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Three arrested in courthouse bomb threat investigation

Police: Suspects made calls to delay pending court appearances


Johnnie Lee Gonzales.Three people were jailed Friday morning, Oct. 10, after being arrested in connection with a series of bomb threats called into the Columbia County Courthouse, the St. Helens Police Department announced.

Police said Johnnie Lee Gonzales, 25, a transient; Kendra Ann Lee, 21, of Deer Island; and Jo Anne Tillman, 41, of Scappoose, were arrested and lodged in the Columbia County Jail. The three are suspected of making four bomb threats by telephone this year that prompted the evacuation of the courthouse.

According to police, the first three bomb threats — the first of them on May 1, the second on Aug. 27 and the third on Oct. 6 — were made to delay court appearances by two of the suspects.

“Their purpose was to keep their friend or themselves out of court that day," said St. Helens Police Chief Terry Moss.

Kendra Ann Lee.The fourth threat was called in Tuesday, Oct. 7, in an effort to throw investigators off, according to police.

“They admitted to that, so we know that that fourth one was an effort to mix it up,” said Moss.

Moss said the suspects, whom he described as "friends" and "associates" of one another, have admitted to making the series of threats.

He added, “You do something once, it may be difficult for us, incredibly difficult to identify a suspect. You do it twice, three times, four times, you're only making it exponentially easier for law enforcement to find you.”

No explosive devices were ever found in the courthouse in connection with the bomb threats, and police said none were actually made by the suspects.

Gonzales, Lee and Tillman all face charges of disorderly conduct in the first degree, initiating a false report and obstructing governmental administration.

Jo Anne Tillman.Moss said all of the charges are misdemeanor offenses.

Gonzales was arrested in the Canby area by deputies from the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and retrieved by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, according to Moss.

Moss declined to offer details of how the suspects allegedly phoned in the threats and how police tracked them down, but he said it took “good police work” to find them.

“We do have technology on our side that we can find out who's doing this,” Moss said. “It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of time, but the bottom line is, it's possible — even when our suspects are using technology to their advantage, we can also use similar or better technology.”

He added, “They took steps to try to cover their tracks, and well, it didn't work.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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