An Oregon Homicide
Bill Long 1/30/11
The Sad Case of Kaelin Glazier
There have been far too many Oregon homicides in the news of late. We sentenced a father-son duo to death in Salem just before Christmas 2010 for their December 2008 bombing in a Woodburn bank, which took two lives. Then, while that case was being tried, another Salem man was sentenced to three consecutive 30 year terms for three homicides he committed in 2009. Other possible death-penalty cases loom. Then, in 2010, there was the dramatic news when a convicted murderer serving life without the possibility of parole for multiple 1998 murders in West Salem, Scott Cannon, was released when the evidence used to convict him was discredited. In the mean time (in about 2005) the then- District Attorney for Polk County, where the trial was held, is alleged to have destroyed crucial trial exhibits, making a re-trial of Scott Cannon impossible. A federal case relating to Cannon's prosecution is pending in Portland.
Now it is the turn for our neighbors in Southern Oregon to go through their own similar emotionally-wrenching experience. The case I am referring to is actually a 1996 homicide, but the body of then-15 year-old Kaelin Glazier was only found in April 2008, with an indictment of Bill Simmons, now 30, coming only in 2010.
The purpose of this essay is to raise some questions regarding that case that have been treated inconsistently or not in enough detail by the media; my hope is to see if someone can clarify my thinking/understanding.
The Disappearance of Kaelin Glazier
Kaelin, born May 1, 1981, spent some years shuttling between her grandparents' home in Nevada City CA and her mother's in Ruch, OR. Ruch is about 15 miles south of Medford Oregon. In her last year Kaelin was a student at South Medford HS. On Wednesday November 6, 1996 she disappeared after being seen (and here is where stories conflict) near the home of Bill Simmons, then a 16 year-old student (or dropout--the stories are unclear) whom she knew. After her disappearance a massive series of searches was conducted, but her body was not found by the searches. In 1999, Bill Simmons became a "person of interest" in the case, but he was not arrested. Finally, in April 2008, Kaelin's remains were found in a field very near the place where she was last seen in 1996. Simmons then was arrested and indicted. Trial is scheduled to begin late summer 2011. Because he was a minor at the time of the crime, Bill Simmons, if convicted, would not be eligible for the death penalty. So, this is a summary of what seems undisputed. Now, for my questions...
Establishing a Chronology and Other Things
1. I have seen conflicting reports of what Kaelin actually did on that Wednesday, November 6. All agree that she was headed to Applegate Christian Fellowship, on Highway 238, just a short walk from Kaelin's home, in the 100 block of Upper Applegate Road. But then we have:
2. Somehow she made a detour over to 100 Johnson St, where Simmons lived. Map is here. I read one story where she thought her boyfriend was going to be at Simmons' place. I read another story where people said (her mother?) that Kaelin didn't like Bill Simmons, didn't have a good "feel" about him. But then, Simmons said that she went over to his place every week to smoke and talk. So, I guess it isn't clear to me what story is being told about why she went over to Simmons' place and how she got there. Did she cut through back lots, or did she walk down to the main highway (238), then take a right, then take a right on Haven/Laurel until she got to Simmons' place on Johnson?
3. Simmons actually lived on a 16-foot trailer on the 100 Johnson Rd. property. His grandparents owned the home on the property. But I don't have a good picture of where the trailer was, even though I find the location generally on a map. Did his trailer actually back up to Haven Road? When the body was found in a field, the report I read said that it was found not far from his trailer--or where his trailer used to be. Apparently the trailer was sitting there for several years after the crime/disappearance, only being removed around 2005.
4. Who actually saw her and when did they see her on that last day?
Investigating the Case
If I have several questions regarding her disappearance, I have several more with respect to how the disappearance/crime was actually investigated.
1. It was very clear to me in watching contemporary videos that the Sheriff's Department wanted to give the impression that they were "on this case" 24/7 for 12 years until the body was found, but something just doesn't add up if this was the case....Namely
2. Search parties were organized beginning within a few weeks after the disappearance, from what I read. Numerous people (about how many/how many searches?) combed everywhere within a 50-mile radius, as one story told, but they didn't search the one lot, right near the trailer, where the body actually was found. The only explanation I can get for this is that the property owner of the place was "away" during the searches, and so they didn't go on his property to search. That sounds quite lame to me, so is there more to say on this point?
3. And, in fact, if it was the only lot that wasn't searched in a nearly 50-mile radius, why didn't they go back and search the lot when the owner was back home or sometime in the future? From 14 years hindsight, it seems natural that you would search right near the trailer where the person of interest (after 1999) lived. Why wasn't that done? When the remains were found in 2008, it seems like they were found quite by happenstance by the owner of the land.
4. Once Simmons was identified as a "person of interest," why didn't they impound the trailer where the boy/young man lived during the time of the disappearance? From what I read, it was still sitting there in 1999 and for several years thereafter.
Other questions emerge, such as how the County Sheriff's Department considered the case along the way. Was it first considered just a "runaway" case, with rather low priority, only hiking up to higher priority as time went on? When was it considered a homicide/possible violent felony rather than a "disappearance" case?
All my questions, however, cannot make me feel anything but teary-eyed and saddened for the loss of such a beautiful and promising girl, allegedly at the hands of a person who has never made anything out of his life. As the father of a daughter born just a year after Kaelin, I know that my life would have been largely drained of meaning had something like that happened in my family. Yet still I question, and I hope for clarity...