Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dark River

The Torso Murder Case became one of the oldest and deepest of Portland's unsolved mysteries.

           In the spring and summer of 1946 several packages containing the dismembered parts of a woman’s body were found in the Willamette River. The Torso Murder Case, as the Oregonian called it, became one of Portland’s longest and deepest mysteries. Not only was no suspect ever identified, the victim was never identified either. For nearly seventy years police, reporters and murder buffs have only been able to speculate about the identity of the woman who was tortured, beaten over the head and cut into pieces before being thrown into the river.
            While working on my latest book – Portland on the Take written with JB Fisher – I came across someone who coincidentally disappeared sometime early in 1946.  Her name was Anna Schrader and she was one of Portland’s most interesting characters. A competitive swimmer and socially prominent Portlander, Schrader worked as an undercover agent for the Portland Police Bureau and a private detective. Married to a local railroad executive, Schrader carried on a long term affair with police Lieutenant William Breuning.  Schrader’s affair with Breuning ended in a violent confrontation in 1929, creating a scandal that ended Breuning’s career and Schrader’s work for the Police Bureau. Schrader, who was a highly emotional woman, swore revenge against the Police Bureau and Chief Leon Jenkins and devoted the next few years to exposing corruption in the police force and in Mayor George Baker’s administration. She was involved in at least two recall elections and ran an aborted campaign for mayor in 1932. Along the way she made a lot of enemies, some of whom might have wanted her dead.
The affair of Anna Schrader and William Breuning ended in scandal in 1929. Schrader devoted several years to exposing the corruption of the Portland Police Bureau and the George Baker administration.

            I asked Theresa Kennedy Dupay, a talented historical researcher, to look into the life and activities of Anna Schrader to help me evaluate whether or not she could have been the victim in the Torso Murder Case. Dupay has done a great job of finding information on Schrader and has even managed to get access to some of the investigative files kept by the Clackamas County Sheriff, who reopened the unsolved case in 2004. Dupay and her husband, ex-homicide detective Don Dupay – author of Behind the Badge in River City – have become intrigued with the possibilities that our new investigation offers.

            I am intrigued by the possibilities too, so I have been preparing a ten episode podcast – Murder ByExperts -- to present our theories and investigation. One of the problems with trying to solve such an old case is that none of the people who are investigating it are aware of the situation in Portland in 1946, so this series will concentrate on the historical setting as much as the crime. Here is the first, introductory episode. Please give it a listen and then let me know what you think.
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Blogger Theresa Kennedy DuPay said...

Well, I'm biased as you know but I personally love it! Not only is this an important story to look into its awfully entertaining also.

11:06 PM  

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