Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Running Trouble

Eric Walter Running was trouble waiting to happen. Given up at birth by his mother, Running was raised by an alcoholic couple who physically abused him from an early age. His adopted mother abandoned him at the age of four.

Running began drinking when he was 11 and before he left high school he was injecting heroin regularly. He worked on and off as a long-haul truck driver and somewhere along the way he moved from San Francisco to Portland.

The earliest example of violently acting out on record is an armed robbery Running committed in San Francisco in 1975. Running was 24. That wasn’t the last time, but after this his violence became more and more directed at women.

His wife took a lot of abuse. She testified later that he had beat her “too many times to count” before she finally entered a woman’s shelter. Eric Running commemorated their marriage with a tattoo. On his left wrist he had tattooed a portrait of his wife with her throat slit and blood oozing out of her mouth.

Girlfriends, a step-daughter and women he had never met were abused or threatened by Running. In one road rage incident he threatened two women in a car on a Portland Bridge with a gun. He violated parole in that case and spent a little time in jail.

In 1991 Running was charged with attempted murder in the stabbing of a transient in O’Bryant Square. Charges were dropped in that case. For such a violent guy, Running spent a surprisingly small amount of time in jail.

For five years in the 1980s Eric Running achieved sobriety. He attended college with the intention of becoming an addiction counselor. This is often a powerful goal for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It worked for Running, for a while.

By 1996 Running was a heavy daily drinker and heroin addict. It was that year that Running met Octavia Anderson. Anderson was an unusual Portland artist and poet who worked part time as an accountant on NE Sandy Blvd. Octavia liked to play pool and watch soap operas at a local bar, the Ambassador Lounge.

Eric Running fell “madly in love” with Octavia. Friends of his later testified that Running seemed to be obsessed with Octavia. Anderson, who’s legal name was Jacqueline, was a lesbian who had been in a long term relationship with another woman, Barbara Gilpin.

Gilpin and Anderson had been romantically involved for more than a decade and owned forty acres of land near the Oregon coast in Clatsop County. Their relationship was described by some as “on again, off again.” When Octavia met Running, the relationship was off. Gilpin and Anderson remained friends, though and often contacted each other.

It is hard to tell what relationship there was between Anderson and Running. Court papers say that they lived together from shortly after their meeting until Anderson’s death. Stacey Speidel, a bartender at the Ambassador, who had served Running for years and who considered Octavia a friend, said she didn’t think they had a “romantic relationship.” “They'd laugh. They'd dance,” she said, “I think they were just good friends.”

At least in Eric Running’s mind there was more to the relationship. 1997 was a bad year for Running. In February during a heated argument with his father, Harry Running finally confirmed Eric’s suspicions that he was adopted. He may not have experienced a sober moment from this meeting until his arrest one year later.

At least five times in that year Running was admitted to the Hooper Detoxification Center, a rescue center for people who are found in an extremely intoxicated condition in public. It takes a life threatening situation to get into this exclusive club.

Running’s relationship with Anderson was deteriorating. Surprising, huh? Meanwhile Octavia was making her mind up to go back to Barbara. It all came together on February 24, 1998.

That Tuesday Eric and Octavia had lunch together. They met again in the evening and after drinking and smoking together they “ended up at the Ambassador.” The purpose of the meeting was for Octavia to break the news to Eric that she was going back to her lover Barbara. Witnesses saw them arguing in the pool room and about 8:00pm Running went to the bar and sat alone.

Running only stayed a little while and then left the bar. Octavia spent about twenty minutes on the phone, then ordered another drink and spent a while leafing through the karaoke list. Around 10:00pm Barbara Gilpin arrived.

Anderson and Gilpin had dinner and went in to play pool. About 11:15pm Anderson came to the bar to order drinks. Running had returned to the bar. Running said, “[c]ome outside right now, you fucking bitch. I'm going to kill you.” Octavia rolled her eyes at him and he drew his finger across his throat, echoing the tattoo on his wrist with his actions.

Running left the bar and Anderson told the bartender, “I don’t like him very much anymore.” She took her drinks back into the pool room. Almost immediately Gilpin came out with a pool cue headed for the front door. Octavia had probably told her of Running’s threat.

Before she got to the door Running reentered the bar with a shotgun and fired at Gilpin. Barbara Gilpin was killed instantly. Running then walked into the pool room and cronfronted Octavia Anderson.

She felt at home at the Ambassador. Witnesses say she showed no fear as Running advanced on her with a shotgun. “Are you gonna shoot me like you did her?” Anderson asked.

Running answered with his weapon, wounding Anderson in the hip. While she was on the floor he put the gun next to her cheek and fired once more, destroying her head. As he left the building he took out his rage on Barbara Gilpin’s corpse. He kicked her as he passed by and then put the muzzle of the shotgun next to her head and fired again.

Witnesses heard Running say, “I’ve got to get the fuck out of here.” As he escaped through the parking lot the gun discharged accidentally. He hid it in a nearby back yard behind a woodpile.

The next day Running got rid of the leather jacket he wore during the crime. He cut his hair and started wearing glasses. He bought some heroin and hung out with friends the rest of the day. When one friend went to get cigarettes he saw Running’s picture in the paper as wanted for questioning.

Running spent a few hours with his friends watching news coverage of his crime. His friends advised him that he had three choices; he could turn himself in, he could go on the run or he could kill himself.

The next day Running was found inside a downtown construction site with a large gash in his throat. When he was rescued by paramedics he said he wished that he had saved the shotgun and used the last round on himself. He gave a false name to police, but they were not fooled.

In 2000 Running was convicted of one count of aggravated murder and one count of intentional murder. He was sentenced to death for Octavia Anderson’s murder, but he got life without parole for Barbara Gilpin’s. The jury justified the unusual split verdict, because they believed “he wasn't intending to go back to the bar and kill Gilpin -- he asked Octavia to go outside so he could kill her.”

Running’s death penalty was upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court in 2004 and he remains on death row in Salem. Oregon rarely executes prisoners, although it is not unheard of, but finally Eric Running is put away where he can’t hurt anyone else.


  1. His tattoo was creepy. Glad he is locked away. Love your blog by the way. Read it all the time.

  2. Nice summary of the events.

    I just happened to google Eric Running (and arrive here) because I was on the jury that sentenced him for his two murders. I hope that he is never put to death for this, for the guy was really fucked up, and he got a terrible defense. At the time of the trial, I was anxious for us all to get it over with, and sickened by his crimes. I was too young and impetuous to be on that jury. If I had it to do over again, I would refuse to reach a verdict, on the grounds of a poor defense.

    His lawyers hired, for his psychological evaluation, a man who transparently makes his living by getting murderers out of trouble, and the prosecution was able to reveal that. Moreover, this psychoanalyst did not even come to any strong conclusion, and did confuse most of the jury with charts whose meanings were unclear. The defense did not try to represent Running's side of the story in a compelling way. Their efforts were clearly half-hearted, and it looked like Running may not even have been cooperating with them. You have, in this one page, presented a more sympathetic account than those lawyers did in the course of six weeks.

    Is there any chance that there will be another appeal?

  3. Anonymous12:01 AM

    I was roommates and friends with Octavia when she met Barbara. We became fast friends at our first meeting. We used to hang at the City Nightclub on 13th before it moved North of Burnside. It was about 1987. She hit our scene and everyone was sort of amazed by how beautiful and cool she was. She painted some beautiful paintings of herself and my friend William. She was very gothic and otherworldly. I lost track of her in about 1989 soon after she got together with Barbara. She sort of disappeared into her relationship and didn't really want to hang out with anyone I knew after that. I think she just wanted to be with Barbara. I heard a couple years ago that she had been murdered but didn't confirm that for myself until this evening when I decided to Google her on my Blackberry. I'm glad to know the story but very saddened that someone as beautiful and talented as Octavia would be senselessly stolen from us.
    I wasn't at the trial of course but I can't sympathize with Bar's sentiments. I think anyone that would blow someone's head off like that should never see the light of day again. I'm not in favor of the death penalty but I do definitely believe that someone such as Eric Running that would let his egomaniacal rage get the best of him like that should never be free again. I do believe in redemption and I hope that he does something positive with his time left on Earth but he deserves to spend it in prison. He's disgusting scum in my book.

  4. Julie, or "Octavia" as many people knew her, was my sister. I was only 12 years old when she was murdered. I think about her everyday and about how my only sister in this world was taken away from me. I will never forgive Eric for what he has done to our family. Nothing in the world can bring her back, not even him being sentenced to death will ever make me feel as if "justice has been served."
    There are not enough words to explain how hard it has been to cope with this tragedy, and not even 11 years later have the wounds completely healed.
    I can only be happy for the fact that he will spend the rest of his life in jail, and will never be able to harm another person ever again.

  5. You wrote a good story, to bad that some of it isn’t true, for one Eric Running chose his rotten life….he knew that he was adopted a long time prior to meeting me (1988). I met his father and sister (she was also adopted). He had a nice family/home etc. and in their home I didn’t see any signs of alcohol (except for what Eric brought into the home) I could also see the love they had for him, he himself told me that when ever he was locked up, they would visit and do what they could for him. He was raised in a “white neighborhood” which may be why he was ashamed of his heritage (Latino) and could possibly account for some of his behavior and bad choices, but it doesn’t excuse his violence.

    The bridge/gun incident, he was arrested and released, within a span of about two hours max, he didn’t spend any time in jail for his actions, and he was sentenced to probation period.

    Part of his five year sobriety, he was incarcerated for stealing a car in downtown Portland, sentenced to three years in Oregon State Pen.

    Women were an excuse for him to act upon his rages/anger, however I have also seen him go off on men (without being provoked), and Eric is just plain evil, with no emotion behind the eyes. Eric tells lies to justify his actions, wanting the poor me response, being on the pity pot of life. As they (psychiatrist) say when adolescents start drinking, they stop growing mentally. Eric never grew up to take responsibility for his life; it was easier for him to play the blame game.

    The juror who responded with a post to your blog, had she gotten to see his out bursts in the courthouse and fighting with the deputies etc. she might have had a different view of him, no he wasn’t cooperative for his defense team or anyone else that may have wanted to help him; because he believes that the world owes him and he deserves it.

    I for one am very grateful that he was given the death penalty and will never be free again to harm another human being.

  6. Dont kill him.....you all are fucking nuts!!! I knew both of them too and he NEEDS to die for his crimes, they were beyond what some "normal" killing were, kicking here while she was already dead and then shhoting her again!!!! You idiots that do not favour the death penalty must not have been true friends of theirs. And as far as Bar goes, you would refuse to reach a verdict!!!!??? He blew their heads off almost, they had to be cremated, no open casket there, refuse to reach a verdict...wow!!!!

  7. Lexy_Lu. I have some wonderful photographs of Octavia that I would love to copy and share with you and your family.

  8. I just found this blog and have a number of photos of Octavia. I had no idea she was killed. I am so sad by this terrible, terrible news. Her killer needs to die.

  9. This guy deserves and needs to die for this..Octavia was one of the sweetest women I have ever met and just because she was trusting and naive, didn't mean she deserved this. I can't believe after years of searching for her, I have to read about this nightmare..

  10. Michelle

    Sorry to give you the bad news. I would love to have a photo of Octavia to post. You can email me at jdchandler2002@yahoo.com if you will.

  11. Hi JD,
    No, thank you for writing this. It's just upsetting because the last time I saw Octavia, she was showing me her new girlfriend, Barbara's house, including this woman's gun collection. I remember having a strange foreboding feeling, but I thought it was just because I hated guns. Now to find out that they were killed with one of Barbara's guns..I read the full police reports and I have so many unanswered questions.

  12. I just found this through a search engine. I worked with Barb all those years ago and was at a seminar with her the day before she died. There was a lot of drama in her relationship with Octavia and she was very depressed when they separated. Her death affected her coworkers for years. We, her friends, and family built her a garden on the Rock Creek campus of PCC. It's still there and I think she'd be amused that we planted a big old redwood in her memory (she was a short person). What can you do when someone's murdered? There was no place to put that grief. I used to see her relatives visit the garden; sometimes someone would leave flowers by the memorial plaque