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Oregon Kidnapping And Assault Suspect Also Accused Of Murdering Two Men During Manhunt
Benjamin Foster murdered Richard Barron Jr. and Donald Griffith during a police manhunt, according to Oregon law enforcement. He is suspected of kidnapping and torturing a woman in Grants Pass who is in critical condition, and has a history of domestic violence with past girlfriends.
Oregon State police said in a press conference Wednesday that Benjamin Foster, 36, murdered Richard Barron Jr. and Donald Griffith sometime between Monday afternoon and early Tuesday morning.
“Our thoughts, our prayers, go out to the families, the victims, citizens, our community — everybody that’s been impacted by this horrific chain of events,” said Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman during the press conference.
This all started on Tuesday, Jan. 24, when Grants Pass police said a concerned friend called 911 to report an assault at a home on Shane Way. According to previous Oxygen.com reporting, Grants Pass police said the woman's friend became concerned after not hearing from her friend on Tuesday, after which she went by her home and “interrupted” the torture while it was in progress. Foster, accused of torturing the unnamed victim, was at the home when the friend stopped by but left before officers arrived.
At the home, officers found a 35-year-old woman who had been bound and severely beaten into unconsciousness. That woman is still in critical condition in the hospital. Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman said the victim and Foster had a “previous domestic relationship” and her identity has not been released.
“That sparked off an intensive manhunt the last several days,” Chief Hensman said. “We have worked around the clock to capture Benjamin Foster.”
Foster was wanted for kidnapping, attempted murder, and assault.
Thursday night, Grants Pass police, along with other agencies, served a search warrant at a home in Sunny Valley Loop in Wolf Creek, but Foster was able to escape, and “likely received assistance in fleeing the area,” according to Grants Pass police.
During that search, Tina Jones, 68, was arrested for hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. She is still in custody on a $25,000 bond at the Josephine County Jail, according to an Oxygen.com review of jail records.
Court documents obtained by the Associated Press allege that Jones followed Foster in her vehicle to a remote area in Wolf Creek early on Thursday and then watched as he drove his 2008 Nissan Sentra over an embankment, according to previous Oxygen.com reporting. He then allegedly got in her car and she drove him to the property that police raided on Thursday evening.
On Monday night, because Foster was still on the run, the Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel said deputies began conducting welfare checks in the Sunny Valley area and going door to door to check on residents. Through an open window during the checks, deputies observed what looked like the scene of a crime.
“Very near the location where Mr. Foster was initially holed up on Thursday night, we discovered a double homicide scene,” Daniel said during the press conference. “It’s a brutal scene unfortunately that we are processing.”
The sheriff said it is believed Foster killed Barron Jr. and Griffith using blunt force trauma.
A tip from the community alerted police to Foster being picked up by a cab around 7 a.m. Tuesday morning and transported down to Grants Pass near the location of the original crime scene, and officers have surveillance footage of him in that area. The police chief said officers believed Foster had made his way back to Shane Way, and the home of his original alleged victim.
The sheriff said items were missing from the home of the homicides, including a dog. Grants Pass police released a surveillance image of Foster seen on Tuesday morning walking a small dog and confirmed during the press conference that is the same dog that went missing from the scene of the homicides.
“We have to take into account what this man just did,” Chief Hensman said. “He brutally murdered two innocents in Sunny Valley. And we didn’t know when he was going to stop.”
At that point, officers used an alert system to notify all residents within a half mile radius to shelter in place, and officers from several law enforcement agencies surrounded the home. SWAT officers cleared the entire home, but officers knew the home had a crawl space, and a sheriff’s robot confirmed Foster was in the crawl space.
“He did not want to communicate with police,” Chief Hensman said. “We located him burrowed deep underneath the home. We knew he was armed and dangerous, so you can imagine the safety of not only community, but the law enforcement professionals who were out there, was our top priority. We had to be incredibly careful. At the end, Foster took his own life with what appears to be a single gunshot wound to the head with a .45 caliber weapon.”
Hensman said it was a tough task to remove Foster from the crawl space.
“He was dug deep under this house,” Hensman said. “It was very difficult to do. We literally had to cut into the floorboards from the home.”
Foster was still breathing as officers approached him, and was taken to a medical facility, where he was later pronounced dead.
“This was a long, arduous task,” Hensman said. “It ended with Benjamin Foster taking his own life. We are confident the community is safe.”
Police said Foster had items like water stashed under the house with him, indicating he intended to have a long stand-off with police. His true intentions and reasons for the crimes will likely never be known.
“I would have preferred to have an interview with this man so we could figure out a lot of the whys,” Hensman said. “There’s going to be a lot of full stops without any explanation. That disappoints me. And I would have liked to have some responses to some of our questions, but we just don’t know.”
During the manhunt, Grants Pass police said they were concerned Foster was actively using online dating applications “to contact unsuspecting individuals who may be lured into assisting with the suspect’s escape or potentially as additional victims” and urged the community to take caution. But in Wednesday’s press conference, the police chief said it is not believed Foster used dating apps for this reason during the manhunt.
This wasn’t the first time Foster was accused of domestic violence and holding someone captive. In 2019, Foster’s then-girlfriend was found unconscious in Las Vegas with broken ribs, two black eyes, and other injuries after Foster held her captive for two weeks, according to Fox News. He took a deal with prosecutors, and a judge sentenced him to one to two and a half years in prison, but Foster was released the day he was transferred to prison because he had already spent 729 days in jail awaiting trial. He’d also previously served time for felony battery constituting domestic violence in 2017, according to previous Oxygen.com reporting.
This is still an ongoing investigation, according to Grants Pass Police and Oregon State Police.