Oregon History Portland History

The Milwaukie “Torso Murder” of 1946

Cold case

It’s not all kooky 50s architecture, wacky mid-century motels and obvious nods to Don Draper around here. Let’s get heavy.

Though it hasn’t been updated in more than a year the local crime blog Slabtown Chronicle is still a favorite of mine. A mixture of current crime, history and mayhem, it’s a fantastic read of Portland’s lurid past [especially for saps like me who think “old” means “good old days”].

A couple of years back they posted a grisly piece on an unsolved murder in Milwaukie/Oak Grove. Here’s an excerpt:

On the evening of Friday April 12, 1946 three people walking on the bank of the Willamette river near the Wisdom Island Moorage in Milwaukie discovered a burlap package floating in the river. H.C. Foster of Portland and James and Mary Rader of Milwaukie first thought the package might be a bag of drowned kittens. They fished the package to shore and were shocked to find that it contained the torso of a white woman

Detectives at the time thought the different body parts, found at different locations on the Willamette, were thrown from the Oak Grove Bridge. According to Slabtown Chronicle the case eventually went stone cold.

Last year, Clackamas re-opened the files to the case, amongst others. Here’s what they know:

Details: In the early morning hours of April 13, 1946, the fully clothed torso of an unidentified middle-aged female was found floating in the Willamette River near Oak Grove. On April 14, 1946, the torso’s arms and legs were located in the Willamette River. On October 13, 1946, the corresponding head was found in the Willamette River in the Oak Grove area.

Investigators determined that the cause of death was a blunt force injury to the head. Her head, arms and legs were then sawn off. The body was then wrapped in feed bags and weighted down with window sash weights.

The victim has never been identified, nor has a suspect been identified.

The victim is described as a Caucasian female with brown and gray hair. She was 40-50 years of age, 5’2”-5’4” in height and roughly 125 lbs.

To Report Info: Call the CCSO Tip Line at 503-723-4949 or Det. John Krummenacker at 503-655-8830 or

The photo at the top of the post are the shreds of clothing found on the woman.

5 replies on “The Milwaukie “Torso Murder” of 1946”

Picked up an old newspaper a few years ago that had an article about a guy who murdered a woman on a valley train and tossed her off. Word went down the line and the polizie grabbed him further on. Several years before that, was talking to an FBI profiler in L.A. over the phone about stalking events proceeding the actions of an infamous serial killer (prosecuted and now dead) and was told we have more unsolved stuff up here than they do! Maybe its time to rename the Willamette Valley as Killer Alley. [In all seriouness, keep looking over your shoulder.]

A reply to an 18 month old comment by someone calling himself “Al Donnelly.” The LAPD claim to have less unsolved homicides than we do up here in Oregon is most likely false. Not only is the population much larger in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, but due to the anonymity of drive-by gang related homicides they do, in fact, have a very large number of unsolved homicides. Our gang problem is miniscule by comparison.
I’ve worked as a homicide detective, and one of the quirks every team of investigators eventually gets caught up in is clearance rates for major crimes. Everyone wants to be on the team with the highest clearance rate, because they mistake the raw number for proof of exemplary performance and superiority amongst their peers. This unfortunate mindset doesn’t do much to benefit the communities they serve, nor does it improve the quality of the product detectives are responsible for. We here in Oregon do, in fact, have a very good clearance rate, and have a strong history in the initiation and development of cold case homicide investigations. In any case, I would have to say that LAPD and many other agencies in California, have an incredibly tough job with respect to the investigation of murders. Even historically rural farming communities such as Bakersfield can have homicides occurring so frequently they don’t make it halfway through one before the next one takes place.

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