Suspected serial killer Warren Forrest was found guilty by a southwest Washington jury for slaying 17-year-old Martha Morrison of Portland, Oregon, nearly 50 years ago.
After about 90 minutes of deliberation Wednesday, the Clark County jury found Forrest guilty of first-degree murder, CBS affiliate KOIN-TV reported.
Morrison’s remains were discovered Oct. 12, 1974, by members of a hunting party in a densely wooded area of Dole Valley in eastern Clark County. The remains weren’t identified until 2015 when her DNA was discovered on the grip of a dart gun found at Forrest’s home, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Prosecutors filed the murder charge against Forrest in late 2019.
During closing arguments Wednesday, Clark County prosecutor Lauren Boyd said the DNA breakthrough, along with Forrest’s pattern of abducting, abusing and leaving young women for dead in rural Clark County in 1974, was enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted on a plan to kill Morrison.
“It’s not a mistake that Martha’s blood is on the grip of this gun,” Boyd said. “There is no other explanation for that except that the defendant is her killer.”
Warren’s attorney, Sean Downs, called Morrison and Forrest “perfect strangers” and said the state failed to meet its burden of proof because there was no evidence showing exactly when, where or how Morrison died.
State prosecutors called on more than 30 witnesses to testify over six days in court, including Norma Jean Lewis, who was 15 in 1974 when she said Forrest abducted and attacked her. She testified that he left her bound to a tree and that she was able to break free.
“So many of those young girls, their parents died without knowing what happened to their daughters,” Lewis told KOIN-TV. “I don’t care about anything else, I just want answers for those families that don’t know what happened to their loved ones.”
Forrest – who has already spent over 40 years in prison as part of a life sentence for the 1974 killing of Krista Kay Blake – will be sentenced in this case on Feb. 17.
Blake, 20, was last seen July 11, 1974, climbing into his light blue van.
The former Battle Ground, Washington, man is suspected in the disappearances and deaths of nine girls and women in Clark County between 1971 and 1974, including Blake and Morrison, according to court records and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Morrison’s brother, Michael, told KOIN-TV there is still work to be done for the other suspected victims.
“This isn’t about just killing Martha, it’s about all the rest of us that have had to deal with this for years and years. That’s hard on people,” Michael Morrison said.