Families of dead Portland area women to hold BBQ fundraiser as investigation continues

Families of women found dead say not much has happened since the Multnomah County DA announced a person of interest in four deaths, two months ago.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 5:30 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Two months ago the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced a person of interest in the deaths of four missing women, but families of the victims say not much has happened since.

The bodies of Kristin Smith, Charity Perry, Bridget Webster, Ashley Real and JoAnna Speaks were all found around the Portland Metro area earlier this year after they were reported missing. JoAnna’s death is the only one that hasn’t been officially linked to the person of interest.

RELATED: Dozens of missing women, girls in Portland-area raise ‘red flag,’ cold-case expert says

Ariel Hamby, sister of JoAnna, and Melissa Smith, mother of Kristin, say they haven’t heard much from investigators about where their individual cases stand.

“[We’re] just continuing our slow investigations and reporting back to my detective everything we find out,” Hamby said.

“I haven’t had any updates from detectives,” Smith said. “I know they’re keeping everything pretty close to the vest and working hard.”

Smith said she and the other families have united together to find out any information they can on their own.

“We’ve been trying to research and get any tips or information that we can give to our detectives,” Smith said.

Though JoAnna’s death hasn’t been linked to the person of interest, Hamby believes her sister is connected to the other four women. But she said she’s letting investigators draw any official conclusions.

RELATED: Family of fifth woman found dead in Portland area seeking answers

“I think as a community, sometimes we hear something that aligns with what we hope is true so we personally convict before that evidence is laid out there or there’s charges,” Hamby said. “As of now, he has not been charged in anything related to our girls.”

In the meantime, the families will be holding a barbecue fundraiser at Happy Valley Park on Sept. 23.

Hamby and Smith said it’s a chance for the families of all the victims to come together and interact with the community. There will also be t-shirts, bumper stickers and other items with the victims’ names the families said will help keep their loved ones’ stories alive.

“We want it to be a joyful day where we can have fun and really thank the community that’s been supporting us while also offering awareness and resources,” Hamby said.

RELATED: ‘Person of interest’ in deaths of 4 women was released early for good behavior, fighting wildfires, court documents show

Hamby and Smith said the money raised will go to the families, but they’re also inviting community organizations out to the barbecue to help make people aware of their services. They will be handing out information on where those who are experiencing addiction, homelessness, or maybe trapped in sex trafficking can go to get help. They want the barbecue to be a chance to put a face to the dangers that young people face on the streets.

“On the streets, these people, persons whomever it is targeting these young vulnerable young women, getting them hooked on fentanyl, sex trafficking, doing all of this, and getting away with it, and then bodies just coming up missing and nobody cares,” Smith said. “Nobody is doing anything about it. ‘Oh, she was on drugs, oh she was homeless’, but was she? Because I’ll tell you what, my daughter was not. She was a victim of this.”

RELATED: Mother of dead woman, 1 of 4 linked deaths, says she knew something was wrong months before police seemed to care

FOX 12 did reach out to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office to see where the investigation stands with the person of interest. A spokesperson said there is nothing new to report at this time.

Follow this link for more information about the barbecue fundraiser