Cold case: Portland grandmother murdered in burglary gone wrong - KPTV - FOX 12

Cold case: Portland grandmother murdered in burglary gone wrong

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A burglary turned violent when the burglar realized an elderly woman was in the southeast Portland house, according to cold case investigators.

Lena Caruso Malmberg, 86, was found dead in her home on Southeast 20th Avenue the morning of July 10, 1982.

The shocking murder made headlines for weeks afterward, but the crime was never solved.

"We still kind of have a hard time believing that somebody would kill our grandma," said Jeanine Jensen, Malmberg's granddaughter.

Malmberg was prim and proper, taking great care in her appearance before she left her home. She loved to cook, making especially delicious meatballs, and carefully tended to the rose bushes outside her home.

The sweet woman also had a feisty side and would love to watch wrestling on TV, a habit she picked up from her second husband, recalled her grandchildren.

"When you see her pictures, you can just see this is everyone's grandma. Sweet looking." said Jim Navarra, Malmberg's grandson. "Why would anybody do such a horrible thing?"

Cold case investigators say someone broke into Malmberg's home thinking it was empty. He stole several items and ransacked the house.

The burglar broke down the front door, making a lot of noise, but Malmberg likely didn't hear him.

She had hearing loss, her grandchildren said, but she did not wear a hearing aid.

When the burglar encountered Malmberg in the house, he strangled her.

"That's very, very unusual," said Dick Pashely, a retired FBI agent volunteering in the Portland Police Cold Case Homicide Unit.

Pashley believes the killer's family and friends would have noticed changes in his behavior after the murder, including anxiety, sleeplessness and possibly substance abuse, and may have suspected he was involved in the murder.

"This burglar would have been having a hard time living with himself after killing a person, especially a defenseless 86-year-old woman who represented no threat to him," said Pashley.

Malmberg's grandchildren urge anyone with information that can identify a suspect and solve the murder to contact investigators.

"It is never too late to come forward because the hurt is still here," said Jensen. "It's still real. And the person who did this, should come to justice. It is never too late."

If you have any information about this crime, you can call Portland police at 503-823-0000 or leave a tip on the Portland police website.

You can also 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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