Cold case heats up, netting five suspects

For two years a vicious midnight robbery of a home-based business on Brookdale Avenue confounded investigators.

On June 10, 2007, an armed robber crept into the home's backyard, smashed a 56-year-old man in the face with a handgun, taped him to a chair and snatched cash from his business, then disappeared, Medford police said.

Investigators suspected that the robber or robbers had known something about the business to target it.

"We figured they were local, but no one was talking," Medford police Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said. "We never caught any leads."

The case sat near the top of the list of unsolved major crimes scrawled on a white board at the Medford Police Department, but no clues surfaced.

Across the state, however, St. Helen's police collected tips on a burglary gone wrong as rumors of a homicide circulated among criminals there, Budreau said.

This month, the scattered pieces of the cold case finally dropped into place, leading to the arrests of five people. On Thursday, a Jackson County grand jury indicted Misty Dawn Anderson, 25, of Medford, Nathan Benjamin Story, 28, of St. Helens, Clarence LeRoy Porter, 48, of Scapoose, and Christopher James Marsh, 27, of St. Helens, on charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and second-degree assault. Marsh also was charged with being a felon in possession of a handgun.

A fifth suspect — Jason Edward Johnson, 32, of Portland — also wanted on unrelated parole-violation warrants out of Portland, was arrested at a traffic stop in Scapoose Thursday. He is lodged in the Columbia County Jail. Investigators want to interview him and expect to file more charges, Budreau said.

"The fact that they were from out of town was what made this so hard to solve," he said.

Investigators said that Anderson had moved to Medford from St. Helens, but stayed in contact with Story, who is the father of her children. She had worked for the victim of the crime and police said she provided Story, Porter, Marsh and Johnson with vital information about the man and his business when they visited her the day before the robbery. The day after the crime, they returned to St. Helens.

At about 12:45 a.m. on June 10, 2007, however, they went to the Brookdale home, police said. When the victim went to investigate suspicious noises in his backyard, a man with a long-barreled handgun confronted him. The armed man hit the victim in the face with the gun, breaking bones in his face, Budreau said.

The robber duct-taped the man to a chair, taping his hands together in front of him, police said. Then, the robber snatched cash and fled out the back door.

A passing patrol car spooked the robbers, who ditched the money and fled, although the officer never saw them, Budreau said.

The victim freed himself after about five minutes and called 9-1-1. Police arrived about a minute later. They searched the neighborhood with the help of a dog, recovering the cash, but finding no other sign of the robbers, Budreau said.

Police collected evidence from the crime scene and interviewed neighbors, but the local investigation went cold. It stayed cold until St. Helens police tracked their tips back to Medford this month.

On Monday, Budreau and another Medford detective headed north to talk to suspects and witnesses there. They recovered two handguns suspected of being used in the crime.

On Wednesday, they arrested Story and Marsh, lodging them in the Columbia County Jail. Portland police arrested Porter Thursday and booked him into the Multnomah County Jail. Anderson was locked up in the Jackson County Jail Thursday.

Second-degree assault and first-degree robbery are Measure 11 crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences and $1 million bails.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

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