Cold case: Elderly woman assaulted, found dead in burning home

File image: 1988

Portland police cold case investigators are taking another look at the suspicious death of a 77-year-old woman, who was found dead in her burning home in 1988.

Grace Turel died of asphyxia, but she was assaulted before someone set fire to her house on Southeast 21st Avenue, according to police.

A garbage man on his regular route first noticed the smoke coming from Turel's home on April 22, 1988.

"He immediately ran over," said Portland Police Detective Mary Wheat. "He tried to actually get in through a side door to offer assistance but the flames and smoke were too much. He could see Grace lying on the floor but he just couldn't get in."

Wheat said Turel was already dead.

"Fortunately, because he saw it and he reacted, the fire bureau could get out here and put out the fire, which did save a lot of potential evidence," Wheat said.

Despite that evidence, a suspect was never named.

The original investigators did develop a theory, especially after noticing something odd at the home.

"There was a door left ajar," Det. John Bocciolatt told Fox 12 in a 1988 interview. "It's been reported the victim here is usually very security conscious, usually keeps doors locked and closed."

Wheat said the original investigators found no signs of forced entry, leading them to believe Turel was killed by someone she knew.

"It's all very sad," Wheat said. "That makes it even harder to get your arms around an investigation like this."

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.

Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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