Family of fifth woman found dead in Portland area seeking


By Connor McCarthy

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — More than a week after the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced a person of interest they believe is connected to the death of four metro area women, the family of a fifth woman who was also found dead this year is speaking out.

Ariel Hamby said she’s determined to find out what happened to her step-sister, 32-year-old JoAnna Speaks.

For weeks, the community thought her death was connected to the death of five other women who were found in the Portland Metro Area over the last six months. However, the Multnomah County District Attorney only linked four women, Charity Perry, Kristin Smith, Ashley Real, and Bridget Webster to a potential person of interest.

Hamby said they haven’t learned any new information about JoAnna’s case, just the new information in the cases of the four other women. She said she is grateful investigators are making headwind on their cases but not having JoAnna included does feel like a setback.

“For a second were like dang, we’re one step behind now, but I do believe that there is a connection there,” Hamby said. “It’s maybe just not as obvious as they found for the other girls.”

JoAnna’s body was found in Ridgefield inside an abandoned barn this past April. Her death happened around the same time the bodies of other women were being discovered around the greater Portland Metro Area. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office ruled her death a homicide.

“I think the fact that we have a crime scene in Washington has a lot to do with how hard it is to put so many of these pieces together,” Hamby said. “We can place all of these girls in similar areas with similar people that have mutual friends.”

Hamby said she is waiting for evidence to show JoAnna’s death is linked to the person of interest announced by the Multnomah County District Attorney.

Even though JoAnna hasn’t been linked to the individual, Hamby said it’s relieving to know that she and the families of the other four women were onto something from the beginning.

“There was something about everyone seeing what you see from the inside that it feels like there’s a little bit of justice in that too,” Hamby said.

Hamby said she wakes every day with the goal of finding justice for JoAnna. You can see the motivation to find answers in her interview sitting behind Hamby with a poster that reads ‘JoAnna Speaks, Murdered.’

“I actually carry a stack of those around with me in my bag so I can hand them out,” Hamby said. “We are remembering her strength right now. There was nothing she couldn’t accomplish if she put her mind to it. She was so strong. She didn’t fear anything.”

Despite progress in the other four similar cases, Hamby wants everyone to remember JoAnna’s is still unsolved.

“I just don’t want her case to be forgotten,” Hamby said. “She was a loved, beautiful person who was going through some of her own struggles. But we miss her, more than anything.”

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office released a statement about JoAnna’s investigation when the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office made their announcement last week:

“The Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Major Crimes Unit (MCU) is in communication with detectives from the other involved area law enforcement agencies. MCU is investigating the possibility the murder of Joanna Speaks could be connected to other area cases. At this time, MCU detectives have no evidence confirming that Joanna Speaks homicide is connected to these other cases. Detectives are still gathering and reviewing evidence and statements.

As this is an active investigation, no additional details of the investigation are being released at this time.”

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