VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — When Warren Forrest entered a Clark County court Friday morning to plead not guilty to killing Martha Morrison in 1974, Norma Countryman was there.
As a 15-year-old, Countryman was abducted while hitchhiking in Ridgefield on July 17, 1974. She managed to escape from Tukes Mountain.
Forrest has been in prison since 1979 after being convicted of killing Krista Blake. He’s suspected in about 8 other cases, but it wasn’t until a DNA breakthrough in 2017 that he was connected to Morrison’s death.
Her bones were found next to another possible victim, Carol Valenzuela, off Dole Valley Road. But she wasn’t positively identified until 2015.
Now, Norma Countryman is making it a point to be in court every time Warren Forrest appears, including Friday morning.
“Yes, it’s very difficult, but it’s also a good thing” to be in court, she told KOIN 6 News. “I guess I need to go through it, I need to work it out. But it’s very emotional.”
She said she can’t clearly explain why she needs to be there.
“It’s all kind of jumbled up. I don’t feel fear. I don’t, somedays I’m not sure what I feel except very emotional that this part of my life is coming back around. I feel like I have to be here, I feel like I have to walk through every step of it, maybe to see it through. I’m not sure. I wish I could just forget it. I wish I could just leave it lying, but I can’t because I’m not the only one that matters. There are so many other people that matter, who show up for this, who have this big or bigger stake in it than I do.”
When she was 19 or 20, she testified against him and didn’t think she’d have to face hm again.
“I just look to what’s going on right now. When I testified at the first parole hearing that I went to in 2014, I didn’t think I’d be here today because I couldn’t fathom that there would be anything more than just keeping him in jail, just keeping him in jail.
“I knew that every time there was a parole hearing I’d be involved in some way — writing a letter or making a phone call or showing up — but the fact they’re actually charging him with another murder is something that was left behind so long ago because we just never thought it would happen.”
Forrest is being held in the Clark County Jail on $5 million bail. If somehow he managed to post bail, he would be sent back to the Washington State Penitentiary. He’ll stay indefinitely at the Clark County Jail where his accommodations will be much less comfortable than at the Washington State Penitentiary.
At the penitentiary the food is better, there are more exercise opportunities and more internal freedom inside the walls than he will have in the Clark County Jail.
His trial in the Martha Morrison case is scheduled to begin in April, though observers believe it will be delayed.
Norma Countryman said she isn’t frustrated with the process, she just is pushing to get the truth out.
“So many people just don’t understand that there is enough to go on, that we can actually say that, yes, we are as close to 100% sure as we can be that he committed these other murders. But there’s no proof. So the fact that we have proof and that we can stop making him be the Forgotten Serial Killer makes me very happy. So, I guess that overrides the frustration.”
And she’s also aware of all the others affected by Warren Forrest’s actual and alleged crimes.
“I’m here for myself but I’m also here for them, for all the people that I wasn’t aware of when we went through the trial, for all the people I wasn’t aware of when I sat in that van with him, for all the people that didn’t know – like children of the victims – I’m here for them as well as myself.”