HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. (KOIN) — Diana Allen, Ariel Hamby and Melissa Smith are bound by tragedy but connected with a fighting spirit.
Allen is the mother of Charity Perry. Hamby is the sister of Joanna Speaks and Smith is the mother of Kristin Smith — all of whom were found dead within 3 months of each other in cases that may be connected.
Kristin Smith was 22 when her body was found in a field in February in Portland. Perry was 24 when her body was discovered near Ainsworth State Park.
Speaks, 32, was found dead near Ridgefield in April. Her death has been ruled a homicide but has not been officially connected to the death of Smith, Perry and 2 other women, Bridget Webster and Ashley Real. Webster’s body was found near Mill Creek in Northwest Polk County. She was 31. Real, 22, was found near Judd Road in Rural Clackamas County on May 7.
On Saturday, the families of 3 women and their friends gathered in Happy Valley Park in Clackamas County for a barbecue fundraiser — and to keep the cases in the public’s eye.
“We’re not going anywhere. We’re not letting it go. We’re not sitting down. We’re not shutting up,” Allen said.
“We’ve come together as fighting families, and just being there for each other through all of this, through the hard times,” Smith told KOIN 6 News. “Try to make some good out of the hard times and support each other.”
On July 17, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced they found a connection between the deaths of the 4 women. Of the 9 law enforcement agencies working to solve those cases, several confirmed a person of interest in the case.
That person, Jesse Lee Calhoun, is currently in the Snake River Correctional Facility on unrelated charges.
But without any major updates in the case in 2 months, the mothers of Smith and Perry said they trust detectives will bring justice for their daughters.
“I’m not giving up. I’m fighting for justice for her,” Smith said. “And if I can help other families that are going through the same thing or that have missing children — because I know I searched for 5 months for Kristin, I knew something was wrong. I don’t ever want anybody to go through what I go through.”
She added she is aware things have been going on. “They’re keeping things very quiet because it’s such an active investigation still.”
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6 News their Major Crimes Unit is investigating the possibility Speaks’ death could be connected to the other cases. But, they said, there is no evidence at this time confirming that it is connected.
Speaks’ sister, Ariel Hamby, said she’s hopeful there will soon be more information.
“There are so many pieces that do really link Joanna with the girls and with a person of interest, it’s just not the same connection that the other girls have,” Hamby said. “So, now it’s just kind of waiting.”
The food, raffles and merchandise at the Saturday fundraiser will help the families cover the celebration of life events, funeral costs and more, they said.
But Allen, Hamby and Smith said the main focus of the fundraiser is to continue their fight for justice, to keep their loved ones cases from going cold and their names from being forgotten.
“A lot of times people think these are people that weren’t going to be noticed, that weren’t loved, that didn’t contribute to the community, and that is not the case at all,” Diana Allen said. “I’ll be damned if my daughter was going to disappear and not be noticed.”