Story Published: Apr 12, 2011 at 10:57 PM PDT
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Nearly 40 years ago, Jamie Grissim disappeared without a trace. Detectives suspected she was murdered, but they never found her body.
The evidence points to one man: Warren Forrest.
Investigators believe Forrest killed Grissim and other teenage girls; however, prosecutors could only make one case stick. In the 1970s, Forrest was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Krista Blake in the woods of Tukes Mountain just east of Battle Ground.
Now Forrest is up for parole. He faced the the parole board in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
It was a day that Grissim’s little sister, Starr Lara, didn’t think she’d have to deal with for three more years. Forrest isn’t eligible for parole until 2014, but the board will now make a decision the next few weeks.
Lara said she was stunned to learn of the board’s early actions.
“I think of my sister every day, especially when I get up and when I go to bed,” she told the parole board.
Lara was 14 years old, when her then 16-year-old sister went missing on Dec. 7, 1971.
“When I got home, I noticed she wasn’t home and I said, ‘Where’s Jamie?”‘ Lara told the four-member parole board.
When Lara last saw her sister, Grissim was leaving their foster home for Fort Vancouver High School. Grissim attended classes at the school, but never came home. At the time, Lara was told that her sister had simply run away.
Five months later, Grissim’s student ID and other belongings were found near Sunset Falls Campground in remote Clark County. The bodies of two other women were later found nearby.
Three years passed before Forrest was arrested for kidnapping, raping, stabbing and leaving for dead a 20-year-old woman at Lacamas Lake Park near Camas. Forrest was working for the Clark County Parks Department at the time.
A Vietnam veteran, Forrest was married and the father of two young children. He pleaded guilty by way of insanity and was sent to the state mental hospital for five years.
The same year as the Lacamas Lake kidnapping, Forrest lured a 15-year-old Ridgefield girl into his blue van and drove her to the same stand of trees that he took Krista Blake to near Battle Ground.
According to a report by the Columbian newspaper at the time, the girl testified Forrest “tied her head to one tree and her legs to another. Later, she chewed through the twine and struggled out of a loop holding her legs. With hands and ankles still tied, she hopped away.”
It all took place just 169 feet away from the spot where hikers found Blake’s body. She had been hogtied and killed.
Near the end of his treatment at the mental hospital, Forrest was convicted for Blake’s murder and sent to prison in 1979.
“He tortured her, shot her with a dart gun and cut her throat. And then he buried her in a very shallow grave,” said Blake’s sister, Zela, who did not want to be identified by her full name.
Zela and Blake’s other sister, Valerie, both lobbied the parole board to keep Forrest behind bars.
“Warren Forrest is a monster and no amount of time in prison will change that,” said Valerie, who also did not want to be identified by her full name.
A Clark County Sheriff’s Office document from 1978 formally links Forrest to Grissim’s disappearance, as well as murders or attacks of six other women. “It’s suspected that Jamie Grissim is the first victim of Warren Leslie Forrest, who is suspected of killing eight women Clark County,” a detective wrote in a 2006 email.
“The story of Warren Forrest is a horrible story,” said Denny Hunter, a retired Clark County deputy prosecutor, to the parole board. It was Hunter who put Forrest in prison.
“What he did to them was probably the most cruel behavior I’ve probably ever experienced,” he said.
Lara still hopes there is some humanity left inside of Forrest. Now that he’s 61 years old and up for parole, she hopes he’ll reveal the location of her sister’s body, though doing so could open him up to being prosecuted for Grissim’s murder.
“What happened to her? The not-knowing is the hardest part,” she said. “Where is she? And he knows. I know he knows.”
Family members didn’t get to face Forrest during the parole hearing. However, he will receive a copy of their statements.
The parole board will take four to six weeks to make its decision. If he is granted parole, Forrest will spend the next three years before his release learning how to live on the outside. He will be taught life skills, like how to use a cell phone.
“This is a very, very serious history to overcome,” said parole board member Dennis Thaut.
Meantime, Clark County detectives are still hoping for a tip that will lead them to Grissim’s body.
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