PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — New court documents reveal gruesome details of a homeless encampment murder investigation in Northeast Portland.
Aaron David Christopher is facing a second-degree murder charge and a first-degree abuse of a corpse charge in connection with the death investigation.
The name of the victim has not been released by authorities.
The probable cause affidavit, which was filed by the Multnomah County district attorney’s office on Thursday, stated that officers headed to the scene of a homeless encampment near NE 78th Avenue and NE Schuyler Street on Tuesday evening just after 5 p.m. after a woman called 911 screaming “he killed him, he burned him.”
When they arrived, they found the woman in the homeless encampment nearby, which is also near the freeway, and the woman told them she knew the victim and Christopher, who were both homeless, and that they had had “various arguments” that very morning.
She allegedly told officers she had left the camp to clear her head for about 30 to 45 minutes, but when she returned, she noticed someone had started a fire and there was lots of smoke, and that Christopher was standing over the fire pit, which had a number of tree branches on top of the pit. She then told officers when she approached the fire pit, “she also saw a hand sticking out from under the wood of the pit,” according to the court documents, which added she saw Christopher ran away after she had tried to prevent him from running away.
The woman also told police that Christopher told her another camper named “Shawn” was responsible, but she told officers the other man “was harmless and would never hurt anyone,” according to the affidavit.
When an officer went to the fire pit, they found the body of the victim had been “badly burned” on portions of their body, according to the court documents.
“The smoldering was coming from the head area and the body’s arms were raised toward the head,” according to the affidavit, which stated police also noticed the body had “cut or puncture wounds” on the victim’s left side. A knife with blood was also allegedly found.
Christopher, 40, was quickly found by officers, according to the court document, and that as officers approached him, he dropped a jacket he was carrying.
Christopher was arrested by officers, and then allegedly told officers “his friend’s girlfriend told him to leave because it was too crazy,” according to the affidavit.
Officers allegedly found “several knives” on Christopher, along with a lighter and a small can of WD-40, which is a potential accelerant. Police said they also found what they believe is a makeshift fire poker out of a PVC pipe with a knife blade attached, and that one end of it “was charred and partially melted.”
The other camper named Shawn, later identified as Shawn Eborall, was eventually found in his tent. According to the affidavit, he told investigators he saw Christopher standing over the fire pit as flames grew, but added the fire pit was often on in order to keep people in the camp warm and didn’t think it was unusual seeing Christopher there.
Neighbors like Ken Rosenzweig are saddened and disturbed by the murder.
“It’s part of the acceleration of the problems that have been happening down here for years,” he said. “We report regularly, they’ve swept it a few times but it’s just rinse and repeat.”
Rosenzweig said he recognized Christopher and had seen him “come up the street on a bicycle before.” He said he’s looking for city leadership to step in and take action.
“I even had a gun pulled on me two years ago in September. Wrote the mayor, got a little bit of attention for a couple weeks and then it went away,” said Rosenzweig. “We’ve graduated to murder now. Maybe now you’ll step up and do something, please.”
Christopher was taken to Multnomah County Jail. It’s unclear if he has an attorney. The investigation is ongoing.