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I guess this stuff goes with the job

On the Town

Editor's note: There was no Phil Stanford column published March 6, 2007; Stanford is on assignment.

Funny thing happened when I opened my mail Tuesday. There was a letter from someone threatening to kill me if I continued writing 'articles on the murders.'

Who knows if the guy who wrote it is the real deal or just a crank? Under the circumstances, though, you have to take it seriously.

There was no need, however, for the writer - who of course didn't bother to sign his name - to spell out which murders he was referring to.

Over the past few weeks the Tribune has been pursuing a story that, about 25 years ago, a respected private investigator by the name of Earl Son might have been murdered to keep him from uncovering an ugly secret.

At the time, Son - himself a former homicide detective for the Multnomah County sheriff's office - was looking into allegations that certain members of the city's Special Investigations Division might have been involved in one or more murders.

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Shortly before his death, in fact, he told people in the office of the lawyer he was working for that he'd already proved one such murder. When court reconvened after the Christmas holiday, he said, he was planning to get the information before the judge.

Then a few days later, on Dec. 30, 1981, he was found shot to death in his home. His death was ruled a suicide.

From the beginning, however, there have been those who thought otherwise. And just this past December - ironically enough, once again just before Christmas - the lawyer Son was working for at the time of his death, former Multnomah County District Attorney Des Connall, asked the current DA, Mike Schrunk, to open an investigation into Son's death.

Early last month, when the detective's investigative notes turned up, Connall once again went to Schrunk.

Last week, Schrunk referred the matter to the FBI. At this point it's impossible to guess whether the agency, overburdened as it reportedly is with matters of Homeland Security, will even be interested in investigating the allegations.

If so, it's probably back to Schrunk, who will have to wrestle once again with how to proceed with this troublesome matter. Obviously, he can't just drop it.

In short, this case is far from closed.

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Newspapers, and newspaper writers who deal with controversial subjects, get nasty letters often enough. Although to be sure, not all of them offer to kill you and members of your family, plus the lawyers and witnesses involved in the matter, unless you stop writing things they don't like.

And whether the threat is a bona fide one or not, it's not only not nice to send things like that through the mail, it's also illegal.

Fortunately, there's every reason to hope that the law enforcement agency now in possession of the letter will figure out who sent it.

In the meantime, though, regardless of the mail we may receive, the Tribune will continue to do what it can to sweep some of the cobwebs from this dark and disturbing corner of our city's recent past.

In the beginning there was just one of us sweeping away. Then there were two.

Since the letter arrived, we've had a team of writers and editors assigned to the story.

In case there's any doubt out there, be assured that the Tribune will continue to report any new developments in this case and follow them wherever they may lead.

That's just what we do.

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