7 Infamous Oregon Crimes (Besides D. B. Cooper)

From murders to bank robberies, we take a peek at the state's grisly past.

By Allison Place December 21, 2018 Published in the January 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Ben Boloff

The Cockstock Incident

(1844) What began as an argument over a horse ended in the shameful 1844 exclusionary law against black men living in Oregon. The dispute between Cockstock, a Wasco Native American, and James Saules, a black man, ended in a bloodbath—leading to fears among white residents that black inhabitants could incite people to violence.

Ben Boloff

(1930) Though originally arrested for vagrancy in 1930, Boloff was convicted of criminal syndicalism when police saw his communist membership card. The Oregonian stumped extensively for Boloff’s release until he died from tuberculosis.

James Bowden

(1946) Bowden thought his wife was sleeping with another man, so he rigged dynamite in a footlocker to give to his wife’s lover. It backfired, and his wife opened the footlocker while Bowden was on a camping trip. She died.

Richard Laurence Marquette

(1961) Marquette killed and dismembered three women from 1961 to 1975. In a frantic effort to track him down, the Portland resident was added as an 11th name on FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. He’s been in the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem since 1975.

Rita Bo Brown

(1970s) Known as “The Gentleman Bank Robber,” Brown dressed as a man while robbing banks. She helped hold up at least seven banks in the Pacific Northwest and detonated a minimum of 20 pipe bombs as part of the radical, Seattle-based George Jackson Brigade. She was arrested in 1979, released in 1987, and has worked since as a tow truck driver and in prison advocacy.

Michele Dee Gates

(1980) This Portland kid was just 11 when she drowned the first of her two toddler victims, a 3-year-old cousin. Due to Gates’s juvenile status, she served no time in prison for the killings. Later, she volunteered as a YMCA swim coach before staff was notified of her past crimes.

Forest Park Murders

(1999) For five weeks, Portlanders were terrified to enter the city’s backyard when three young women were found murdered in Forest Park. Todd Alan Reed was arrested after stalking a decoy officer on W Burnside. The Seattle Times called Reed “a poet who held two jobs to support his two sons,” and referred to his young female victims in print as mere “prostitutes.”

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