VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Dramatic testimony unfolded in a Vancouver courtroom Tuesday when a woman who survived an attack decades ago took the stand against Warren Forrest, now on trial for the 1974 murder of Martha Morrison.
Norma Countryman testified Forrest lured her into his van, kidnapped her and assaulted her that same year.
“The thought flashed through my head that he came back and found me like that, he really would hurt me, kill me, and I knew I had to get out of there. So I struggled, until I could get up on my knees.”
She also described how Forrest sexually assaulted her. Eventually, she testified, she was able to chew through the rope, escaped and called police. Later she identified Forrest as her attacker.
Martha Morrison’s brother, Michael Morrison, also took the stand.
Martha, who was about 10 years younger than her other siblings, “was young and bubbly and musically inclined, played guitar, she was really friendly and likable,” Michael said.
She didn’t have a car and got around through friends or by hitch-hiking, he said.
He described what happened when she went missing.
“I made a couple of phone calls to find someone who had seen her,” he said. “It was unusual for her not to call.”
He filed a missing persons report in Eugene but hasn’t seen his sister in 49 years.
During a break in the trial, Morrison and Countryman hugged each other.
Jury selection began Monday morning in the trial connected to the death of Martha Morrison in 1974. The trial, expected to last 3 weeks, could have nearly 100 witnesses called to the stand, 2 of whom survived attacks by Forrest decades ago.
KOIN 6 News learned the early days of the trial are likely to focus on witnesses from Forrest’s past crimes, including 2 survivors.
Forrest, now 73, was initially charged in 2019, but the pandemic delayed the trial multiple times. Additional delays were caused when the lead prosecutor became a judge.
In pre-trial motions, the defense argued jurors should not be allowed to hear about evidence from Forrest’s previous convictions, including the kidnapping of a 20-year-old woman from Portland who he took to Lacamas Lake, brutally raped, and left for dead. Evidence from that attack is what ties Forrest now to the murder of Morrison.
Forrest, a former county parks employee, admitted to using a dart gun to shoot the Lacamas Lake victim on Oct. 1, 1974.
In 2015, through DNA, the Washington State Crime Lab identified a stain on the dart gun as Morrison’s blood. Her body was found 20 miles away from Lacamas Lake, in remote NE Clark County in a clearing off of Dole Valley Road.
The judge ruled the dart gun and other Lacamas Lake evidence can be used against Forrest when he faces a new jury, 48 years after Morrison disappeared.
If Forrest is found guilty, it will only be his second murder conviction even though he’s suspected of killing 7 women and girls from Portland and Clark County, and attacking two more who survived.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this trial.