- Janine Robben
- Portland Tribune - News
KATIE EGGLESTON WAS A YOUNG WOMAN WITH A LOVING FAMILY, A NEW JOB AND A ZEST FOR LIFE Ñ SO WHAT HAPPENED TO HER?
Nine and a half years ago, 22-year-old Katie Eggleston walked out of a Northeast Portland office building into a hot August afternoon Ñ and disappeared.
Not a word since to her parents to signal them that she is alive. No crime scene, no body, not even a fragment of bone to convince the police that she's dead.
Police don't need a body to declare a case a homicide. What they do need, says Jim Ferraris, Portland Police Bureau's commander of detectives, is 'some indication, other than 'Somebody's missing,' to lead them to believe there's been a murder. There has to be some evidence.'
Without that evidence, the person is classified as missing. Nine and a half years later, Katie Eggleston remains 'missing.'
To Katie's parents, Paul and Heather Eggleston, detectives took a wrong turn early in the investigation and never looked back.
'She was murdered,' her father says with simple conviction.
After all these years, Paul Eggleston, 72, a retired Seattle high school history teacher and retired superintendent of schools in the Central Oregon community of Redmond, and his 67-year-old wife, Heather, a retired preschool teacher, still struggle to convey the pain, anger and frustration they feel.
It began, of course, with their daughter's disappearance, then was exacerbated as police detectives pursued the theory that Katie disappeared on her own, while they believed she had been abducted.
'It made me understand how someone could want to kill someone,' Heather Eggleston said of her feelings toward the police at the time. This from a woman so tenderhearted that she quit teaching after Katie's disappearance because the sight of a teacher who had had a child 'disappear' distressed her young students.
To the Egglestons, the police bureau's theory was ludicrous. Katie had no history of mental illness, no history of running away. She was a sorority member who had sought office at Oregon State University; who had a brand-new degree and a brand-new job; whose friends described her as 'always joking, the life of the party;' and whose two parents, three sisters and four nieces and nephews to whom, her new co-workers said, she seemed very attached.
So even before their faith in the police had completely vanished, the Egglestons launched their own investigation. They canvassed Portland office buildings, interviewed potential witnesses, worked with a private investigator, manned a tip hot line and filled five binders with more than 900 pages of information about Katie's and other cases.
They even developed some suspects of their own, including two men seen by a gas station attendant Ñ around the time of Katie's disappearance Ñ in a car driven by a woman the attendant thinks was Katie.
At the time, he says, the woman attracted his attention because she drove so erratically that he nearly reported her as a drunken driver. He says the partially undressed, disheveled and crying woman grasped his hand and tried to press a folded $10 bill into it.
Shortly thereafter, when he saw Katie's photo on the news and made the connection, he says he contacted the police, then saw a hypnotist and used computer software to try to produce the best possible facial images of the men. Ten years later, he says he still is haunted by regret that he did not make the drunken driver report, for which he would have obtained the car's license number.
The two lead detectives on the case, Terry Wagner, who now is a detective in the property crimes unit, and Joe Goodale, who is retired, both declined to talk about the Eggleston investigation.
First day on the job
It was the summer of 1993, and Katie, an OSU June graduate, was thrilled to find a lucrative job with a Portland telecommunications company. She also had a temporary place to stay in Gresham with her divorced sister, Janet Taylor, 15 years her senior.
After a weekend trip to see her boyfriend in Central Oregon, Katie returned to Gresham early on the morning of Monday, Aug. 2, well after Janet had gone to bed. Before her sister was awake, she left for her first solo day selling long-distance services for Allnet Communication Services Inc. in Lake Oswego.
The temperature this day would reach 93 degrees, and she was driving a recently purchased Volkswagen Golf with no air conditioning. Still, she wore a professional purple blazer, white blouse, black skirt, stockings and heels. She was physically fit, young, full of energy and self-confidence and, with her blond curls and bright blue eyes, astonishingly pretty.
According to police, her morning was spent attending a meeting at Allnet, making sales calls at businesses on Northeast Whitaker Way, near the airport, and stopping at a bank, a gas station and the Burger King near Lloyd Center.
In the afternoon, her father learned, she made calls in the then-Port of Portland building at 700 N.E. Multnomah St., where five people described her as looking 'worried and preoccupied.' At 2:15 p.m., a man to whom she had just made a sale saw her get off the building's elevator in the company of a dark-complexioned, dark-haired man wearing a blue blazer.
Shortly before 5 p.m., John Davis, who worked at a nearby building, noticed a silver-gray Volkswagen Golf, like Katie's, parked in the port building's parking lot.
Katie's supervisor, David Lampkin, said she was scheduled to meet with him at 5 p.m. in Lake Oswego. She never showed up.
When Katie didn't come home Monday night, her sister Janet was irritated, then alarmed when she learned that Katie hadn't been seen at work since Monday morning. By noon Tuesday, Paul Eggleston and family friend G.T. Hausner were on their way to Portland from Redmond.
Later they learned that Katie's car was found by a security guard about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of an industrial complex at 12807 N.E. Airport Way. The site is nine miles Ñ via Interstate 84 and Northeast 122nd Avenue Ñ from the port building in which she was last seen. The car was unlocked, its windows were rolled down, and Katie's keys were in the ignition. Her purse and its contents were in the front seat; her workout clothes were in the back seat. Katie's Allnet binder was missing. There was no sign of a struggle.
A family's case file
These events, and those of the years following, are meticulously recorded in the Egglestons' case file. Paul Eggleston reconstructed his entries for the first frantic months from various sources but, after Nov. 17, 1993, made entries contemporaneously. Later, he went back and added his and the family's impressions to his factual narrative.
The result is a heartbreaking, sometimes wryly funny, often analytical account of an emotional roller coaster.
'About 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, at 12807 N.E. Airport Way. Along the line of not thinking too clearly, it seemed to all of us that there was some remote possibility Katie might be held prisoner in (a) warehouse. In retrospect, just why escapes me. É Katie's (then-boyfriend) joined us (and engaged in what G.T. and I decided) was really exceptionally strange behavior. É We both knew that Katie planned to break up with him and É that when she told him that earlier, 'he just wigged out.' This led us to conclude that (the boyfriend) was our number one suspect. Secure in the knowledge that we had solved the case, we headed back to Janet's. É The next morning we would tell the detectives. They would investigate and discover that (the boyfriend) had been in Portland on Monday. Case Closed!'
The next day, Paul Eggleston learned that Portland detectives had cleared the boyfriend Ñ with whom the Egglestons still have a cordial relationship today Ñ after establishing that he had been in Central Oregon that day.
On Aug. 4, Portland detectives were handed a new homicide to investigate; on Aug. 5 another; on Aug. 7, still another. By mid-August, Paul Eggleston noted:
'Joe (Goodale, one of the two lead detectives on Katie's case) has commented several times that the bureau is desperately overworked.'
On Saturday, Aug. 7, volunteers and scent-trained dogs searched for any sign of Katie between Northeast Marine Drive and Whitaker Way and 122nd to 138th avenues.
'I had to use the rest room at the hotel down the block, where a wedding party was just getting under way. I left with tears in my eyes. Katie should be getting married. We shouldn't be looking for her in the bushes alongside some road.'
They found nothing.
Split with detective
Then, less than two weeks into the investigation, Paul Eggleston and the case's other lead detective, Terry Wagner, had a major falling-out.
'Thursday, Aug. 12, about noon. Det. Wagner called. She asked if there was something about my family I should have told her. I asked her what. She said she likes to hear the facts from people themselves, not from others. When that occurs, she has to ask why she wasn't told everything in the beginning. I asked her what she was talking about. She said I had said nothing about my former son-in-law's (Jeffrey Taylor) impending trial for tax evasion. I said I didn't see the connection. She sounded incredulous, saying something like, 'You mean to tell me you don't see the connection between a trial for a felony and a key witness disappearing?' I said itnever crossed my mind. É Then she said something to the effect, 'That's hard to believe. Do you know where Katie is now?' I said no. She asked if I had heard from her or knew where she was. I said no. She asked if I would take a lie detector test about that. I said yes.'
Paul Eggleston immediately followed up with two letters to Wagner.
'I am sure you must understand that, while attempting to deal with the anguish we feel at our daughter's disappearance, to have you suggest we have somehow staged the event is extremely distressing,' he wrote. He then analyzed what he saw as the three theories suggested by their conversation about Jeffrey Taylor Ñ formerly married to Katie's sister Janet Taylor Ñ and a criminal, federal tax case against them for failing to report $190,000 in business income on their personal tax returns.
Paul Eggleston's letters dismissed the first two theories: that Jeffrey Taylor abducted his former sister-in-law to keep her from testifying against him or that she voluntarily disappeared for the same reason: 'Katie may be a government witness, but her contribution to the case has to be minimal. She doesn't know any more than Sarah (her younger sister, also a potential witness) about Jeff's finances.'
Paul Eggleston also noted that it would have been more logical for Katie to choose to disappear before July 9 Ñ when Janet Taylor pleaded guilty and obtained an agreed-upon sentencing recommendation from the prosecution Ñ than in August, when only Jeffrey Taylor's trial still was pending.
Wrote Eggleston to Wagner: 'Would she have placed some concern for Jeff's welfare above her own interests and career? Not a chance. Jeff simply did not appear on Katie's radar screen. É The only thing in Katie's life in recent weeks was Allnet.'
The third theory Ñ that the family had conspired to 'make (Katie) disappear for a while' Ñ caused Paul Eggleston pain and anger that pulsates from his letter to Wagner:
'To believe that, you have to believe that a family would trade the career, reputation and future prospects of a dearly loved daughter to very slightly improve the courtroom chances of a man they have not seen, heard from, or spoken with in several years Ñ and who all believe got into his predicament through his own actions.'
Several days later, Paul Eggleston passed the police bureau's polygraph, then demanded to see Wagner.
'Saturday, Aug. 14. É I asked Wagner if the É calls from the hot line were useful. She said no, they were not, and then something about how each and every lead had to be checked out Ñ which she did not have time to do Ñ and if she didn't do that the defense attorneys would climb all over her.
'É I asked her if she had spoken with John Davis. She didn't recognize the name. I reminded her this was the man at the 500 Multnomah Building who saw what may have been Katie's car.
(Paul Eggleston thinks Katie, with a 5 p.m. meeting scheduled in Lake Oswego, would not have driven back north shortly before 5 and that Davis' observation Ñ if accurate Ñ means that someone else drove her car to Airport Way.) 'She said, 'I thought you spoke with him.'
'É I asked her what theory of the case seemed most promising to her right now. Her response was that there just aren't any leads. No leads at all. É Wagner made it crystal clear she was not going to talk with us, that she still believed Katie probably disappeared of her own will.'
Shortly thereafter, the Egglestons used some of the many thousands of dollars they had received in donations to hire a retired Oregon State Police detective to work with them and communicate with the Portland police on the family's behalf.
'Common sense' theory
For the next few months, the Egglestons received numerous leads Ñ from a legitimate-sounding tip about a security guard with keys to the port building to channelings from 'Jesus via Eleanor' and a call from an anonymous man who told them on Aug. 16, two weeks after her disappearance, that he had killed Katie.
Then, on Oct. 12, 1993, the same day Janet Taylor was sentenced to home detention and probation, Wagner told the media that detectives were investigating a possible connection between the Taylors' tax evasion case and Katie's disappearance. 'Common sense would dictate that anyone would consider that,' she is quoted as saying.
Paul Eggleston, outraged by the detective's comments, blamed Wagner for ignoring the family's offer of search dogs immediately after her disappearance, when any scent would have been most fresh, and said police had not yet checked Katie's room where, he says, they would find all of her clothes, makeup, prescriptions and suitcases.
'1:15 p.m. Friday, March 4, 1994. (Paul Eggleston has heard, through the grapevine, that Portland detectives 'adamantly' believe Katie disappeared on her own.) 'If Wagner thinks there is evidence that Katie is alive and well, why has that not been shared with us? É The police have no right to torture us. If there is evidence Katie is alive, I want to know what it is. If there is no such evidence, these people need to stop talking as if there were.'
Later that same day, Paul Eggleston says, he talked to the private investigator, who told him that Portland police still thought Katie's disappearance could be tied to the tax case, and they were concerned about the absence of any sign of struggle in Katie's car and her missing passport.
'(The investigator) pointed out that this would get any cop's attention, including his. Fair enough.'
In August 1994, the police bureau made its last public comment on the investigation. Goodale said detectives still were considering whether Katie was abducted or disappeared voluntarily and whether her disappearance was connected to the Taylors' tax case.
Goodale also mentioned that Katie's passport still had not been found. Her mother said recently that Katie asked for the passport on July 18, 1993, as proof of citizenship for her new job, and she most likely put it into her Allnet binder.
There is no evidence that Katie's passport has been used since she disappeared; both it and the binder remain missing.
Nonetheless, John Carter, an Allnet employee who had known Katie at OSU, said during a recent interview that when investigators came to Allnet's office, they spent more time espousing their runaway theory than soliciting information from potential witnesses. An agent from the FBI, which joined the case at the Egglestons' request in February 1994, even told Katie's boss that the investigators' work on the case was 'a waste of time,' Carter told the Tribune.
That message had an effect on some of the people who knew Katie.
'I have a hard time believing somebody could fool the FBI,' Carter says, using 'somebody' to refer both to Katie successfully eluding detection for 9 1/2 years and to somebody who may have killed her.
'I don't know,' he says. 'Hell, I have no idea what truly happened to Katie.'
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele says the FBI only assisted Portland police on the Eggleston investigation. She referred the Tribune's inquiry about the case to the police department.
Why the connection?
Paul Eggleston's case history begins with a list of 'People of interest.' Not surprisingly, Janet and Jeffrey Taylor aren't on it.
It is difficult for Katie's family to understand why the police connected the Taylors' tax case with Katie's disappearance.
For one thing, the case against the Taylors clearly did not hinge upon Katie's testimony: Janet Taylor had pleaded guilty and had an agreed-upon sentencing recommendation almost a month before Katie disappeared; and Jeffrey Taylor pleaded guilty in September without testimony from any of the Egglestons.
Plus, both prosecutor William 'Bud' Fitzgerald, who characterized Katie as a nonessential witness to the Taylors' well-heeled lifestyle, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Claire Fay, who indicted the case, told the Tribune they never were interviewed by police; nor, Fitzgerald believes, did investigators talk to the IRS agent who had investigated the Taylors' case.
While the police were looking at the Taylors, the Egglestons were considering other suspects, including Katie's former and current co-workers and the security guard.
One of the strangest clues didn't come to their attention until 2001, although the tipster says he talked to Wagner and another detective shortly after Katie disappeared.
On May 4, 2001 Ñ Katie's 30th birthday Ñ the Egglestons ran an ad in The Oregonian with the tip-line phone number and the message 'Katie Eggleston: Your family and friends are waiting to hear from someone who can tell them what happened to you on Aug. 2, 1993.'
Shortly thereafter, a Portland man told Paul Eggleston he twice had seen a woman at the gas station where he worked, at Southeast 122nd Avenue and Stark Street, around the time Katie disappeared. The woman Ñ he is positive Ñ was Katie, but whether he saw her on a date and time that are consistent with the multiple sightings of her in the port building on that Monday afternoon is much less clear.
The first time, he said, he gave her directions to the airport and saw her drive northbound on 122nd Avenue in a car whose make he can't recall. A short time later, the same woman drove a different car Ñ a bluish-green Honda hatchback Ñ southbound on 122nd and back into the station. This time the woman was accompanied by two black men, one in the passenger seat, one in the back. She was also, contrary to her earlier, professional appearance, disheveled, partially undressed and crying.
The former attendant, who declined to be identified for publication, told the Tribune he heard her say, 'Please, please,' to the men several times and thought that she did things, including driving extremely erratically, to attract attention.
Shortly thereafter, he said, he saw Katie's picture on the news, connected it with the woman at the gas station and went to the police.
As Paul Eggleston says, 'Eyewitnesses sometimes are right, sometimes are wrong, and sometimes are way wrong.' Nonetheless, the man's story stands out for three reasons.
First, at a time when the detectives were telling the Egglestons that they had no leads, the man said Wagner made it clear she wasn't interested in his information about black suspects because police were looking for a white man, possibly with a Southern accent. This was an apparent reference to the anonymous caller who had told the Egglestons, in mid-August, that they would never find Katie because 'I killed her.'
Second, the gas station where the witness worked is only four miles south, on 122nd, from the parking lot where Katie's Volkswagen was found.
Third, the man said that the first time the woman came through, she had a thick, black book on the passenger seat. According to Allnet employee Carter, Allnet's sales binders were black and zippered, like 'minibriefcases.' When she came back, the book was gone, and one of the men was sitting in the Honda's passenger seat.
Not afraid of life
Command Central for the Egglestons' investigation is their home in Redmond.
It's the little house on the prairie, the oldest residence in Redmond, squatting on a windswept Ñ sometimes snowswept Ñ 5 acres. Katie lived in this house as a teenager. It's where her parents last saw her, two weekends before she disappeared, scraping a chair across kitchen linoleum that's been worn through to the wooden subflooring by generations of scraping chairs.
As Katie and her parents sat around the kitchen table, they talked about crime in Portland. Katie, who was a member of the swim team in high school and had taken self-defense classes, told them she was careful, stayed out of bad areas and always had her whistle with her.
She did not court danger, but she was not afraid of life, either.
'She was very outgoing, very friendly, someone that people were drawn to,' says Treasure Lewis, a sorority sister, college roommate and best friend of Katie who was never interviewed by detectives. 'Much like her mother that way. Always joking, wanting to go and do things.'
Nine and a half years later, Heather Eggleston, whose face is a mature version of Katie's, sits at the same kitchen table and recalls what one of Katie's friends told her: 'I never knew anybody as funny as Katie.'
The Portland Police Bureau's Ferraris, who has commanded Portland's detectives Ñ including its homicide division Ñ since February 2002, understands that the disappearance of people such as Katie can cause their families intense heartache. But he also knows that, according to bureau statistics, only 38 of the 500 or 600 adults reported missing to the bureau since 1990 still are unaccounted for. Some of them later were reclassified from missing to homicides, but many more of them came back, or were found, after they had disappeared voluntarily.
'Some people want to be missing,' Ferraris says, 'even though it hurts their families.'
In their daughter's case, the Egglestons don't agree.
Their lives have gone on. Paul Eggleston runs a small publishing business out of their home; Heather Eggleston volunteers and, her husband says happily, 'does nothing.'
There are fewer entries in the last of the five investigative binders than there are in the first, and Paul Eggleston, who has had several minor strokes since Katie disappeared, now sometimes uses them to refresh his memory.
'I remember better forwards than backwards,' he says, laughing ruefully.
But the Egglestons have not, by any means, given up hope that they will find out who killed their 'dearly loved' daughter.
'There's someone out there who actually has the piece of information we're looking for,' Paul Eggleston says.
The tip line is still open.
To provide information on Katie Eggleston's disappearance to the Portland Police Bureau, call 503-823-0400. The Egglestons' tip-line number is 1-800-536-7664.