HILLSBORO, Ore.- The Washington County District Attorney’s Office was awarded $470,000 in grant funding to investigate and prosecute violent crime cold cases that involve identified DNA associated with a possible suspect. The grant, “Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA,” is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

This office recently conducted a review of all major cold cases to identify their potential to be prosecuted with additional investigation. A cold case is defined as a case three or more years old that is not under active investigation. Of the 43 identified homicide cases dating back to 1968, at least 14 contain DNA evidence. Additionally, there are potentially hundreds of unsolved sexual assault cases over the decades that also contain DNA evidence. This office is confident many of these cases can be solved, the victims associated with them can receive the justice they deserve, the community at large can receive a sense of resolution and those who committed these crimes can finally be held responsible. This grant will allow additional resources and modern forensic tools to be used.

The grant funding will allow this office to hire one full-time investigator to pursue violent crime cold cases where suspect DNA has been identified. Additionally, this office would use a small portion of the funds to hire a forensic consultant. These new resources, combined with advances in DNA testing and related databases, will improve the chances of resolving these cases. Those hired for these two new positions will work with a prosecutor and victim advocate to form a Violent Crime Cold Case Multidisciplinary Team (MDT).  The MDT would work together to solve and prosecute violent crime cold cases in Washington County and in partnership with existing resources, including the Washington County Major Crimes Team.

“Holding criminals accountable no matter how long they have hidden their crime is a fundamental component of justice. While these cases may be labeled as “cold cases,” to the victims and their families, they are as just as real and important today as they were when the crime occurred many years ago. This office and Washington County law enforcement now have added tools to help provide some resolution and obtain justice,” said District Attorney Kevin Barton.

This grant adds to the continued work of this office to resolve unsolved cases. For example, this office has worked in conjunction with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to test sexual assault kits and to collect DNA from offenders who are legally required to provide it.

Cold Case Spotlight

The 2001 murder of Loni Okaruru, a transgender woman, remains one of the 43 cold cases identified for renewed investigation under this grant funding. Ms. Okaruru was found murdered in Hillsboro, Oregon. This horrifying crime shook the community then and continues to cause pain today. Copied below is a news clipping regarding this case from 2001.

If you have any information on this murder, or any cold cases in Washington County, please contact your local law enforcement agency.

Media contact information
Stephen Mayer
Public Information Officer
October 28, 2020