Clues Emerge About How Poorly Jesse Lee Calhoun Was Monitored

One of the women Calhoun is suspected of killing, Ashley Real, filed a complaint of domestic violence and strangulation against him.

The body of Charity Perry was discovered in the Columbia River Gorge on April 24. (Daniel Stindt)

As investigators from multiple jurisdictions work toward indictments of suspected serial killer Jesse Lee Calhoun, WW has over the past week reported more background and context about his situation.

Calhoun, 38, is in state custody at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario for violating the terms of his post-incarceration supervision. Gov. Tina Kotek revoked a conditional commutation that former Gov. Kate Brown issued to Calhoun and 40 other inmate firefighters in 2021, shaving up to 12 months off their sentences.

Kotek’s office has declined to comment on Calhoun, citing a pending criminal investigation. That is the same stance that all involved police agencies and prosecutor’s offices have taken.

In the meantime, here’s what we’ve learned about Calhoun since WW first identified him July 16 as a suspect in the deaths of four women: Kristin Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster, and Ashley Real.

Calhoun may have violated the terms of his release. Public records show that on three occasions, Calhoun may have violated the requirement in his conditional commutation that he obey all laws after he was released early in July 2021.

In May 2022, a Clackamas man sought a stalking order against Calhoun, alleging in a court filing that Calhoun followed and threatened him (a judge dismissed the request). In October 2022, Calhoun was charged with and subsequently convicted of driving while suspended. In November 2022, one of the women Calhoun is suspected of killing, Ashley Real, filed a complaint of domestic violence and strangulation against Calhoun with the Portland Police Bureau.

PPB referred the complaint to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, which, like the Police Bureau, declined to comment.

Real was last seen on March 27, 2023—four months after she filed the complaint against Calhoun. Her body was found May 7 in Clackamas County.

Other inmate firefighters also stumbled after release. Records show that 11 of the 41 inmates released for their work fighting wildfires in 2020 have subsequently been arrested on felony charges, and two others have been arrested for misdemeanors. In none of those cases did the governor’s office revoke the commutations, as it did in Calhoun’s case this June.

Although the rates of arrest are in line with typical recidivism findings in Oregon, the state’s two GOP members of Congress last week asked Gov. Tina Kotek to examine the cases of the more than 1,000 inmates to whom Brown granted early release. “We urge you to review every single conditional commutation granted by Governor Brown,” wrote U.S. Reps. Lori Chavez-DeRemer and Cliff Bentz.

The DA abstained from vetting Calhoun’s commutation. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office says through a spokeswoman it was not given a “meaningful opportunity” to determine whether to support Calhoun’s commuted sentence in March 2021. The DA’s office did not take a position on releasing Calhoun—or on any of the 14 cases presented to it by the Oregon Department of Corrections.

In contrast, the Washington County District Attorney’s Office objected to 17 of the 19 proposed commutations submitted to it by the DOC, according to emails reviewed by WW.

Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt, like Gov. Brown, has pressed for progressive reforms to the criminal justice system. But his office says the corrections department gave prosecutors in Calhoun’s case only a week to weigh in, and did not provide prosecutors the customary packet of information that includes an application from the inmate, prison records, and any letters of support. The DOC responds that the DA’s office did not ask for more time.

Four of the six inmates with Multnomah County sentences commuted by Brown were eventually arrested on felony charges after their release, according to a WW review of court records. The four do not include Calhoun.

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