Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dead Man at the Dairy



            In the 1890s the rolling hills of southwest Portland between Hillsdale and Beaverton were dotted with as many as eighty small dairies started by German, Dutch and Swiss immigrants.  The only one that survives was founded by Florian Cadonau in 1891 when he began delivering three-gallon cans of milk to downtown Portland with a horse-drawn wagon.  In 1916 Cadonau’s son Henry and his wife, Rosina took over the business and named it Alpenrose Dairy.  In 1918 the Cadonau’s purchased a used Ford touring car and converted it into a delivery truck and began home deliveries.  One hundred years later the company is run by two of Florian Cadonau’s great-grandchildren and the Alpenrose Dairy is an important part of Portland’s community.  Anyone who grew up here in the 50’s or 60’s remembers the Alpenrose Dairy for its Little League Baseball Stadium and Dairyville with its old-west false fronts and Clown Alley the home of Rusty Nails and his popular TV show.  Almost no one remembers when they found a dead body in the incinerator at the dairy.
Anyone who grew up in Portland in the 60s or 70s knew about Alpenrose Dairyland, but very few remember when a dead body was found in the incinerator.
            Early in the morning of June 30, 1980 an Alpenrose janitor discovered a bullet-riddled body smoldering in the incinerator.  The decaying corpse was so badly burned that it took several days to identify it as the body of Harry Carter Foss Jr., better known as Skip Foss.  He had been shot several times with a 9mm handgun and the medical examiner determined that he had been dead for a few days before his body was dumped into the gas-fired incinerator.
            Foss, described as “a handsome, athletic, single jet setter who had strong ambitions for wealth and success,” was popular among his neighbors on NE Laddington Court.  From a wealthy family in Vermont, Foss had only lived in Portland for five years before his death, but in that short time he made a big impression on his neighbors.  “He was a pretty together person,” one neighbor told Oregonian reported Denise Meyer, “He seemed to know and do a lot of different things. Definitely more things than the average person…. Sometimes it was hard to believe he’d done everything he said he’d done.  But he seemed to know too much about things for his claims to be untrue.”
            A health nut, Skip Foss was often seen jogging in his upscale neighborhood.  He was known to be involved in photography and mass media production.  He speculated in real estate and other investments as well as collecting antiques and Oriental carpets.  His latest hobby had been chiropractic, recently having finished a course of instruction at Western Chiropractic College (WCC).  Several of his neighbors said he had discussed moving out of Portland and starting a chiropractic practice in another city.  His neighbors admired him for his athletic ability, his $30,000 BMW and his active social life, but they had no idea where his money really came from.
            Portland homicide detectives Emil Bladow and David Simpson found out pretty quickly where Foss’s money came from.  When they searched his house they found nearly six pounds of uncut cocaine, worth more than $500,000.  In his safe deposit boxes, the detectives discovered more than $200,000 in American and Canadian cash.  It soon became clear that Skip Foss had been dealing cocaine for the last five years.  Their investigation also turned up the fact that the last time anyone had seen the victim alive was when he dropped a friend off at Lloyd Center on the afternoon of June 27th.
Some people thought that Skip Foss's connections with the mob were imaginary, but he would have needed all the protection he could get to set himself up as a cocaine dealer in Portland in 1975.

            Foss had moved to Portland in 1975 from Vancouver, British Columbia where he had a cocaine supplier.  He liked to hint that he had connections to the Mob, which in those days probably meant the Colacurcio family from Seattle who had many business interests in Portland.  Some of the people Foss sold cocaine to thought his connections to organized crime were nothing but fantasy, but in the tightly controlled world of drug dealing in Portland it would have been impossible to set up as an independent drug dealer and stay in business for five years without some heavy connections.
            In the 1970s drug dealing in Portland was tightly contained by the Police Bureau through the Narcotics Division, so it wasn’t difficult to track Foss’s business and the people he sold to.  By the beginning of September Detectives Bladow and Simpson had three low-level drug dealers in jail and a theory of the murder that traced back to a cocaine deal that occurred earlier in June.  That’s when Curtis Farber, 25, another student at Western Chiropractic, purchased seven ounces of cocaine, valued at $14,000, from Foss with the promise to pay once the drugs had been sold.  Farber stashed the cocaine in his car and left it in the WCC parking lot while he attended classes.  Two friends of Farber’s, Mark Whitney, 23, and Kevin Freer, 19, along with a third person who was consistently mentioned, but never named stole the cocaine from Farber’s car.  Whitney and Freer, both convicted felons and heavy drug users, probably thought it was a joke to convince Farber that Skip Foss had stolen the cocaine.
            Farber panicked when he discovered the cocaine was missing.  Knowing that he would not be able to pay Foss for the cocaine delivery and fearing his mob ties, Farber discussed his problem with Whitney.  Cocaine increased Farber’s paranoia and he and Whitney decided that they had to kill Foss and make his body disappear.  Mark Whitney, described by Farber’s defense as a “hysterical” man who lived in a dream world and kept guns near him even when he was in the shower, agreed to kill Foss, but only for pay. 
            Late in the afternoon of June 27, 1980 Mark Whitney and Kevin Freer were hanging out and using cocaine at Farber’s mobile home in remote Beavercreek, when Skip Foss showed up looking for Farber.  Freer said that they were “pretty paranoid” when the drug dealer arrived.  According to Freer, Foss was standing next to his car when Mark Whitney unloaded a clip of 9mm ammunition into his body and head.  Afraid for his own life, Freer fired his own handgun “in the direction of the body without aiming.”  He claimed that he wanted to be “involved” with the killing so Whitney wouldn’t kill him.
            In a heightened state of paranoia fueled by more cocaine, the two killers wrapped Foss’s body in a blanket and a plastic tarp.  They loaded it in the trunk of their car and drove off.  Freer, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in order to avoid the death penalty, testified against both Farber and Whitney, telling the story of the killing over and over.  He and Whitney stayed high for the next two days and drove as far as Florence, on the central Oregon coast, looking for a way to make the body disappear.  Finally on June 29th they returned to Portland.  Discouraged they finally thought of the large incinerator at Alpenrose Dairy.  After stuffing the body into the incinerator that night, they met Farber at an 82nd Avenue restaurant.  Freer said that he never saw any money change hands, but he and Whitney had been broke when they arrived, but Whitney had a wad of cash after the meeting.
Alpenrose Dairy milk deliveries were very common for a couple of generations in Portland. Although the dairy has its roots in the Swiss community that settled in SW Portland in the 1890s in 2016 it celebrates 100 years under the Alpenrose name.
            Curtis Farber was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.  Mark Whitney’s defense attacked Kevin Freer, the most important witness against him, claiming that the convicted burglar and heavy drug user was unreliable and willing to say anything to save his own life.  The attacks on Freer must have been enough to raise doubt in the jurors’ minds.  In March, 1981 they acquitted Mark Whitney of murder.  There are still a lot of questions about how and why this murder occurred.  The Oregonian’s account is presented as open and shut, but the acquittal of Whitney and the unnamed third person involved in the original theft raise questions about where Foss and Farber fit into the hierarchy of drug dealing in Portland and who might have wanted the two of them out of the way.

1 Comments:

Blogger Ken Goldstein said...

"Anyone who grew up here in the 50's or 60's remembers the Alpenrose Dairy for its Little League Baseball Stadium and Dairyville with its old-west false fronts and Clown Alley the home of Rusty Nails and his popular TV show. Almost no one remembers when they found a dead body in the incinerator at the dairy." - Now there's an opening for good novel.

2:39 PM  

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