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
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
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.