Killer Warren Forrest to make case for parole again

Warren Forrest is suspected of attacking 8 women

Warren Forrest in side-by-side photos from the 1970s and his most recent prison photo from 2017.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The man considered one of the worst killers to prey on women in the Vancouver and Portland area has never been punished for most of the murders for which detectives think he’s responsible. Later this year he will have another chance to convince the parole board he should be set free.

Warren Forrest has been behind bars since 1978 and is accused of attacking 8 women, including one whose body has never been found.

It was bitterly cold on December 7, 1971, when Starr Lara’s big sister, Jamie Grissim left for her day at Fort Vancouver High School. Grissim told Lara to let their foster mother know she would be walking home from school that day.

“I said, ‘OK I’ll tell her,’ and that was the last I ever saw of her,” Lara said.

Grissim never came home that day, but police records say she disappeared on January 10, 1972. Back then, police wouldn’t take a missing person’s report for a month, even though Grissim was just 16 years old.

An undated school photo of Jamie Grissim. (Courtesy of Starr Lara)
An undated school photo of Jamie Grissim. (Courtesy of Starr Lara)

“They actually thought it was better to tell me she was a bad influence on me, and just left,” Lara said.

Grissim was considered a runaway for 6 months until 11-year-old Ted Matson and his family were picking up garbage on Dole Valley Road in a remote part of Clark County. They found Grissim’s school ID card and a photo of her with her boyfriend.

“Just picking stuff up and I saw this ID, and we’re thinking ‘who knows. This girl could be lost or something,'” Matson said.

Two years later, several miles from where the ID was found, a hunter discovered 2 bodies behind a log near a creek and beaver dams. Weeks earlier, Matson’s older brother remembered hearing a scream in the middle of the night.

“He was sleeping outside in the summer and his hair was standing up on his neck,” Matson said. “So that’s what he thinks it probably was.”

One body was quickly identified as Carol Valenzuela, but the other would go unidentified for 41 years, until DNA testing revealed it was Martha Morrison, who disappeared from Portland in 1974.

Detectives have long believed Warren Forrest used his blue van to kidnap girls and women and he was responsible for the deaths of Grissim, Valenzuela, Morrison and Gloria Knutson, Barbara Ann Derry and Krista Blake.

Forrest is suspected of attacking 8 women in Clark County. Two survivors include then-15-year-old Norma Countryman, who in 1974 was tied to a tree in the forest near Battle Ground.

A family photo of Norma Countryman, who is believed to have been a victim of Warren Forrest. (Courtesy photo)
A family photo of Norma Countryman, who is believed to have been a victim of Warren Forrest. (Courtesy photo)

According to an article in The Columbian, Countryman chewed through the twine around the tree and, with her hands and ankles still tied together, hopped away. In a family photo taken a few days later you can see she had a black eye.

Forrest was never convicted for that attack. He plead not guilty by reason of insanity to the abduction and brutal attack on a 20-year-old woman, who he abducted from Portland and left for dead at Lacamas Lake Park near Camas on October 1, 1974.

After several years at the state hospital, Forrest was about to be set free when Clark County prosecutors charged him in the death of 20-year-old Krista Blake. Her body was found on July 11, 1976 in a shallow grave 200 yards from where Countryman was attacked. Blake was last seen getting into a blue van in Vancouver exactly two years earlier.

Forrest was convicted in 1979 and has been in prison ever since. In a 2014 parole hearing, Forrest admitted what he did.

“I attacked the individual. While forcing the victim to undress, there was a struggle and during the struggle I choked the victim to death,” he said.

Lara hopes in his upcoming parole hearing on May 16, he will reveal secrets about her sister.

“She is always on my mind,” Lara said. “Throughout the day, before I go to bed, when I get up. Especially when I hear things about sisters and I think what could have been.”

An undated photo of Jamie Grissim and Starr Lara with their dog, Buster, at Grace Stilts Vancouver, Washington. (Courtesy of Starr Lara)
An undated photo of Jamie Grissim and Starr Lara with their dog, Buster, at Grace Stilts Vancouver, Washington. (Courtesy of Starr Lara)

In the past, the parole board said it would not let Forrest out of prison unless he comes clean about all his crimes — but if he confesses to killing Jamie and others, he would face prosecution for those crimes.