6 Of Oregon’s Most Famous (and prolific) Serial Killers

When my wife and I were on a recent road trip through Oregon to the coast we somehow got on the topic of Gary Ridgeway, a serial killer. Neither of us knew whether he was still alive or whether we were driving through the very area where he once prowled and murdered.

So what better way to spend the time on our way to the beach than by reading about some of Oregon’s most prolific and terrifying serial killers?

Although it turns out that Ridgeway wasn’t even on the list since he is actually one of Washington’s most prolific serial killers.

Thankfully, my wife and I are not alone in being macabrely interested in serial killers, at least in passing. With the recent flurry of true crime shows it has become common to be shocked and interested in dark minds. Who are they and why did they do what they did?

Oregon has produced its share of dangerous killers who have left behind some gory scenes.

So let’s look at some of the most prominent murderers in Oregon state history.

1. Randall Woodfield

Also known as the “I-5 Bandit”, Randall Woodfield is linked to a string of murders in the 1980s. Shockingly, he was a draft pick for the Green Bay Packers.

However, he was shortly let go by the team. He had a long history of exposing himself to women. But, after the disappointment of being fired from his sporting team, his behavior took a more disturbing turn.

He started to prowl up and down the I-5, looking for women. Most of his victims were in their teens or 20s. Sometimes, he would force them to perform sex acts at knifepoint. At other times, he would sodomize them, then kill them with a bullet to the back of the head.

Eventually, police were able to arrest him, and he is currently serving time in Oregon prison. He’s only been charged with one murder, but investigators think he might have killed as many as 44 people.

2. Jerry Brudos

Though Jerry Brudos, also known as “The Shoe Fetish Killer”, was born in South Dakota, his family moved to Oregon when he was a child, and it was this state where he would commit his horrific crimes.

From a young age, he had a fascination with shoes, stemming from childhood abuse inflicted at his mother’s hands. As a teenager, he would stalk local girls, assaulting them and stealing their shoes.

However, between 1968 and 1969, this behavior would escalate, making him one of the most disturbing killers in Oregon history. During this period, he murdered four women.

His first victim, Linda Slawson, was a saleswoman who he convinced to come down to his basement. Once there, she was struck with a plank of wood and strangled. He also cut off her foot, storing it in his freezer, where he would use it to model shoes. Over the next few days, he dressed her corpse in clothes, taking provocative pictures before dumping her in the Willamette River.

Jan Susan Whitney was his next victim. He strangled her in his car. Then, he took her into the basement, hanging her on a pulley. Over the next few days, he took pictures of her and had sex with the corpse. He cut off her breast and made a mold, which he used as a paperweight.

The third victim was Karen Sprinker. He abducted her from a parking lot while dressed in women’s clothing. Then, he took her to the basement, where he forced her to dress in women’s clothes while he raped her. Eventually, he strangled her. He also made molds of her breasts and had sex with her corpse.

Finally, he killed Linda Salee after raping and strangling her. Thankfully, the police found the bodies in the river and ended his gruesome crime spree.

He got life imprisonment and died in 2006. His gory legacy inspired chilling movie villains, like Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. 

3. Dayton Leroy Rogers

Rodgers is also known as the “Molalla Forest Killer”, after the location where the bodies of his victims were discovered.

Before his murder spree, he had a long history of violent behavior. When he was 19, he stabbed his 15-year-old girlfriend on their second date. For that crime, he received four years in prison.

Throughout the ensuing years, he would continue to attack women. Though he would claim he had a mental illness, which helped keep him out of prison. However, in 1987, he killed Jennifer Lisa Smith, stabbing her 11 times in a parking lot.

Witnesses were alerted to the crime when her bloody body fell out of his truck as he tried to make a getaway. He was tracked back to his house, where he was arrested.

Several weeks later, six more victims were found in the Molalla State Forest. They were all prostitutes he had taken to the woods, tied up, and killed.

Due to the violent nature and the number of victims, he has been sentenced to death. But this verdict has been scrutinized multiple times by the Oregon courts. In 2021, the death penalty was overturned for the fifth time, and Dayton will be serving life in prison instead.

4. Keith Hunter Jesperson

Keith Hunter Jesperson is serving a life sentence in Oregon prison for murdering a string of women. His first victim was Taunja Bennett, whom he strangled after a violent conversation in a bar.

However, the most fascinating aspect is how he taunted the police and media, leaving notes explaining who he killed. Each of these notes was marked with a smiley face.

The note he sent to The Oregonian spanned six pages and included the locations of the bodies. Since he was caught, he has said he killed over 185 people, though only six have been officially attributed to him. 

5. Douglas Franklin Wright

Douglas Wright has a lengthy criminal history that began when he was kicked out of the Marine Corps for sexually assaulting a five-year-old.

In 1969, he broke into Margaret Rosenberry’s home, shooting the grandmother and her grandchild Gail Snelling before stealing Snelling’s five-year-old son. He took the boy to a motel and molested him. This sparked a manhunt across Oregon, with police eventually finding and arresting Wright.

But his crime spree wasn’t over yet.

He was paroled from prison in 1982 for good behavior. Upon release, he abducted a ten-year-old child and molested him before killing the boy. This case would go unsolved until Wright confessed.

He also committed several armed robberies, which got him arrested and thrown back in jail.

But after seven years, he was out and continued his disturbing murders. He found homeless men and offered them work at a remote camp. Then, he drove them into the desert before shooting them.

He killed four people before being found by police. He was the first prisoner in Oregon to receive the death penalty after it was reinstated in 1984.

6. Theodore “Ted” Bundy

No serial killer list is complete without the infamous Ted Bundy. Bundy’s lone Oregon victim ended up on Taylor Mountain, where most of his Washington victims were laid to rest.

The victim was Roberta Kathleen Parks, an Oregon State University student. In 1974, Parks was Bundy’s 5th victim out of 30 across the United States.

Ted Bundy continued his killing spree for 4 more years across the states of California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Utah, and Washington.

Conclusion

Luckily, Oregon is beautiful enough that we were able to distract ourselves with the beauty of Harris Beach and not dwell on the things we had read on the drive.

However, it did change my view of the state a bit to know that beneath the surface is lurking a dark and murderous past. Despite the beauty, it turns out that Oregon is/was home to some of the darkest minds in history.

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