On July 12, 2003, a veterinarian at Dove Lewis Animal Hospital called Portland police to report the clinic was full of dead and dying dogs. By summer's end, poisoned meat stashed in Laurelhurst Park claimed as many as 15 canines, dominated headlines and put Portland dog owners on edge.
In contrast to the media clamor around the deaths, the case's two-year anniversary passed quietly this week. So what happened?
The short answer: not much. Over a year ago, in an unusual move, Portland police named their prime suspect-yet they still can't get enough evidence to file charges.
"It's incredibly frustrating," says Portland Police Detective Bill Crockett. "It's almost easier never knowing who the suspect was."
Crockett spearheaded an eight-month investigation of the dog-poisonings. A squad of Oregon Humane Society animal cops interviewed the victims' owners. A gun-toting special agent from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tracked leads on the poison used, the weed-killer paraquat. The gumshoes' combined efforts led Crockett to settle on a prime suspect: a Multnomah County employee named Fredrick King.
King lives near the popular eastside park and operated the website www.leashyourdog.com under a pseudonym. He posted photos of people who let their dogs run unleashed at Laurelhurst to the site; in November 2002, he confronted a dog-walker who later claimed King threatened him with a chain and threw a recycling bin at his dog. According to police reports, King told Crockett that one of his children is autistic and that his kids could not feel safe with dogs unleashed in the neighborhood.
King surfaced as a suspect in August 2003. That November, KATU news reporter Anna Song reported that King posted to the website from his computer at work, spurring a county investigation. The website disappeared, instead linking to a porn site with Song's name sprinkled through it.
In January 2004, King was persuaded to take a police polygraph. According to police reports, during the course of two tests King repeatedly held his breath for as long as 10 seconds at a time, causing "inconclusive" results. King told police he'd viewed a website called "the lie behind the lie detector," which police found suggests test takers "alter their breathing" to beat the electronic test. (King denied trying to do so.)
Portland police publicized King's name last March, but the move generated little media coverage and no substantive leads. In July 2004, the county, citing budget cuts, eliminated King's job. In September 2004, a similar rash of paraquat poisonings hit Manzanita, sickening as many as 16 dogs, though Crockett says there is no apparent connection.
The detective continues to hope someone will call CrimeStoppers (823-HELP) with information to break the case open. "I've been waiting, hoping for somebody to come forward," he says. "It's a case that needs to be brought to prosecution."
King, who maintained his innocence, declined to comment on the unresolved case's anniversary. "I have nothing to say to you about it," he told WW.