Stolen car leads to Motel 6 body, murder charge

Valerie Johnson, 42, was strangled in the 2nd floor room at the Motel 6

Joshua Carlson, April 22, 2017 (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)
Joshua Carlson, April 22, 2017 (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A stolen car investigation turned into a murder investigation in Southeast Portland Friday, ending with the arrest of a 31-year-old man when he came down from the roof of a garage.

Joshua Carlson was arrested in the afternoon in the 5200 block of SE Center Street, hours after the body of Valerie Johnson was found in a 2nd floor room at the Motel 6 at 3104 SE Powell Boulevard.

He is expected in court Monday on charges of murder and unlawful use of a vehicle. Johnson, 42, was strangled, the Oregon State Medical Examiner said Saturday.

The unfolding investigation

A body was found in this 2nd floor room of a Motel 6 in Southeast Portland, April 21, 2017 (KOIN)
A body was found in this 2nd floor room of a Motel 6 in Southeast Portland, April 21, 2017 (KOIN)

A police officer driving through the motel’s parking lot in the 3100 block of SE Powell Boulevard spotted a green Ford Escape that was reported stolen. Another officer arrived and saw the Escape leaving the parking lot, court documents showed.

Officers decided chasing the stolen car was dangerous to the public and ended it. That car was later found unoccupied around SE 51st Avenue.

At the motel, police obtained surveillance video that showed a white man leaving Room 229 and walking toward the stolen Ford, records show. Carlson was registered as the only occupant in that room.

Police went inside and found Johnson’s body. Documents showed her death was from “obvious homicidal violence.”

Investigating detectives spoke with a person staying in a nearby room who said he heard a woman scream twice between 6-7 a.m. on April 19, documents revealed.

A 911 call from a concerned neighbor led police to the 5200 block of SE Francis where they found a person of interest connected to that stolen car. Police arrived at the scene and around 2:15 p.m. called for a SERT squad because the suspect was on the roof of a building.

Documents reveald that during a search by a police K-9, a woman’s purse was found in the 4000 block of SE 52nd. When the dog picked the purse up, several items spilled out, including Johnson’s Oregon ID card

Detectives searched and found Johnson and Carlson were listed as being mutual friends on Facebook.

Records show Carlson has been convicted of 6 felonies, 2 misdemeanors and 3 parole/probation violations.

‘He was on my garage’

“I had no idea what was happening … to my knowledge he was on my garage or something and got onto the roof next door and at that point I didn’t want to be on my side of the street so they let me out and across and I stood with a neighbor and watched them take the guy into custody from the roof,” neighbor Katie Hunt told KOIN.