In Latest Sign of Impending Charges, State Assigns Suspected Serial Killer an Attorney

Jesse Lee Calhoun is a suspect in the killings of four Portland-area women.

The body of Charity Perry was discovered in Ainsworth State Park on April 24. (Unsettler / Flickr)

Jesse Lee Calhoun, the 38-year-old suspected serial killer, has been assigned a public defender, according to a spokesperson for the Office of Public Defense Services.

It’s the latest sign that Calhoun, who is currently in custody at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario for violating the terms of his post-incarceration supervision, could soon face new criminal charges.

OPDS says Calhoun’s case was assigned to Greg Scholl on Sep. 16. Scholl leads the capital case team at Metropolitan Public Defender, Multnomah County’s largest nonprofit public defense firm.

The assignment of a public defender before a suspect faces charges is rare. But it is not unexpected in a high-profile murder case such as this one. The contract the state has with local nonprofit public defense providers like MPD allows it to take on clients awaiting charges as long as several conditions are met, including that “the individual is a clear target of the investigation” and “the case is of a magnitude for which pre-indictment/petition appointment is reasonable.”

WW first identified Calhoun on July 16 as a person suspected by law enforcement agencies in the deaths of four women: Kristin Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster, and Ashley Real.

After WW requested comment from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office prior to identifying Calhoun as a suspect, that office and the Portland Police Bureau jointly released a statement saying investigators had identified an unnamed “person of interest,” adding that there were links among the deaths of Kristin Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster, and Ashley Real. The agencies have never named that person of interest.

Related: Clues emerge about how poorly Jesse Lee Calhoun was monitored.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.