Families of Victims Speak Out as Jesse Calhoun Pleads Not Guilty in Portland Court


PORTLAND, Ore. – Following the plea of not guilty made by Jesse Lee Calhoun’s legal team on his behalf, family members connected to the victims expressed their emotions in the presence of the man suspected of causing their deaths in the year 2023.

“It’s challenging to confront him, and there are many things I would like to articulate.” Melissa Smith shared. “At the moment, it’s heart-wrenching. We’re already shattered. We’re already feeling hollow.”

Jesse Calhoun, 39, is accused of three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of second-degree abuse of a corpse in connection to the fatalities of Charity Lynn Perry, Joanna Speaks, and Bridget Leanne Webster.

Moreover, he is considered a person of interest related to the demises of two other women — Kristin Smith and Ashley Real — although he has not been formally indicted.

“We are in various positions here, but all linked with Jesse Calhoun,” Melissa, the mother of Kristin Smith, mentioned. “I’m already shattered. I’m already collapsing, but I must persist. I must continue to fight.”

Not all families of the victims could attend the court hearing for Jesse Calhoun’s arraignment on Thursday morning, but Melissa chose to be present in solidarity with those who experienced a loss linked to him.

“I’m really happy for the families of the other three victims, as this marks the first step in the right direction for them to initiate their grieving process for their loved ones,” Melissa expressed. “I stand by them through everything, and they stand by me…as we continue to struggle for the truth and the answers we deserve.”

According to legal records, Calhoun is accused of the murder of Perry and relocating her deceased body around March 8, 2023. The 24-year-old woman was discovered more than a month later in a culvert near Ainsworth State Park.

Additionally, Calhoun stands accused of murdering Joanna Speaks, 32, and then moving her body on March 18. She was located in an abandoned barn in Ridgefield in early April, although it was later revealed by the police that she might have been murdered in Portland.

Court documents also claim Calhoun’s involvement in the death of Bridget Webster, 31, on April 26, and then relocating her remains. Webster’s body was discovered on Harmony Road near Mill Creek in Polk County days later on April 30.

Prior to his official indictment in late May, Calhoun was identified as a person of interest in a total of four fatalities, including Perry and Webster — both included in the current charges against him — as well as Smith and Real, whose deaths are still being investigated.

Smith was reported missing in December 2022 and found in a wooded area of Portland months later. Real’s body was discovered in the Eagle Creek area on Sunday, May 7.

Calhoun was previously held at Snake River Correctional Institution due to a parole violation and was transferred to Multnomah County this week. Melissa stated that Thursday’s indictment is just the beginning.

“It’s devastating for us families,” Melissa expressed. “This is a nightmare to endure. No one should ever have to go through this…I don’t think we could handle this without each other.”

Jesse Calhoun’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 19.

Aimee Plante
Aimee Plante
Digital Reporter. Aimee graduated from ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism in 2017. After working at The Arizona Republic’s social media desk for a year, she uprooted her life to move to Portland, where she spent five years as a baker, line cook and butcher. Returning to the newsroom is an exciting chapter, and she enjoys reporting for the community she’s grown to love.

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