Deputy Rich Kirby of the Baker County Sheriff's Office walks around the 1993 Dodge Caravan minivan driven by murder suspect Edward Morris. Morris was arrested Saturday in the parking lot at the Rite Aid store in Baker City. (Baker City Herald
Father suspected of killing his family arrested in Baker City
By JAYSON JACOBY
Of the Baker City Herald
Linda Martin's habit of looking at license plates led police directly to a Baker City parking lot, and to the arrest of the suspect in one of Oregon's most notorious mass murders.
Edward Morris, 37, the Portland man accused of killing his pregnant wife and three children last month, was arrested without incident about 12:30 Saturday afternoon in the Rite Aid parking lot on East Campbell Street, Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said.
Morris was being held Saturday afternoon andquot;in a secure location,andquot; not the Baker County Jail, Shirtcliff said.
Morris probably will be taken to the jail later Saturday, Shirtcliff said, pending his return to Tillamook County, where the bodies of his family were found.
The Baker County Major Crime Team is working on the case with officials from Tillamook County and from the FBI, who are scheduled to arrive in Baker City by plane today, Shirtcliff said.
Linda Martin, who lives in Portland, and her brother Thom, from the Olympia, Wash., area, saw Morris' gray 1993 Dodge Caravan minivan on Interstate 84 about 20 miles southeast of Baker City.
Both Martins recognized the van's license number, WSH 171, having seen it many times on news reports of the murders and the subsequent search for Morris.
andquot;I always look at license plates,andquot; Linda Martin said. andquot;The minute I saw the 171 I knew.andquot; The siblings drove to the Oregon State Police office in Baker City to report the sighting.
Then, while driving east on Campbell Street toward the freeway, intending to return to the freeway and try to catch up to Morris, they again spotted the gray minivan.
The Martins watched the vehicle turn into the Rite Aid parking lot. They then rushed to a pay phone outside the nearby Safeway store to call police.
Linda Martin said she followed Morris into Rite Aid, then watched from outside as a police officer arrested the suspect.
Martin said Morris dropped immediately to the ground when the police officer confronted him.
andquot;He just laid down,andquot; she said. andquot;The police said he was already in tears.andquot; As Linda Martin told her story, her brother talked on the pay phone with their mother, Louise Martin, whom they had been visiting at her home in Paul, Idaho.
Linda and Thom Martin were on their way home Saturday afternoon when they passed a gray minivan near Durkee.
Linda said the van was traveling at about 55 mph, 10 mph below the posted speed limit.
andquot;When we passed it both of us flashed on the license plate,andquot; Linda said.
andquot;That license plate number was stuck in my mind,andquot; Thom said.
He said it was easy for him to memorize because the three letters, WSH, reminded him of his home state, Washington.
The Martins stopped first at the Durkee gas station to call police.
Then they drove back onto the freeway, and soon caught up to Morris' van.
andquot;We tried to pass him and look at him, without looking at him, which is hard to do,andquot; Linda Martin said.
Thom Martin, who was driving his 1999 Dodge pickup truck, took the east Baker City exit and drove straight to the OSP office on South Bridge Street.
They called police again, then drove for a few minutes trying to find their way back to the freeway.
Eventually the Martins made it to Campbell Street.
As they drove past the Rite Aid and Safeway parking lot, just a few blocks from the freeway, Linda saw the gray minivan again.
andquot;I said, 'Oh my God, there he is.'andquot;
After Thom Martin called police, Linda walked across the parking area to the van, which was parked near the west end of the lot.
She said she walked around the van, noticing some of the bumper stickers that police believed were on the vehicle.
Linda Martin said she then walked into Rite Aid to see if she recognized Morris from the photographs that have appeared in newspapers and on television stations across the Northwest since the bodies of Morris' wife and children were found Dec. 21 in the Tillamook State Forest west of Portland.
Linda Martin said she did recognize Morris, but that he had shaved his head and andquot;looked olderandquot; than in the photographs she had seen in the media.
After leaving the store, Linda Martin said she watched police arrest Morris.
Shirtcliff said Det. John Shepherd of the Baker City Police Department made the arrest.
Linda Martin could hardly stand still as she related the frantic couple of hours that ended with Morris' capture.
andquot;You busted him,andquot; her brother said, putting his arm around her. andquot;The good guys win one.andquot; Then a woman walked toward Linda Martin, smiled, and suddenly reached out her arms for a hug.
andquot;I don't know who you are, but you deserve a hug,andquot; said Margie Gately of Baker City.
Several bystanders approached, as well, congratulating the Martins and saying they hope the siblings receive the $50,000 reward the FBI has offered for information leading to Morris' capture.
andquot;I'm not worried about (the reward) right now,andquot; Thom Martin said.
Although Linda Martin said she is happy mostly because she helped bring to justice someone who is accused of a heinous crime, she also has a more personal reason for satisfaction.
Her 9-year-old grandson, Hayden Estrada, played on a youth soccer team in North Portland with 10-year-old Bryant Morris, the Morris' oldest child.