GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) – Police still don’t know who murdered 36-year-old Annastasia Hester, who was stabbed in her Gresham apartment early Friday morning.
Hester called 911 after she was stabbed just after 3 a.m. on Friday at the Eastpark Apartments, located at 193 Southwest Eastman Parkway. Detectives with both Gresham police and the East Multnomah County Major Crimes Team responded to the scene.
When officers arrived, they said they found Hester suffering from multiple stab wounds. She was rushed to a local hospital with critical injuries and later died at the hospital.
She was too severely injured to describe her attacker to police before she died.
Family members told KOIN 6 News they couldn’t imagine the killer being anyone Hester knew.
Hester’s friend Darlene Douglas said was very funny and approachable, and they had plans to go to a Renaissance fair together later this summer.
“I know she was a fighter, and I know whatever the circumstances were surrounding what happened, she went down with a fight, because that’s what her spirit was,” Douglas said. “I thought no not here, this is not something that would happen to her let alone anyone…I know in my heart, it wasn’t easy for this person to come in.”
Hester’s 4-year-old daughter, who is usually at the apartment, wasn’t there at the time of the attack. She was with her father in Portland.
A police supervisor told said officers conducted an area search with a police K-9 unit, but were unable to locate any one. Later in the afternoon, a K-9 unit was back searching the area.
In addition to the K-9, search and rescue crews combed through areas of the nearby Springwater Trail for clues. At times, searchers were on their hands and knees cutting away dense blackberry bushes. A search and rescue helicopter joined the manhunt Friday night.
“As long as it takes. I don’t have an answer on how long we’re going to be out there if there’s some good evidence or clues out there that we find, we’ll search through the night,” Detective Brandon Crate with Gresham PD said. “If we need daylight we’ll hold it over the evening and work tomorrow morning.”
Neighbors say there are homeless encampments in the area, but Gresham Police recently stepped up efforts to clear them out.
Derek Turner says at one point, there were homeless camps right behind the fence in his backyard.
“The year before, like every day, they [police] were going back there to kick people out, they would tell them to leave, they would pack up their stuff, wait for the cops to leave and they’d go right back,” Turner says.
Turner says the most prevalent issues with the camps involved trash and drugs. He never saw anything violent. But, he says if a suspect wanted to disappear down the Springwater Trail, it wouldn’t be hard.
“There’s plenty of places, especially this time of year where it’s all grown, sticker bushes and stuff, you are going to get cut up if you hide back there, but if you are willing to hide, then it’s a good place to hide.”
At this point, police have no suspect information because they were unable to gather enough information from Hester before she died. Police do not know if the incident involved a stranger or if the victim knew her attacker.
Initially, first responding officers did not observe any signs of forced entry, an on-scene supervisor told KOIN 6 News Friday morning. Later in the afternoon, other officials said detectives had yet to do a full inventory of the apartment. A search warrant is likely to be executed at the apartment sometime Friday, police said.
Because they don’t yet have a suspect and this crime may have been committed by a stranger, police are strongly encouraging everyone to keep doors and windows locked at night.
“We want to let the public know that this person is still at large, we don’t know, we know that this individual has committed a murder,” Crate said.
Police have closed off the parking lot that leads into the apartment complex. Officers said Friday that they do not believe the injuries were self-inflicted.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 503.823.3333.
KOIN’s Brent Weisberg and Andrew Dymburt contributed to this report.