene Wiebe said...

I remember this girl, we were teenagers when this happened. I remember her asking us to help her save the whales. We were shocked by the outcome of the story.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Helene Wiebe said...

I remember this girl, I hung out at a house behind Herfys, we were teenagers when this happened. She asked us to help us save the whales before this, we were shocked by the story.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Jason Jonas said...

Does Michele shorthouse stil live in portland , it said on the net she change her name to something else

7:07 AM  
Blogger Jason Jonas said...

Do u think shes in oregon still

7:10 AM  
Blogger jd chandler said...

As far as a I know she is still in Portland. I believe she has changed her name. The last address I had for her was in NE Portland after she moved from Spokane.

12:08 PM  
Blogger KD said...

JD, Michele and her husband live in New Orleans now. They moved from Spokane straight to New Orleans. They have a young daughter. Michele was my friend for many years.

10:47 AM  
Blogger jd chandler said...

Thanks KD. There is quite a bit of evidence that she lived in Portland after she left Spokane.

3:01 PM  

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