Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nude man terrorizes Pendleton

It seems nude men running amok in Pendleton is something that has happened before.

In the June 8, 1942 edition of the East Oregonian, Pendleton police revealed a man had been stalking the streets at night, completely nude except for a sack over his head. The man had appeared at least two or three times in the previous month, and on one of those occasions attempted to attack a young woman. Police had kept the man’s antics on the down-low while they attempted to trap him, but the “Nude Terror,” as he was soon called, had up to then eluded them and they were turning to the citizens of Pendleton for their help.

The man was first reported on May 10 in the vicinity of Southwest Court Avenue and Tenth Street, and then again May 25 in the vicinity of the First Christian Church on the North Hill. On the night of May 30 he chased a young woman down Northwest Bailey Avenue to Main Street, then ducked back into the darkness between houses and escaped. During the first week of June a resident of Southeast Court Place called police when she saw a man exposing himself and throwing rocks at her window. Police were unable to locate the man in any of the sightings, and several people arrested for indecent exposure around the same time of the Nude Terror’s night-time excursions were eliminated from suspicion for various reasons.

During a final sighting, a man living on Southeast Sixth Street and Byers Avenue returned home at 2 a.m. June 11 to find a man wearing only trunks and shoes sitting on his front porch. The man fled into the darkness when illuminated by the car’s headlights, but as the homeowner approached his front door he said the man returned and brushed against him before disappearing again into the night.

Almost three weeks after their initial plea in the newspaper, police finally caught up with the man. Lloyd Vernon Scott, 31, was arrested by officers L.A. Bacon and Raymond Bannister at 11:30 p.m. on June 20 in the stairway on the south side of the Christian church. The officers were driving by the church and recalled that their quarry was often spotted near there. They shined the headlights of the patrol car on the stairway and discovered Scott, who was wearing nothing but a pair of socks. He surrendered without a struggle, which was a good thing — Police Chief Charles Lemons had instructed his officers to shoot the suspect if he was spotted and refused to surrender.

Scott was registered at a Pendleton hotel, and in his room police found a copy of the June 8 East Oregonian containing the original story about the Nude Terror. Allegedly a baker by trade, Scott said he had been traveling through the area during the past few months and had a wife in Spokane. Military records show he was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1939 for desertion. It was discovered he also had been arrested in Walla Walla for indecent exposure the previous month, and had skipped bail.

Scott later signed a confession to indecent exposure. In it, he said “I don’t know why I do this,” and admitted to an urge to expose himself — though he professed he had no memory of any of the incidents with which he was charged and claimed he was probably insane at the time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Truck-train collision spurs crossing closure

A coalition of representatives of Umatilla County, Oregon state, Union Pacific Railroad and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation was scheduled to meet on May 19, 1994, to discuss the closure of a dangerous unmarked railroad crossing in front of Pendleton Readymix near Mission due to safety concerns — and almost too late. Two hours before the scheduled meeting, a collision at the intersection demolished a Gordon’s Electric pickup and injured two employees. Miraculously, neither man was seriously hurt.

Employees of the concrete plant who witnessed the crash at 12:02 p.m. said it was a miracle the men survived at all. The train, traveling eastbound, hit the back of the pickup and spun it around. One of the men was thrown through a window. The pickup was dragged by the train 72 feet down the track from the crossing, according to Tribal Police Chief Leonard Cardwell.

Employees of Pendleton Readymix and Pacific Power rushed to provide aid until emergency services could arrive. The stopped train blocked the intersection and the cars were not separated, so EMTs had to lift the injured men between two rail cars. Gordon’s employee Ivan Nicley, 33, of Milton-Freewater suffered extensive facial injuries and was admitted to St. Anthony Hospital for surgery. His partner, H. Tom Thompson, 29, of Helix was treated and released the same day.

Readymix employees expressed frustration over the crossing, which they said didn’t afford good visibility for oncoming trains that were usually moving at a good clip at that point. “We sit there every day and watch as one after another almost gets hit,” said Readymix employee Jane Clarke. “And then the sickening sound. ... It was just a nightmare seeing people hanging out the front of the pickup,” she added.

The accident did have one upside: Officials at the meeting had a first-hand account of the danger posed by the crossing. Work was slated to begin as early as the following summer to close the crossing and another in front of Hall’s Trailer Court, and build a new crossing about halfway between the two with a frontage road alongside the railroad tracks to access the two businesses.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cat-killing spree ends in three arrests

Walla Walla County law enforcement arrested three Weston men after a 1952 shooting spree that left at least 15 cats dead and frightened a Milton-Freewater farmer.

Charges of illegal possession of a weapon and contributing to the delinquency of a minor were leveled against 29-year-old Edward Peterson, 19-year-old Ralph Mitchell and 22-year-old Benny Van Winkle, all residents of the tiny burg of Weston. The trio and a juvenile male began their spree outside Milton-Freewater the evening of April 2, 1952, and an unidentified farmer reported the men shot at him from their vehicle and then fled. The gun-totin’ Weston contingent then took their show to the outskirts of southeast Walla Walla, where most of the cats met their untimely end.

Walla Walla deputy sheriff Leonard Krika said a car passed him as he was traveling east on Pleasant Street in Walla Walla about 1 a.m. on April 3, and he heard a gun shot. He had to fire two shots at the vehicle to get the car to stop, and found the four men inside. Van Winkle attempted to flee on foot but fell while climbing over a fence. Walla Walla city police captured Van Winkle, who was transported to the hospital for treatment for a dislocated shoulder.

Milton-Freewater police aided in the investigation after the farmer identified the car as the one carrying the men who shot at him.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reporter faces fears to brave bee swarm


Just the word gives a lot of people the creepy-crawlies. But for some people bees are a living. In May of 1967, an intrepid East Oregonian reporter braved a swarm of bees to get a story about a local beekeeper and his business, despite his natural inclination to scream, swat and flee.

Reporter Bob Woehler was on the scene May 3, 1967, when Riverside-area beekeeper Closson Scott worked his magic on a swarm of honeybees that had taken up residence on the rear bumper of a car behind Hamley’s Western Store in downtown Pendleton. “I’ve never seen so many swarms of bees so early,” said Scott. “This is the third swarm that I’ve picked up in the back of Hamley’s in less than two weeks.” He pointed to the top floor of the building with his homemade smoker. “They live up there.”

As Woehler went in for a photo of Scott, he was immobilized by a bee walking across his hand, stopping periodically to clean itself. Beads of sweat appeared as Woehler waited for the bee to move on, wishing fervently for a telephoto lens, or that he’d given the story to a different reporter. “They won’t sting you if you don’t handle them much,” Scott said, which was helpful until a couple of bees began to saunter across the back of Woehler’s neck. And his subsequent attempts at getting a photo were obstructed by bees walking across the camera lens.

Scott explained that the bees were just looking for a new home. When a colony gets too big, usually the older workers and the old queen are forced out to find new quarters, while the younger set keeps the original hive location. When bees swarm they send out scout bees to look for a new home and return to the swarm to report their findings. “You can probably hear them buzzing inside the hive I brought. They are probably telling the ones on the outside that this is the place.”

As more bees began buzzing around Scott and Woehler, the reporter began to feel a little panicked. But he checked himself when Scott mentioned that waving your arms doesn’t frighten bees at all. “They won’t hurt you,” Scott said, clutching a horde of bees in his hands and extending them out to Woehler. “Here, look at this.” Woehler managed to screw up enough courage to stretch his neck out for a peek. Sure enough, the bees were behaving beautifully, content to roam instead of sting.

Scott ushered the rest of his foundlings into the hive, then packed up his truck. Another swarm, this time at Helen McCune Junior High School, was waiting.