Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


St. Helens man arrested in cold case murder

by: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - HicksA St. Helens man has been charged with the 1982 murder of a 17-year-old woman.

Kenneth Lee Hicks, 49, was arrested Feb. 27 and is being held without bail at the Washington County Jail on two counts of aggravated murder. He was 19 years old when police say he murdered Lori Billingsley. Her body was found in a drainage ditch on Southwest Miller Hill Road near the community of Aloha. She had been sexually assaulted then killed.

by: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - BillingsleyHicks was identified as a potential suspect in 1982, but there was not enough evidence at the time to charge him with the murder.

Washington County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Welch was the lead investigator and worked with other detectives on the case for over a year, following down every lead. Though they only came to dead ends at the time, Welch’s comprehensive 1982 investigation and report would prove to be invaluable decades later.

In the early 1990s, DNA testing was beginning to be recognized as a valuable tool to help investigators identify or eliminate crime suspects. In 1991, the investigators of the Billingsley murder submitted evidence to the Oregon State Police Crime Lab for DNA analysis but came up empty-handed.

The technology continued to advance. By 2010, it was possible to test small or degraded samples of evidence. So, once again, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office sent in evidence from the Billingsley murder. This time, they were able to identify a DNA profile, but this profile did not match any people currently in the DNA database.

Detective Mike O’Connell had begun working at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office two years before Billingsley was murdered. He retired in 2010, but came back to work part time at the sheriff’s office, dedicated to solving cold cases. He went back to investigating Billginsley’s death and served a search warrant to seize Hicks’ DNA.

The two profiles — Hicks’ and the profile collected from evidence —matched.

District Attorney Robert Hermann who was assigned to the original case in 1982 is currently prosecuting the case on behalf of Washington County.

Detectives are seeking further information about this case. If you have any information, call the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 503-846-2500.