The person who killed Eleanor Baker may have hoped the Willamette River would carry her body away. Instead, a tugboat captain spotted her body floating underneath the Steel Bridge.
The discovery was made just before sunrise on March 15, 1979.
Baker's killer still has not been identified, and the Portland Police Bureau's Cold Case Homicide Unit is reviewing her murder.
Det. Jim Lawrence said police found signs of a struggle in the grass near the west side of the bridge and they believe she was strangled to death during a fight.
“They took her literally less than ten yards to the river and dropped her over,” he said.
A key police found in the grass led them to a locker at a Greyhound station.
The locker's contents helped them identify Baker, who was killed one month shy of her 47th birthday.
She arrived in Oregon only a few weeks before she was killed, hoping to get custody of her son, who was staying with relatives in Portland.
Baker had no problems with them, said Lawrence.
“She had nothing of value, no material goods, she just had a life and that's all that was taken from her,” he said. “It's hard to sit and see that and not get answers for that.”
Lawrence said she abused alcohol and struggled with mental illness. She could have violent mental health episodes, he said.
Investigators have not determined why Baker was killed, but say it is possible the fight was related to alcohol.
“In her final days here in Portland, she was seen with a variety of people, all of whom were fairly transient in nature, all of whom also abused alcohol,” Lawrence said.
There is no evidence of sexual assault, but it is possible Baker engaged in sexual activity with someone in the park before her death.
One potential clue found is a pair of men's underwear and a cloth belt found near Baker's clothes in the grass.
It is not known if the items belong to the killer, but the clothes were dry and the newspaper they were found on was damp.
If you have any information about this crime, contact Lawrence at (503) 823-0867 or James.Lawrence@PortlandOregon.gov
You can also leave a Crime Stoppers tip online at crimestoppersoforegon.com, 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.
Copyright 2014 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.