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Man Charged In Murder Of Missing Oregon Teenager Found Stabbed In The Woods

Troy Phelps has been arrested for the murder of Oregon teen Kendra Hanks, who was last seen alive when she got into a car on the way home from her job at a bookstore.

By Dorian Geiger
A police handout of missing teen Kendra Hanks

A suspect has been arrested for the murder of an 18-year-old Oregon teenager who vanished while walking home from her job at a bookstore earlier this month.

Troy Phelps, 39, was taken into police custody in connection with the murder of Kendra Hanks, 18, on July 21, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Hanks vanished on July 7 after she finished up a shift at the Ingram Book Company in Roseburg, Oregon and began walking the couple of miles home to Winston, Oregon. She was last seen walking past a butcher shop in the area of Highway 99 at around 4:00 p.m., about two miles from the bookstore in the direction of her house.

Six days later, her body was later recovered from a wooded area in the 9000 block of Cow Creek Road near Riddle, Oregon — more than 30 miles from where she'd last been seen. She had multiple puncture wounds to her neck and chest, and had died from a stab wound to her neck, the News-Review reported

Authorities claim that Phelps — who had quickly been identified as a person of interest in the case —  was the man who picked up Hanks on the day she disappeared.

He was arrested last Thursday after being questioned by detectives. Investigators then executed a search warrant on his home in Riddle, about 13 miles from where Hanks' body had been found.

Recently filed court documents shed light on the timeline surrounding Hanks' disappearance.

Surveillance footage allegedly captured Hanks being picked up by a driver — who detectives suspect was Phelps — operating a burgundy Saturn Outlook at 4:13 p.m., KEZI-TV reported. It's unclear if the Oregon teenager entered the driver's Saturn voluntarily. Hanks was captured on other surveillance footage, apparently in distress, in the passenger seat of the Outlook — which had its window rolled down — at around 4:16 p.m. 

Two minutes later, investigators say the car was recorded on yet another surveillance camera with the passenger-side window rolled up

The vehicle was allegedly recorded about 20 minutes later near where Hanks' body was eventually recovered. The driver, who allegedly matched Phelps' description, was later captured driving the Saturn near his home on Pruner Road in Riddle.

Cell phone data further linked Phelps to the crime scene, investigators said.

Phelps was charged with both first and second-degree murder, kidnapping, resisting arrest and a parole violation, online records show. Authorities declined to release additional information pertaining to the open case.

A spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s questions surrounding the case Wednesday morning.

Loved ones described Hanks as a “sweet, caring and kind young lady.”

“She loved her animals,” Hanks’ brother-in-law Brandon Russell told KEZI-TV. “She was always there to lend a hand. She had a silent, yet direct way of caring for family and showing her love, and that's really how we want to remember her."

Police also haven’t specified a motive in the teen’s killing or whether Phelps was known to Hanks prior to her murder.

“Our family is devastated by the news as any family would be, and we want people to really watch over their loved ones because people don't think this could happen to their family until it happens to them,” Russell added. "We want justice for Kendra and we will do everything we can to make sure she gets it.”

Phelps is being held without bail at a Douglas County detention center, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com. He was arraigned in Douglas County Circuit Court last week. Phelps scheduled to appear in court again on Friday. It’s unclear if he’s retained legal counsel to comment on his behalf.

Phelps was previously charged with murder in 2017 in the shooting death of another man, according to KEZI-TV. He was acquitted on the murder and kidnapping charges in the case, but convicted of reckless burning and being felon in possession of a firearm.