Portland police identify suspect from 1963 murder

Credit: Portland Police Bureau

Mary Frances Reid was murdered in Portland in 1963 and police Tuesday identified a suspect in the case.

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by Michael Rollins, KGW Staff

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 22, 2011 at 3:31 PM

PORTLAND -- Retired Portland Police Bureau homicide detectives who volunteer to work on cold cases have identified a suspect from a 1963 murder.

Mary F. Reid, then 22, was found dead on April 8 in her Northeast Portland apartment, said bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

She lived at 3603 NE 9th Ave., and Reid was found by her sister Joanne. An autopsy showed Reid died of homicidal violence, Simpson said.

Since the murder, the original homicide detectives have passed on, but Reid's brother Joe never gave up on the case, Simpson said. He went to the bureau's Cold Case unit in 2008 with what he thought might be a lead.

Sgt. Paul Weatheroy, who headed the unit, assigned the case to retired detective Dennis Baker, who works with other detectives on cold cases through a federal grant.

The 48-year-old murder was investigated before video cameras, computers, or modern polygraph tests. Detectives found evidence in 1963 and identified a suspect, but were unable to make an arrest, Simpson said.

Baker was able to find two witnesses still alive. One of them provided key evidence in 1963 that led to the suspect.

The case was then assigned to current detective Jim Lawrence, who interviewed the witness again earlier this year. His story of the killing remain unchanged.

Back in 1963, the second witness was unable to corroborate the events as described by the first witness. He too was interviewed again earlier this year and the reason for the discrepancy became clear. The witness said he feared the suspect and had remained silent about some aspects of the murder.

In the latest interviews, both witnesses provided near identical accounts of what happened, even though neither had spoken to each other since 1963. Both told detectives they felt relief at providing a complete accounting of what happened in Mary Reid's death.

The suspect is Johnny Lawrence, who was 42 at the time, Simpson said. He may be dead, but if not, and if he's found, he's under arrest for murder, Simpson said.

People who knew Lawrence said he led a lifestyle that casts doubt that he's still alive. There's word that he died a violent death in Kansas City or an East Coast city.

Lawrence was born around 1921. He's African-American and at the time of the murder was 5 foot 7 and 150 pounds. Before coming to Portland in the late 1950s, he lived in St. Louis, Mo. He also had spent some time in San Quentin prison in California.

Anyone with information about Lawrence, including whether he died or not, was asked to call the Portland Police Cold Case Homicide Unit at (503) 823-9748 or (503) 823-0867.

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