‘A beautiful soul’ mourned as accused killer indicted


Jean Gerich was killed in a hit-run that injured at least 7 others

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jean Gerich was “a beautiful soul.”

The 77-year-old woman who was killed in a hit-and-run rampage through Southeast Portland on January 25, was a single mom, a Buddhist and an occupational therapist. She also enjoyed spending time with her group of longtime friends, which often involved hiking and dinners.

Her daughter, Tessa White, spoke with KOIN 6 News on the day her accused killer, Paul Rivas was indicted on 31 charges — the day before Gerich would have turned 78.

“She worked every day. And yet she showed us unconditional love. She was there for us,” White said.

White’s younger brother, Kyle Williamson, described his mom as a “beautiful soul.”

“She was immensely generous and cared about everyone around her, regardless of their background,” he said.

White said she and Williamson were concerned about the rise in violent crime in Portland. She said their mom didn’t know her killer.

“Nearly every day, I read about the deterioration of our hometown and I want to know what is it going to take to make change? I feel like we’re all waiting and we’re all ready,” said White. “We’re mourning our mother 1000%. But we’re also really mourning the city and what it once was.”

 But White said the people of the city have been great since the tragedy.

“I have to make sure that the community knows how grateful Kyle and I are to the people of Portland and the care they gave her. Someone is going on out and laying out her favorite food, someone is lighting candles,” she said.

Still, the siblings are concerned about what’s happening in the city.

“It’s a real problem when someone can’t just walk down the street safely. It’s been an utter nightmare. No one wants to picture their mother being dragged down the street. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It’s just a nightmare. That’s the best way to describe it,” said Williamson.

31-count indictment

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced the filing of a 31-count indictment against Paul Rivas on Thursday.

Rivas is charged with one count of second-degree murder, seven counts of second-degree attempted murder, eight counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver, seven counts of second-degree assault, seven counts of first-degree attempted assault, and one count of resisting arrest.

The 64-year-old entered a not guilty plea before a Multnomah County judge one week ago.

At least seven people were injured during the violent rampage. But 77-year-old Jean Gerich died of her injuries.

Several crime scenes

The chaotic, violent rampage that led to Rivas’ indictment happened Monday, Jan. 25. Investigators said Rivas slammed his vehicle into several people on a sidewalk along a stretch of SE Start Street around 1 p.m.

Paul Rivas makes his first court appearance for his alleged role in a deadly hit-and-run rampage in Portland, Jan. 27, 2021. (KOIN)

The driver repeated his assault, leaving several crime scenes between SE Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard and SE 15th Avenue, and from East Burnside Street to SE Belmont Street. 

Court documents state Rivas was speeding and intentionally hitting people while behind the wheel of a Honda Element. Witnesses described Rivas as swerving to hit vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians, then driving away without stopping.

Eventually, Rivas allegedly attempted to run away on foot after crashing into another vehicle, but people in the neighborhood helped “corral” him until police could take him into custody. He was taken to a hospital, then released and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center.

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