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UP students killer remains at large 2 years later

Police continue to chase leads in the campus slaying

The second anniversary of the brutal murder of Catherine 'Kate' Johnson at the University of Portland is expected to pass quietly Thursday, with the Portland Police Bureau apparently not much closer to catching her killer.

Johnson, 21, was found dead in her room at the university's Mehling Hall on May 29, 2001. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten. She was last seen on May 27, when she joined other summer dormitory resident managers on campus for dinner.

Johnson, who would have been a senior in music education, was working as a resident manager in Mehling and at UP's volunteer services office at the time of her death.

'There's not a whole lot more we can say about the investigation,' Cmdr. Jim Ferraris, supervisor of the police bureau's detective division, said last week. 'I can tell you there's four detectives still assigned to this investigation who spend every free moment working on this case. We are continuing to generate and to investigate new leads.

'We're making progress,' but as other cases come in, 'we have to focus on that work,' he said. 'I know it must be very frustrating for her family. Our hearts go out to them. We all are aware that they would like some closure, as would we and the community.'

With the exception of a December 2001 news conference, Johnson's parents, Russell and Edith 'Edie' Johnson of Vancouver, Wash., have not talked to the media about the death of their oldest child and only daughter.

A police profile of Johnson's killer, released at the same news conference, described him as likely to be a controlling man with superficial relationships, few friends, and negative and volatile experiences with women.

'If you know somebody who fits that profile, call us,' Ferraris told the Tribune last February for a story about Johnson's death.

The article generated a call from a reader about a UP employee with a history of violence toward women and access to Johnson's dormitory at the time of her murder Ñ facts that the Tribune was able to confirm.

The caller, who said he believed that the employee's personality matches that of the killer's profile, said he previously had contacted Portland police and was told that the employee had been cleared.

Police, who declined to comment on the employee to the Tribune, collected DNA samples from some university employees in 2001. They have not said whether they have DNA from the crime scene to make comparisons.

Information about the Johnson case may be reported to the Portland Police Bureau, 503-823-0400.

Contact Janine Robben at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..