A Multnomah County resident, Jesse Lee Calhoun, 38, is currently the prime suspect in the murder cases of four women whose bodies were found in the greater Portland metro area earlier this year. According to insiders close to the investigations, detectives have connected Calhoun to these deaths.
What sets Calhoun’s case apart is that he is one of the more than 1,000 inmates who were granted early release by former Governor Kate Brown a Democrat. Calhoun has had his clemency revoked. He is currently detained at Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario on charges unrelated to the murders.
Calhoun has a long history of criminal activities dating back to 2004. He was arrested in 2018 with meth, several firearms, and over 500 rounds of ammunition, leading the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to label him a “prolific thief and career criminal.” His most recent convictions were in November 2019, for a series of felonies including burglary, unauthorized possession of a stolen vehicle, and injuring a police officer and a police dog during an arrest attempt.
Calhoun was initially sentenced to four concurrent sentences, the longest being 50 months. However, his sentence was reduced by 20% for good behavior, and a further 11 months were deducted after he joined a group of inmates fighting wildfires. He was released on July 22, 2021.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Brown initiated a process of mass commutations, granting early release to prisoners who were well-behaved, nearing the end of their sentences, and particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Brown’s use of the governor’s clemency powers was far more extensive than her predecessors, earning her national recognition for her commitment to criminal justice reform.
However, the recent murders have raised questions about the effectiveness of these commutations. Following the discovery of the bodies, officials contacted Governor Tina Kotek’s office about Calhoun. As Brown’s successor, Kotek has the authority to end any of the commutations, which she did in Calhoun’s case, leading to his arrest.
The arrest of Calhoun has sparked a strong reaction from Brown, who expressed her horror for the victims and their families. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau have jointly released a statement saying investigators have identified an unnamed “person of interest,” adding that there were links among the deaths of four of the women.
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