Oregon dad sought in slaying of family

Dec. 23, 2002 at 4:18 PM
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TILLAMOOK, Ore., Dec. 23 (UPI) -- For the second consecutive Christmas, police along the northern coast of Oregon are looking for a missing father in connection with the slayings of his wife and three young children.

Authorities in Tillamook County asked the public Monday to help them find Edward Paul Morris, an apparently devout, church-going Portland dad whose family was found dead over the weekend in a cold and remote state forest about 50 miles east of the city.

"We're not coming to any conclusions at this time," Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson said at a news conference that revealed little in the way of new insight into the killings. "He is a person of interest, and obviously he wasn't recovered at the scene. That's why we are expanding our search on the ground."

It was not known if Morris had committed the slayings that were revealed Saturday when a pair of hunters discovered the body of 31-year-old Renee Lyn Morris in a snowy, thickly wooded area four miles from the nearest main road.

Searchers later in the day found the bodies of Morris's three children -- Bryant, 10, Alexis, 8, and Jonathan, 4 -- not far from that of their mother.

In the meantime, Edward Morris became the target of a regional search eerily similar to that of the manhunt for Christian Longo, who hid out in Mexico for three weeks after he allegedly killed his wife and three kids last December in Lincoln County, a coastal area about 50 miles south of Tillamook.

Looking for the man who may be either a victim or a suspect, detectives checked the parking garages at Portland International Airport for the 1993 gray Dodge Caravan, and a Coast Guard helicopter scoured the rugged forest from the air, looking for any sign of Morris or his vehicle on the many small dirt roads that crisscross the area.

"The helicopter is going to see from the air what we couldn't cover in a vehicle in several days," Anderson said.

The sheriff said that Renee Morris's family in Portland had filed missing person's reports on Dec. 21 after the family failed to return from a trip, however he declined to say where the family had been or what information the extended family may have provided to authorities.

Neighbors of the Morris family were also unable to shed much light on the killings. The family members were described as regular attendees of St. John's Wesleyan Church, and they lived in a small house in the city's St. John's neighborhood.

The Oregonian reported that Morris and his wife had filed for bankruptcy in 1993 after their small roofing business failed; however, Morris had earlier this year started a new building maintenance venture with a partner and did not appear to be on the brink of financial ruin. From all outward appearances, they were a close and happy family.

"They had darling little kids running around in the back yard," neighbor Donna Babbitt told The Oregonian. "I heard them out there laughing and talking with their little kids."

(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)

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