A 55-year-old man identified as Homer Lee Jackson has been arrested and charged in a series of murders that targeted prostitutes in Portland in the 1980s, police announced on Friday.
Jackson was arrested on Thursday at his residence in Northeast Portland and later booked into the Multnomah County Jail. He is expected to be arraigned on Monday after being indicted on multiple counts of Aggravated Murder in the deaths of Essie Jackson, Tonja Harry, Angela Anderson, and Latanga Watts. All four victims were African American women who were working as prostitutes, with the youngest just 14 years old.
“Cold Case Homicide Unit detectives began investigating these cases when the unit began in 2004 and have worked closely with the original case detectives … to develop evidence in these cases that led to the arrest of Homer Jackson as the suspect,” the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement. “Homer Jackson has been connected to all four murders through forensic evidence and/or other investigative information.”
Detectives have not yet released specific details about the investigation.
The first known victim was 23-year-old Essie Jackson, a prostitute who had last been seen in February 1983 on Northeast Union Avenue, which is now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Essie Jackson, who was the mother of a young child, was found dead on the afternoon of March 23, 1983, when someone walking in North Portland looked down a steep embankment and noticed a body.
Months later, on July 9, 1983, two people walking in West Delta Park, between a golf course and Portland International Raceway, spotted what appeared to be a person in the water. Emergency personnel rushed to the scene and discovered a young African American female face down in the water. She was later identified as 19-year-old Tonja Harry, who was working as a prostitute and had last been seen the night before she was discovered.
Later that year, on September 22, 1983, a potential homebuyer inspecting a residence in the 400 block of Northeast Going Street discovered the body of a young African American girl in the upstairs bedroom. The girl, later identified as 14-year-old Angela Anderson, had been dead for about 2 weeks before she was discovered at the vacant home, which was locked with a lock box on the front door. Angela had been living in a foster home and friends believe that, shortly before her death, she had become the victim of sex trafficking.
The fourth victim was murdered years later. Latanga Watts, a 29-year-old African American woman with three children, was found strangled and dumped in a grassy area near North Concord, by the Going Street Pedestrian Bridge, on March 18, 1987. Watts had fallen into drug use and was working as a prostitute, and investigators had long suspected that her work as a prostitute made her a target.
“I think it’s very likely that the reason [Watts] was victimized is because she’s a prostitute and because it’s believed that nobody cares. It was a very dangerous time in the 80s to be involved in prostitution from the prostitute’s side of things,” Detective Jim Lawrence told KPTV earlier this year. Lawrence said prostitutes were often attacked in the 80s and forced into sex acts they did not agree with.
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