Cold case: Killers robbed, strangled retired couple - KPTV - FOX 12

Cold case: Killers robbed, strangled retired couple

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Robert and Frieda Wheatley were a quiet, retired couple. 

In 1988, they were trying to sell their north Portland home. Portland police cold case investigators said the Wheatleys were murdered by a killer or killers posing as prospective buyers.

"Why would a stranger just randomly come in and kill older people who hadn't done them any harm?" asked Judi Randall, Frieda Wheatley's daughter.

It was Aug. 29, 1988, when Randall and other family members hadn't heard from the couple in a few days.  Randall and her teenage daughter, Jennifer, went to the house in the 2600 block of North Holman Street to investigate.

"It was a hot August night. I remember, because we sat in the car and waited, hoping they would show up," Randall recalled.

The next day, they returned and this time summoned police.

"I pulled back the curtains, all the dressers had been dumped. It was a mess. That was a sign right there that something was wrong," Randall said.

"(The) officer didn't know there was a basement. I ended up showing them the basement," Frieda Wheatley's granddaughter, Jennifer Brown, remembered. "And they were down there."

Cold case investigators said 61-year-old Robert Wheatley and his 69-year-old wife, Frieda, had been murdered in their own home.

The crime was pre-meditated, detectives said, and the killers posed as prospective buyers.

"(Someone) indicated he was interested in purchasing the house and would pay full cash. The name that was used (was) the name of an actual individual of a local university who had his identification stolen from his car," said retired detective George Young, who recently reviewed the case.

Investigators say Frieda Wheatley's 1979 Buick Regal was stolen, as were bank and credit cards.  The cards were used extensively at ATMs and businesses in north, northeast and downtown Portland prior to the bodies being discovered.  The car was recovered a few days later in the parking lot of a Jantzen Beach shopping center. 

The unsolved murders have haunted not only the Wheatley family, but the investigators assigned to the case.

In  2006, police and family held a press conference to announce a new reward of $10,000 for information leading to an arrest.

"I know that maybe this money, this amount of reward, may tempt someone and I hope it does," Frieda Wheatley's son, Randy Copenhaver, said in 2006.

But six years have passed with no arrests.

Police do have some forensic evidence that may be re-tested with new technology, but investigators said they're convinced that someone in the community knows who killed the Wheatleys.

For Frieda Wheatley's daughter and granddaughter, time can't be recovered -- time lost with a humble woman who was always there for them.

"Something would happen and I would run to the phone and want to tell my mother. You never get over that," Randall said.

Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in this case, or any unsolved felony, and you can remain anonymous.

Leave a Crime Stoppers tip online at, text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP, followed by your tip, or call 503-823-HELP (4357) and leave your tip information.

Visit to download the Crime Stoppers App for the iPhone or Droid.

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