PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Reba Morrison may never have known what happened to her sister Martha if not for a woman she’s never met.
Martha Morrison was 17 when she was last seen in September 1974. Jamie Grissim was 16 when she went missing after school on December 7, 1971.
Grissim’s purse, ID and other possessions were found along Dole Valley Road, east of Battle Ground, on May 1, 1972. But her body was never found.
On October 12, 1974, the skeletons of 2 women were found in the same Dole Valley area of Clark County on a logging road. One was identified right away as Carol Platt Valenzuela. The other body was not able to be identified.
Grissim’s sister, Starr Lara, was determined to find out if those remains were Jamie.
“It was a very cold day, and Jamie had gone out to wait for the bus,” Starr Lara said recently. When she didn’t come back from Fort Vancouver High School later that day, Lara said, “I knew that day something really bad had happened.”
Her body has never been found. But Lara’s push to find out helped close the circle for the Morrison family.
Lara pushed for Clark County detectives to try matching DNA from the body on the logging road in the Dole Valley area — even though a dental comparison said they didn’t match.
Between 1974 and 1977 the remains were sent to several experts in an attempt to establish her identity. In 1977, with no ID and all testing options at the time exhausted, the remains were archived and subsequently thought to be lost.
The detectives told Lara they didn’t have the remains anymore, that they were lost. “I just felt like he kicked me,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Four years ago, it was discovered the unidentified remains had been sent in 1977 to Dr. Clyde Snow, a renowned forensic pathologist in Oklahoma. Contacted then by reporter Dan Tilkin, Snow said he sent the remains back to the Clark County coroner in 1978.
The Clark County medical examiner looked again and discovered in 2011 they had the remains all along, that they were archived under Valenzuela’s case number.
“The specimen was never really lost. At some point in time in the distant past, it was mislabeled,” the medical examiner’s office wrote. “The absence of a permanent location, multiple moves, and various other factors did not provide the best of environments for maintaining records or evidence.”
In 2012, tests — which were not available in the 1970s — were given and samples were submitted.
Clark County detectives have long believed suspected serial killer Warren Forrest is responsible for Jamie Grissim’s death. In all, he’s suspected of killing 8 women in Clark County, but he’s only been convicted of one murder.
In 1979 he was convicted of killing Krista Kay Blake, a 19-year-old from Vancouver. Her body was found on Clark County Parks property in a shallow grave, partially disrobed with her hands and feet hogtied.
In an audio recording of his parole hearing in February, Forrest recalled details of crimes he’s been convicted of and reiterated he’s a different person than the person he was 40 years ago.
“I abducted a 19-year-old female stranger under the ruse of giving her a ride…forcing the victim to undress and during a struggle I choked the victim to death.”
Forrest had already spent 4 years at the Western State Hospital after being acquitted in 1975 “on grounds of insanity” in the abduction of a 20-yer-old on October 1, 1974 from Washington Park in Portland. He took her to Lacamas Lake in Clark County and brutally assaulted her.
Two-and-a-half months earlier, he abducted 15-year-old Norma Countryman.
Forrest gave her a ride in his blue van while she was hitchhiking in Ridgefield. He also took her to Tukes Mountain, where he brutally assaulted her.
Forrest was never prosecuted in this case because the statute of limitations expired.
In 2013 Countryman spoke publicly for the first time, urging the parole board to keep Forrest locked up. According to testimony from the trial reported by The Columbian newspaper, “He tied her head to one tree and her legs to another. Later, she chewed through the twine and struggled out of a loop holding her legs. With hands and ankles still tied, she hopped away.”
Jamie Grissim is thought to be Forrest’s first victim.
In recent therapy sessions, Warren Forrest has admitted sexually assaulting 8 other women – but he’s never provided names.
The DNA results
For 3 years, investigators have worked to determine exactly whose remains were found along that logging road next to Carol Valuenzuela.
One thing was certain: the remains were not Jamie Grissim.
In October 2014, Reba Morrison told KOIN 6 News it would be nice to know if those remains were her sister Martha. To complete the identification, their father’s body had to be exhumed in Arizona.
The DNA match fit. The remains found in 1974 were Martha Morrison.
“When they announced it was Martha, they knew who she was, that was a really good feeling,” Starr Lara said. “Sad for Jamie, but a really good feeling to know that girl has been identified.”
Now, all she can do is wait and hope Warren Forrest will give up his secrets – and ease her pain.
“I do forgive him for killing Jamie. I do. But I won’t forgive him for withholding the truth,” she said.
“You can’t kill my sister and expect I’m just going to forget about it. And that’s what keeps me going.”