Sunday, October 15, 2006

Torso Murders

If the police have any leads into the killing of Douglas Adamson, whose torso was found floating in the Columbia inside a gym bag in September, they’re not talking. Adamson’s limbs were found later, also floating in the river. His head and one leg are still missing.

Last information available is that the police were still trying to verify Adamson’s where-abouts on September 7, which presumably is the day he died. So far there seems to be no motive or suspect in the killing of the southeast Portland auto mechanic and son of a former Estacada police officer.

“You definitely don't see this too often . . . which is a good thing,” said Detective Bryan Steed, the lead investigator of Adamason’s murder. Steed is right. The last time something like this happened was in the spring of 1946. My mentions of this earlier murder has stirred up some interest, so I thought I should tell you what is known now.

On the evening of Friday April 12, 1946 three people walking on the bank of the Willamette river near the Wisdom Island Moorage in Milwaukie discovered a burlap package floating in the river. H.C. Foster of Portland and James and Mary Rader of Milwaukie first thought the package might be a bag of drowned kittens.

They fished the package to shore and were shocked to find that it contained the torso of a white woman. The body had been sawed off at the neck, elbows and hips and was wrapped in brown pants, a dark blue sweater, long underwear and a grayish-black tweed topcoat. Over the clothing the body was wrapped in burlap and tied with tape, rope and telephone wire.

The sleeves of the sweater and the topcoat were missing and burns in the underwear led the police to speculate that the woman may have been tortured. There was no obvious sign of violence against the body, other than dismemberment.

The discovery of the torse led workmen on a tugboat working upstream from the Willamette Locks to investigate a floating package that had been sited a couple of weeks earlier. Inside they found the woman’s arms and one thigh.

Oregon State Police and Clackamas County Deputies believed that the body came from either Milwaukie or Lake Oswego, or that it had been thrown from the Oak Grove Bridge. They investigated sites on the river where footprints and scraps of burlap made them think that the packages may have been thrown into the river from more than one spot.

On July 27 another thigh was found floating in the Clackamas River below the McLoughlin Bridge. By this time public interest had waned and few people noticed the grisly discovery.

The Torso Murder Case received another spate of headlines in October, 1946, when the head was found on October 13. It was wrapped in newspaper and green cloth, weighted with 21 pounds of window sash weights and had apparently been thrown from the Oak Grove Bridge.

The newspapers proved to be from the Oregonian dated October 14, 1944 with another page dated September 16, but with no year. The woman was in her fifties, about 5 foot 8 inches tall and 140 pounds. She had medium brown hair, mostly gray and a partial dental plate with extensive dental work.

Police thought that the dental work would lead to identification, since her hands and feet were still missing. They were pursuing several leads on missing women, but did not release an identity for the victim.

That’s where the trail has gone cold. So far I have found no other mention of this murder in the Oregonian or any where else. No identity for the victim. No suspects. No motive. No leads. The coldest a case can get after 60 years.

I’m writng this now in hope of stimulating a new search into this case. Something more must be known about it. At least one local reporter has shown some interest in this case and I’m hoping we’ll have some news soon. I’ll keep you posted.


Blogger Angie said...

Another excellent post. Thank you.

It's tragic and heartbreaking that she has not gotten justice...

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Chandler,

I wanted to let you know that the Torso murder from 1946 is still and open case and I have began to review the case file to see if anything additional can be done. Thanks for your write up and keeping up interest in the case.


Det. John Krummenacker
Clackamas County Sheriffs Office
Major Crimes Unit

11:25 AM  

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