Case of custodian stabbed in heart remains unsolved - KPTV - FOX 12

Case of custodian stabbed in heart remains unsolved

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Robert Duncan was a humble, unassuming man who spent most of his time working.

"He was a giving person all his life and he never really thought of himself," said Marilyn Boyle, Duncan's niece.

"He was just a working stiff, getting up every morning and going to work," said retired homicide detective Dennis Boyle, who recently reviewed the Duncan murder.

On Sept. 16, 1991, the 50-year-old Portland man was doing his job as a custodian at Sunnyside Elementary School in southeast Portland, according to cold case investigators.

At about 6 a.m., as he was preparing to open the school, Duncan was confronted and stabbed twice.  The fatal blow was a stab wound to the heart. 

Several witnesses reported hearing Duncan screaming.

"To go out, just do his job.  He was raising the American flag," Boyle said. "People don't have the right to take a life like that. He wasn't deserving of that."

"Stabbing is -- shooting someone you can stand back," Baker said.  "But stabbing someone, that takes a different type of person."

Duncan not only lost his life, but his severely disabled wife, Jan, who suffered from cerebral palsy, also lost her husband and caregiver.

FOX 12 interviewed her shortly after Duncan's murder.

"He had no enemies," Jan Duncan said in 1991.

Jan Duncan has since passed away, never knowing who killed her beloved spouse.

Detectives say robbery may have been a motive for Robert Duncan's murder; the victim's wallet was found nearby.

Police say several subjects were seen running away from the scene, one of them wearing a distinctive dark-blue fur jacket with security emblems.

Investigators also have the Oregon State Police crime lab retesting some forensic evidence.

Family members say Robert Duncan never thought of himself.

"I was shocked. Who would want to hurt Bobby?" said Robert Grubbs, Duncan's former brother-in-law. "At his memorial service, there were homeless people there who stood up and talked about how he'd help them get on their feet. That's the kind of guy he was."

The kind of man who still deserves justice.

If you have any information about this crime, you can 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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