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Todd Alan Reed: The Forest Park Killer

It's deadly being homeless

By Chelsea RosePublished 29 days ago 4 min read
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Todd Alan Reed: The Forest Park Killer
Photo by Jonathan Kho on Unsplash

In the spring of 1999, the serene city of Portland, Oregon, was gripped by fear as a sinister shadow loomed over its streets. Todd Alan Reed, later infamously known as The Forest Park Killer, unleashed a reign of terror that left an indelible mark on the community.

The Early Years

Todd Alan Reed was born in Portland, Oregon, on May 22, 1967, to Ronnie Thomas and Marine Sgt. Alfred Thomas. His parents divorced when he was just four, and he was later adopted by his mother's second husband, Robert Reed. By age 14, Reed had his first brush with the law for theft, which saw him sent to a residential program for at-risk youths.

Despite earning a high-school-equivalency certificate and taking college courses in accounting and horticulture, Reed's life took a darker turn. In the summer of 1986, Reed, then 19, met 15-year-old Gail Bennett, and the two began living together.

Being young and broke, the couple relied on the generosity of friends to get by and even resorted to setting up a makeshift camp in an open field. In need of money, Reed broke into homes, stealing wine and food from freezers. But his crime spree was short-lived, and in 1987, the Gresham, Oregon, police apprehended him while he was in the act of breaking into a home.

In October 1988, Reed and Bennett were married by the same Multnomah County judge who had sentenced Reed for the burglaries. Bennett explained that they selected the same judge to demonstrate their potential and prove themselves.

And to the outside world, they seemed to hold true to their word. Reed worked various jobs, from a Sizzler restaurant to a Safeway store. He appeared to be a devoted father, but his marriage was crumbling underneath the facade. Secretive behaviour, hidden porn magazines, and a telephone bill for phone-sex lines hinted at Reed's double life.

And what a double life it was! Just one year after being married, Reed was arrested for attacking a 24-year-old pregnant woman he had lured to his car. Court records reveal that he forced her into the car at knifepoint, tied a belt around her neck, and made her perform oral sex. Reed served a prison sentence from 1992 to 1995 after pleading no contest to attempted rape. At that time, his DNA was collected and stored in the state crime lab.

Understandably, Reed's descent into darkness became too much for Bennett, and the couple divorced in 1997. Reed was ordered to pay child support and granted visits with his sons every other weekend.

Although he couldn't fool Bennett for longer, the same couldn't be said in his work life. Reed eventually found stable work at Rinella Produce, where colleagues saw him as diligent. Indeed, those who knew Todd Reed would vouch for his gentle nature. A poet, a father, a man holding down two jobs to support his sons. Yet beneath this facade, a monster lurked. As spring turned to summer in 1999, Portland's homeless women began to vanish.

The Murders

In April 1999, Lilla Faye Moler, a homeless sex worker battling bipolar disorder, disappeared. On May 7, a couple walking their dog found her body hidden beneath branches and leaves. Lilla had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Only 28 feet away from her body was a condom that had the killer's DNA on it.

Stephanie Lynn Russell, 26, a friend of Lilla's and also a homeless sex worker, was found only a quarter-mile away from the first crime scene. In a cruel twist of faith, Stephanie was actually discovered by the police on May 14 while they were searching for clues for Lilla's murder.

Albany Democrat-Herald Albany, Oregon • Sat, 5 Jun 1999 page 1

Stephanie, unfortunately, suffered a fate similar to that of her friend. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled, suggesting she had died just days before being found.

The youngest of Reed's known victims, Alexandria Nicole Ison, was a 17-year-old runaway who struggled with substance abuse and had previous involvement with the justice system.

On June 2, a hiker stumbled upon her body on a trail in Forest Park. Dumped down a steep hill, Alexandria's body bore the same horrifying marks of sexual assault and strangulation. She had been missing since May.

Suspected Victims

In Gresham, on July 3, 1987, Jennifer Lynn Tchir, who was only 15 years old then, disappeared. Last seen with Reed's then-girlfriend, Gail Bennett, her disappearance remained a mystery until human bones surfaced in July 1988. Positive identification confirmed they belonged to Jennifer, who had been strangled. The eerie pattern began to take shape.

Mindi Coleen Thomas, 12, disappeared from her Gresham apartment complex on August 3, 1987. Like Jennifer, she was last seen in the company of Gail Bennett. Mindi's remains were found near a hiking trail close to Mt. Hood Community College that October. She, too, had been strangled to death.

Longview Daily News Longview, Washington • Wed, 22 Mar 1989 Page 10

The suspect in both cases was described as a white male in his late teens to early 20s with very dark hair, military-type glasses, and driving a metallic blue Dodge Charger. Reed fit the bill, but he wasn't charged with these murders.

The Ambush

On July 7, a female police officer resembling the victims, posed as a prostitute on West Burnside Street, where both Stephanie and Lilla were known to work, to lure the suspect. Police claim Reed stalked the decoy, leading to a sergeant questioning him as he sat in his black Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Though they initially let Reed drive away, the police arrested him on July 18 after the state crime lab confirmed that DNA from a condom found near Moler's body and swabs taken from Russell's body matched Reed's DNA profile from 1992.

Statesman Journal Salem, Oregon • Sun, 8 Aug 1999 Page 24

The Aftermath 

Facing the death penalty, Reed pled guilty to avoid it. On February 23, 2001, he was sentenced to three consecutive life terms.

Despite meeting the description of the Gresham suspect, Reed has never been charged with the murders of Jennifer Tchir and Mindi Thomas.

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About the Creator

Chelsea Rose

I never met a problem I couldn't make worst.

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