On the hunt for a serial killer in Portland – KATU
PORTLAND, Ore. — Serial killers can hide for years in plain sight.
We look at a local case that confounded police for 10 years. In May of 1981, Victor Stevens walked the path his daughter took the day she disappeared.
“Heavy heart. I don’t know what the next step is,” he said. “Keep hoping.”
His daughter, 17-year-old Kimberly Stevens, was a junior at Jackson High in Southwest Portland. She was supposed to walk 10 blocks from her house to a friend’s. She never arrived.
“It was quickly evident that there was something horrifically wrong,” said her sister, who wants to remain unidentified.
Her sister was very caring, she said, and would never have run away.
“The only other alternative is a terrifying reality of what could have happened,” she said. “And then it did.”
Kimberly’s body was found on Mother’s Day. Police said she had been raped and strangled, and left by a church. The family’s world fell apart, her sister said.
“All of a sudden, it’s you in this movie nightmare that you don’t wake up from. You can’t leave it,” she said.
The terror was just beginning for Southwest Portland. Around the same time, 17-year-old Melina Crist also disappeared from the Portland Community College Sylvania campus. The same month, Norene Davis, a bartender at The General Store Restaurant and Lounge on Southwest Hall, and a mother of two, left work when she got a call saying a friend had been in an accident. Her body was found the next day, in a wooded area, raped and strangled, police said.
At the end of May, police said, there was another victim in Southwest Portland.
Sheila Burnett left a note saying her son had been in a crash. She never came back. Police warned there was a hunter was on the prowl.
“We discovered that several people in the area have received calls asking them to respond to someplace nearby where a friend or relative had been hurt,” police announced on KATU News.
“The people who lived in whole large areas of Southwest Portland were terrified to walk the dog, to go for a jog,” Kimberly’s sister said. “They knew there was a killer that was out there among us all.”
Who was the killer? That was the question for Portland police Detective Mike Hefley, working his first big case in 1981. He came to suspect a local landscaper, Alvin Brown, who was also a convicted rapist.
“He was in my neighborhood,” Hefley said. “A couple of times I ran into him with my kids.”
“‘Bud’ is what he was known as. He was a Portland boy, grew up in Southwest Portland,” said JD Chandler, a local crime author.
Brown went to Jackson High School, too, a decade before Kimberly Stevens, playing on the football team and in band.
“He was a car guy, hung out with a crowd of car maniacs,” said Chandler.
Hefley said the young athlete and “car guy” grew into a cunning, violent serial killer. But he said, despite long hours of detective work, they could not get the evidence they needed for a conviction. The families suffered, said Kimberly’s sister.
“It was day by day, and month by month, and year by year,” she said. “It was just this freeze-frame nightmare.”
At last there was a breakthrough 10 years after Kimberly’s murder, Hefley said. Someone threw a woman from an I-5 overpass, nearly killing her, he said.
His investigations and his surveillance led to Brown. For him, the agonizing wait was over in November of 1991.
“It finally culminated in his last day of freedom. Thanksgiving Day,” Hefley said.
With the arrest, he said, police could draw his blood, and found DNA evidence connecting Brown to Kimberly’s body, as well as to the body of Norene Davis.
Brown went to court for the freeway attack, and police held a press conference to warn the public. They had just found Sheila Burnett’s remains at a home Brown used to rent, and declared him the prime suspect in all four murders. Melina Crist’s body had been found about two years after she disappeared.
Hefley said Brown was violent.
“In our interview, he exploded and grabbed my necktie. And fortunately, I was able to get a wristlock on him. And finally got him cuffed,” he said.
After he was cuffed, Brown spoke chilling words, Hefley remembered.
“He says, ‘I’m just like Hannibal Lecter. That’s my favorite movie,'” Hefley said.
Brown was never convicted of the murders. Hefley said he went to prison for other crimes and died behind bars in 2002.
“I honestly don’t know what happens to a person that really causes them to just be this pure presence and essence of evil,” Kimberly’s sister said.
She said her family did not recover from the loss of Kimberly.
“Her whole future and her whole life was taken away in an instant. And that’s just not fair,” she said. Her sister said she wants Kimberly’s story told. “I hope she has a way to know he’s dead now, too.”