Two local authors work to close cold case six decades old - KPTV - FOX 12

Two local authors work to close cold case six decades old

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Two unlikely detectives are working to close a case more than six decades old, diving deeper into the city's forgotten murders on Portland's waterfront.

To solve the murders, two authors say you have to immerse yourself in Portland's history.

The year was 1948, three years after the end of World War II, a time when city officials were rumored to be conspiring with notorious criminals for profit and power.

And it's possible, they say, that the three people they are focusing on were killed to cover it all up.

Their investigation is centered around the intersection of 3rd and Burnside.

"There were lots of dead bodies. Sometimes they were listed as accidents. Sometimes bodies were never identified," said historian JD Chandler. "It's still a controversial case."

But even the deepest of secrets always seem to find their way to the surface, and JB Fisher is the man looking to expose them.

"Driving along there now, every time, I can't not think about what was there and how things were," said Fisher.

Fisher is no detective. It's almost as if the mystery on 3rd and Burnside was calling to him, beckoning from beyond the grave.

"A surprising number of coincidences have enabled me to find my way through this," said Fisher.

The Portland Community College professor found newspaper clippings from the 1940's hidden in his old garage.

"They were in really good shape, right on top of my water heater, and it did seem like there was a reason that they were there," said Fisher. "It really is like going back in time."

Captivated by what he stumbled upon, Fisher was relentless in his research, always looking for clues and new leads.

"A lot of this stuff certainly is not on the internet to Google," said Fisher.

And through all that research, Fisher would soon meet Chandler, a historian deeply intrigued with murder.

"When you're looking at murder, it gives you information about how people live," said Chandler.

Together the two began researching the case, looking through just about anything ever printed or photographed about the murders of Pierre Schultze, Roman Podlas and Jo Ann Dewey.

"We say it's a combination of luck and obsession," laughed Chandler.

What they began unraveling was a tangled web of corruption.

"Part of theory is that Schultze was killed because he was blackmailing someone powerful. Podlas was killed because he knew about Schultze's murder. We think Dewey was killed because she knew about both of them," said Chandler.

Then perhaps their biggest break yet: they hunted down the files of the original detective assigned to the case, Walter Graven.

"It was very exciting. There were lots of little treasures in there," said Fisher.

Personal notebooks, intimate information and all of Walter Graven's original leads from the investigation are now at their fingertips.

"Detective Graven had some interesting suspects, but we don't have enough to know 'x' is the killer," said Chandler.

The two also uncovered a note the detective wrote to then Sheriff Terry Schrunk, which reveals perhaps why the case was never solved.

Graven wrote Schrunk to be relieved of his assignment, saying that his superiors were deliberately ignoring evidence.

"He made it very clear in his efforts that he was hitting walls," said Fisher.

Now, it's up to one historian and one professor to try to finish the job more than six decades later.

"My training is in Renaissance literature and Shakespeare," said Fisher. "But this is almost as Shakespearian as Shakespeare.

Two men from a different era, with guidance from Walter Graven, are using signs hidden in Portland to unravel a mystery.

"I feel like Walter Graven left all this behind to have someone finish the job that he couldn't do. So really, for me, it's about fulfilling that for his family and his legacy," said Fisher.

The two are raising money to publish their findings and are keeping some information about the case close to the vest until that time.

If you want to help fund their project visit:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/407123552/portland-into-the-vice-age-1934-1955-is-almost-don

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