Friday, April 21, 2006

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.


Blogger judy said...

Bethany was not at a slumber party. She and Ruth Anne were both going to Herfy's. Mrs. O'Neil was busy on the phone tending to an emergency situation in her work as a midwife. She put the phone down to help the girls put their coats on, then she turned back to the phone. Later she found Bethany watching television, and asked her where Ruth Anne was. Bethany said her sister had gone alone to Herfy's. Bethany had decided not to go, saying she had a headache. Mrs. O'Neil found out later that with the front door open, Michele had been on the front porch, urging Ruth Anne to come with her. She was going to teach her how to swim in the backyard pool. She had bought the little girl a new yellow swimsuit. At the time, Michele was 11, not 13. She lived with her grandmother two doors down the street, and often babysat for the girls. Michele's grandmother spoiled her by giving the child anything she wanted. But the previous year, Michele's cousin Natyah moved into the house. The grandmother told Michele she would only be getting half the Christmas presents she was used to, because of Natyah. So Michele planned to murder the toddler. The day she took him to the park to murder him, she also was babysitting Ruth Anne. She attempted to distract Ruth Anne as she drowned Natyah, but still Ruth Anne saw. Michele knew she was too young so speak of what she saw, but still she was afraid that when the child got older, she might tell someone what she had seen. So Michele planned Ruth Anne's murder. Later that day, she was very helpful to investigators, looking around the neighborhood for the child. I saw the tape that the FBI made of the "set up," when Michele gave directions to her hit man to burn down the house and murder her boyfriend's ex, made in a Vancouver motel room. When you hear Michele's words, you know she is a person who will never have a conscience.

3:57 PM  
Blogger jd chandler said...


you seem to have information that is not available anywhere else. i would like to know more about this case please contact me directly at

8:44 PM  
Blogger summer said...

My English teacher at my public high school says he went to middle school with Michelle. He mentioned it today when someone else brought up a senior who was arrested for stabbing someone.

When he first brought it up, it was kinda funny because it was SO causal! It was like a 'by the way...' type comment. Someone googled her name and brought up your blog. They then read it aloud and it wasn't so funny anymore. It was very real...

6:24 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

I know these posts were a couple years ago, but I want to read more. I believe this occurred at the house across the street from my last house on 34th Avenue. If it was, then it makes it an interesting story that that house has had repeated flooding and water problems. Also we had a walker in our attic across the street. Just light footsteps like those of a child.

2:58 PM  
Blogger jd chandler said...


Interesting comment, Drew. I do know the address of the house Michele lived in, but don't really want to make it public. Send me an email at and I'll let you know if it is the house you are thinking of.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to elementary school with Michelle Gates. She came from a haunting past. From what I remember mother had been shot in front of her by her grandfather during a dispute with Michelle's mothers current boyfriend. The mother died and the grandfather went to prison. Michelle went to live with her grandmother who spoiled her. Michelle was a real brat and wanted to change her name to Farah after the popular icon Farah Fawcett...her grandmother supposedly had her name legally changed because we called her Farah gates not Michelle. I remember the day that this murder happened. It was during Christmas break. The snow had just fallen. Everyone was worried that this little girl had been abducted. When it was found out that it was a child who murdered and then later revealed that it was Farah aka Michelle it was shocking. I am 43 and I have never forgotten it.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I personally know Michele and she is NOT the person you describe. Who ever she was as a child she is no longer that person. She is the most generous loving friend you could ever have.

Of all my friends Michele is the only one I truly can trust and yes I would trust her with my own child. I am not naive, Michele has always been honest with me about her past and I have spent a lot of time with her. She has changed, she grew up.

Michele had a really horrible childhood with her mom being murdered in front of her and her dad being an addict. No one will ever know what really happened except Michele and she lives with those haunting memories forever.

Please leave her alone now she has paid her debt to society. We don't follow all other criminals this way why her?


9:51 PM  
Blogger jd chandler said...


First of all, I am not doing anything to Michele. I am writing about the crimes that she committed, which I do for a lot of criminals.

Second, I don't believe that she has changed. She got away with two murders. People who kill and get away with it often kill again.

Neither do I believe that she has paid her debt to society. She probably did have a very rough childhood. So did I, and thousands of others, but we don't kill. She might have to live with the knowledge of what she did, but her victims will never have that chance.

3:39 PM  
Blogger someone said...

The 5 year old son you mentioned is a new friend of mine. He's now 23 and told me the story of her trying to murder his mom a couple weeks ago. The story he told was different though. The part he told me was just the part about his mom and then he told me that Michele was obsessed with him and wanted to adopt him as her own son because she had post pardom depression and had drowned her own children in a pond in her backyard. It's chilling to read this. I don't know what is more chilling his version of the story or the real one. i really regret looking this up, i feel completly sick now. I just couldn't believe something like this would happen to one of my friends. Does anyone know why Michele changed her last name to Shorthouse? That is the sons last name, so i'm wondering why she would change her last name to her boyfriends without actually marrying him.

12:45 AM  
Blogger someone said...

The 5 year old son you mentioned is a new friend of mine. He's now 23 and told me the story of her trying to murder his mom a couple weeks ago. The story he told was different though. The part he told me was just the part about his mom and then he told me that Michele was obsessed with him and wanted to adopt him as her own son because she had post pardom depression and had drowned her own children in a pond in her backyard. It's chilling to read this. I don't know what is more chilling his version of the story or the real one. i really regret looking this up, i feel completly sick now. I just couldn't believe something like this would happen to one of my friends. Does anyone know why Michele changed her last name to Shorthouse? That is the sons last name, so i'm wondering why she would change her last name to her boyfriends without actually marrying him.

12:48 AM  
Blogger jd chandler said...

thanks, someone. i hope you will share this story with your friend. i would love to hear from him. this is one of the most interesting stories i have written, because i have heard from so many people involved. each witness adds another dimension to the tale.

I always thought that Michele changed her name in order to cover her identity. she had just been through a very public campaign to expunge her juvenile record so the name "gates" was a little too hot for her. she also said she was in "love" with Shorthouse.

1:07 PM  
Blogger someone said...

I really would share it with him but i think he is rather touchy about the subject. When he told me the story he told me that aparently you could read about it online, but said he never had googled it himself. I think the whole story makes him rather sick. He's never had the desire to know more about it, and obviusley didn't even know the whole story. I know he is not on good terms with his father and dosn't really care to know about anytihng related to him or to Michele. He did tell me that he got a phone call from the FBI a couple years back telling him that she had been released from jail, but would be under constant survelliance. I'm pretty sure that is all he knows.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Jomo1234 said...

I was a foster sister to Michelle Gates. We talked a lot about what happened and I agree with Kris in that your version of the story is totally different than what actually happened. Michelle lived with us while she was awaiting trial after she returned from Maine. I personally liked Michelle. I have not talked to her or seen her since she was convicted of the murder of Ruth Anne. I am aware of the murder for hire plot as my mom was called to testify in the case, but I do not know any of the details. What Michelle did was wrong, and she never denied that fact. Yes, she had an incredibly traumatic childhood, just like many others in the world, but most children with traumatic pasts do not have to watch their mother be murdered right in front of them. I know it seems strange since I am a functional member of society and would never dream of harming a child, but the rationalization of a 13 year old kid with post traumatic stress disorder, who never had any sort of counseling after seeing her mother murdered, almost makes sense when you hear her version of the true story. Michelle was a nice and caring person while she lived with us. She was around other children and never did anything to them. She told me what happened and in a way, I understood. I am not sure where Judy got her information from, but it is nothing like what Michelle told me. I sincerely hope that Michelle is doing well. I have thought about her a lot over the years.

On a side note, Natyah's brother was also placed in our home around the same time that Natyah went to live with his grandmother. Their mother had fed them paint thinner and ground glass to rid them of the "California Spirits". You can see that the family that Michelle was a part of was extremely dysfunctional, and I hope that this information can shed some light on the absolute need for some sort of counseling after traumatic events.

I do believe that there is a side to Michelle that will forever be hidden because of her past, and I think that is a shame.

2:26 PM  
Blogger gail said...

I am the mother of Ruth O'Neil.
First, we never called her Ruth Anne. The Oregonian wrote her name that way, and I never bothered to correct it.
What judy says is completely true and accurate. I think she must have read the police reports.

Many have posted innacuracies here and especially about Michelle's early life. She lived with her grandmother almost from birth, and had almost no contact with her mother. She did NOT witness the shooting of her mother, which occurred very late at night several two miles from Michelle's home. The only unusual thing about Michelle's early life was that she was idolized and pampered by all of her family.
They gave her everything she wanted; and in their eyes she could do no wrong.

Kris, I lived next door to Michelle for many years. I knew her about as well as anyone could I think. She was wonderful with children and was a very popular babysitter. I rusted her with my children! She almost lived at my house, spending time playing with my girls and others in the neighborhood. We all knew her as personable, sweet, kind, and very loving.

Even while she was plotting the murder of her cousin, she never gave a clue. I sat near her and hugged her during her cousin's funeral. She cried with sorrow (or seemed to). She ate many meals at our house, went on family trips... was almost in a way a foster child in our home.
and in a twisted way, I think this added to her enjoyment as she planned to kill Ruth.

Kris, if you had asked me about Michelle I would have told you she was a wonderful girl, very responsible for a 15 year old, and i would not hesitate to have her babysit my children. I would have said the same words you wrote!
You cannot see the real person inside michelle, any more than those of us who "thought" we knew her well.
PLEASE, watch out!

I do not believe that a person with such a severe lack of consceience can change. It is not made widely public but she was stopped on two different occasions attempting to kill a child, AFTER her release from her treatment Program.

11:28 PM  
Blogger hannah said...

did she ever drown a little boy in the zoo? if so.. what are the details of that?

10:45 PM  
Blogger Mom said...

I read elsewhere that after she was allowed to be a YMCA swim instructor and that when they realized her past immediately fired her. But not before she almost drowned a child. She had to be screamed at multiple times by life guards to help a struggling five year old who looked like he was drowning. Later stating that the child "needed the experience".

4:50 PM  
Blogger Jason Jonas said...

The more and more I read this about Michele she has a lot of people fooled she looks sweet and nice but she has no life in her eyes just look at her eyes

5:04 AM  
Blogger jason jonas said...

Michele gates aka short is still out their and could be dangerous to who ever she comes in contact with.she probably has alot of people fooled that she has changed in some sort of way.i wonder why she hides now.

7:49 AM  
Blogger jason jonas said...

Every one has forgotten that ruthie oneil was the one who was lost much like Michele causin, she hasn't changed . She's pure evil

7:52 AM  

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