Cold Case: Murder of teen was 'like being struck by lightning' - KPTV - FOX 12

Cold Case: Brutal murder of teen 'like being struck by lightning'

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More than 35 years later, the sexual assault and murder of a 17-year-old girl in Portland continues to haunt cold case homicide detectives.

"She was just a young girl on the verge of starting her life," said Mike Stahlman, a retired homicide detective with the Portland Police Bureau.

Sharon Ryan was the quintessential American girl next door. A dancer for Jefferson High School, she was featured in the local newspaper.

"She was 17 years old, just a school girl," Stahlman said.

The night of Dec. 16, 1976, was a normal night at her home on northeast Flanders. Ryan lived there with her sister and brother-in-law.

"It was a Thursday night, a school night, about a week before Christmas, and she was baking cookies and realized she didn't have eggs for the recipe," he recalled.

She told her sister she was going to a nearby grocery store for the eggs.  Police said she grabbed a few dollars and didn't even take her purse.

Police know she made it to the store because they would later find the store receipt, but Ryan had vanished.

The story of her disappearance made headlines.

What had happened to Sharon Ryan?

Two days later, friends and family searching the area found a carton of broken eggs. Tucked into an overgrown apartment complex garden on Northeast 28th Avenue, Ryan's partially-clothed body was found.

"There was quite a bit of violence, she probably struggled, she'd been badly victimized really," Stahlman said. "There were witnesses who saw a young girl that matched her description struggling with a man at that time and there was a witness that heard yells for help, but did not go to investigate."

Police did make arrest, but a jury acquitted the suspect and the homicide remains unsolved. Stahlman recently reviewed the case that he said is particularly disturbing.

"It was like being struck by lightning, you go out the door for 10 minutes to the nearby market and you die," he said.

There were no other cases at the time that stood out as being connected.  36 years later, police still think someone should pay for stealing Sharon Ryan's life.  They don't know if she was targeted or if it was simply a crime of opportunity. A teenage girl walking alone, who would never make it home.

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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