The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Carlton Smith, Chronicler of Crime, Dies at 64

Carlton Smith, who worked as a reporter for Willamette Week and went on to become a best-selling author of true-crime books, died last week in Reno, Nev. He was 64.

Originally a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Smith came to WW in the early 1980s and brought a wonderful narrative style and fierce reportorial instincts to his work, writing about cops, crime and business.  He continued to report occasionally for the paper as a freelancer, writing a 2002 profile of Christian Longo, one of Oregon's most infamous murderers; a 2003 look at Oregon "eco-terrorism" movement; and a 2006 story about Loren Parks, the man who bankrolled the campaigns of Bill Sizemore and Kevin Mannix.

Smith worked for The Seattle Times for a few years, and covered the search for the Green River Killer, reporting that led to a New York Times best-selling book about the manhunt. He moved to California and later Nevada and wrote more than 18 books about everything from the murder trial of Phil Spector to the death of JonBenet Ramsay.  

Over the past month, Smith had been communicating regularly with WW about another story that was unfolding in Portland. At the end of one email about his interest in writing about the topic, Smith signed off with the following comment, a perfect coda to his journalistic career:

"But goddamit, reporters need to ask these kinds of questions and get answers or even denials -- otherwise they're worth nothing more than official ditto paper," he wrote.