GRESHAM, OR (KPTV) - A Gresham-area man is facing charges of second-degree murder and abuse of a corpse after police got a tip and found a man dead in a unit of the Glen East Apartments off Northeast Glisan Street near 162nd Avenue.
“They were wearing hazmat suits and I saw them coming out with big, brown paper bags,” said neighbor Dalton Walls, recalling the swarm of police and forensic team that spent hours Thursday and early Friday morning at the apartment.
Saturday, police announced the arrest of 43-year-old Lewis Philips and identified the victim as 54-year-old Mark Lawrence Whitaker.
Salena Becerra told FOX 12 she’s been Whitaker’s neighbor for her entire three years living at the complex.
“It’s been hard because it’s two doors down from me and I have a toddler and it’s kind of sad because I did know him and he was a nice guy,” Becerra said. “And I don’t think anyone would deserve something like that.”
Becerra described Whitaker as quiet, reserved and someone who rarely left his apartment. She also called him neighborly and recalled his unexpected kindness toward her family.
“He came over on Christmas for my son’s first year, and he brought my son toys and he gave me a gift card and bought me a gift and he did that every year for Christmas,” Becerra said.
Becerra told FOX 12 she hadn’t seen Whitaker in at least three weeks but didn’t think anything of it.
Then she and other neighbors said they started smelling a terrible odor that reminded them of a dead animal.
“I honest to God thought it was like a dead rat or something, until the maintenance man started smelling it and questioning it,” Becerra said. “And then when the cops showed up, we found out that’s what the smell was. I didn’t know, but it was horrible.”
So far, police have revealed few details about the case and court documents are sealed.
It’s unclear what type of relationship Whitaker may have had with Philips, but jail paperwork shows Phillips claimed to have lived alone in the same apartment that Whitaker rented.
Neighbors said, as far as they knew, Whitaker lived alone in the apartment, but several people told FOX 12 they’d seen Philips hanging around in the courtyard recently.
One woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said she even talked to Philips on two occasions and found him odd.
Investigators have not said how or when Whitaker died.
Walls said the case is scary and disturbing, but he feels better now that there’s been an arrest.
“When they finally did catch the guy, that was a relief to me because I didn’t know if he’d been in the apartments a bunch of times or not,” Walls said.
Court records show that Philips most recently was on probation for a burglary conviction.
He’ll be back in court next week.