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Former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and investigator Steve Spingola, of “Cold Justice” on Oxygen, headed to Harney County, Oregon, last year to probe a 25-year-old murder. Authorities had suspects and even an idea of what happened — but they lacked a body.
Spingola described the disappearance — and assumed shooting death — of Jay Sallee, 31, as like “something from 'The Twilight Zone.'”
Sallee lived a transient lifestyle, moving from town to town, doing manual labor on ranches, his sister Angela Hinton told “Cold Justice.”
“He just wanted to see the world,” she said.
In October 1993, Sallee called home to let his family know he had found a job on a ranch in eastern Oregon. He was excited about it, but it would be the last time his family ever heard from him.
The case was shelved until 2016, when a woman randomly came to the Linn County Sheriff's Office with a tip. Laurie Lynn Soule, apparently bearing a grudge against her ex-husband, told deputies that she knew what happened to Sallee.
The woman claimed that back in 1994, she was involved in a stolen property scheme with Sallee, a man named Ed Nice, and her ex, Ken Soule. Laurie told deputies that one or both of the other men had shot Sallee, and that she had seen them dumping him in a hole on a stretch of ranch land.
Her husband at the time told her that Sallee “won't be coming back around anymore,” she claimed, also alleging that Sallee had tried to sexually assault her a week before the murder.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward and Linn County Sheriff's Sergeant Mike Harmon have worked together since Laurie's tip, digging in possible locations for Sallee's body. “Cold Justice” pitched in with a dog team to help narrow their search and interview possible witnesses in 2019.
Ken Soule, now Kimberly Soule after a gender transition, offered a detailed account of what she remembered about Sallee's murder. Her recollection was vivid. Without hesitation, Kimberly recalled a “meeting” between her, Laurie, and Nice, at which point she claimed Laurie unequivocally said she wanted Sallee dead after he allegedly tried to rape her.
Days later, according to Kimberly, the group was in the middle of a field after a stolen property drop. Sallee sat in a metal chair inside his van, getting ready to shoot up, she said. Then, she claimed, Ed approached from behind and fired seven shots from a .22 handgun directly into the back of his head.
Kimberly and Nice dug a hole six feet deep for Sallee, she said. Laurie allegedly brought them coffee and sandwiches while they worked, and Nice was to “take care of” Sallee's van.
Kimberly accompanied the team out to the ranch land where she claimed they buried Sallee, and helped them zone off a likely area. Siegler felt optimistic.
“Kim is either telling the truth, or she's one heck of a liar,” she said.
Investigators spoke with Laurie's grown daughter, who was 6 at the time of the alleged murder. She couldn't remember any details, but warned detectives that her mother was “extremely manipulative.”
Speaking with Laurie herself yielded no new leads either. The woman denied ever telling the group that she wanted Sallee dead and bringing Nice and Kimberly coffee while they buried Sallee. Spingola and Harmon noted that, although Laurie claimed to have been pregnant at the time, that didn’t gel with the birthdates of her two children. Her choice of words when denying the allegations also left Spingola unconvinced, but it was time to move on.
The team arranged a meeting in a parking lot with Ed Nice, who never showed up. He did answer questions on the phone, however. Nice claimed to have no idea what had happened to Sallee — “there was a lot of drugs around then,” he said.
Nice did recall selling Sallee's van to a scrapyard after the man allegedly disappeared. With Kimberly telling investigators that Nice was tasked with disposing the van, that statement could connect him to the murder, the team agreed.
As of recently, the sheriff office’s digs in Harney County have turned up nothing. However, Siegler noted that Kimberly's admission of being involved in the murder could be enough for an indictment against her. The team broke the news to Sallee's sister, Hinton.
Even though they didn't yet have a strong enough case against the alleged shooter, Hinton called it “a big win, because now I know what happened.”
Harney County District Attorney Joe Lucas is currently reviewing the case for presentation to a grand jury, Siegler told Oxygen.com.
For more on the Jay Sallee case, including interviews with Kimberly and Laurie, watch “Cold Justice” at Oxygen.com and airing Saturdays at 6/5c.
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