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1998: Ace Hayes: the government denies all knowledge | Do you know who your parents are? |
The choirboys went bad


Obese paraplegic Steven Dons shoots and kills Portland Police Officer Colleen Waibel at his home during a pot bust gone bad. Dons later strangles himself in his jail cell.

Institute for Brewing Studies reports flat sales among Portland microbrewers, after seven years of double-digit growth. Several factors are to blame: a severe drop in out-of-state demand and the persistent advertising of megabrewers such as Anheuser-Bush.

Farmworkers union PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) signs the first union contract in Oregon history between farmworkers and growers. Twenty workers at Nature's Foundation Farm, an organic berry farm in Woodburn, are now guaranteed breaks, overtime, holidays and seniority.

The Princeton Review names Reed College the country's top academic school for undergrads. Reed places third in the "reefer madness" category.

After shooting his parents, 16-year-old Kip Kinkel goes on a rampage at Thurston High School in Springfield, killing two students and wounding 22.

Business Week reports that Portland's cost of living is rising at a faster rate than in any other city. Since 1991, life's necessities for the average Portland resident have jumped 25 percent, while national prices rose only 15 percent.

Responding to reports of a street fight on North Lombard, police detain Richard "Dickie" Dow, a 37-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, who was hurrying toward his home a few blocks away. Dow becomes agitated; his mother hears him shouting and comes running, but to no avail. Dow collapses and stops breathing; officers have trouble performing CPR. He dies later that night of what the medical examiner calls "positional asphyxia." Roughly 400 demonstrators march to protest the way police deal with mental illness, prompting the bureau to step up CPR training.

Sure, no one wants a homeless shelter or a sewage-treatment plant in their neighborhood. But westside NIMBYs break new ground when they oppose a Holocaust memorial in Washington Park. The City Council won't kill the plan; neighbors appeal to the state; and the outcome is still in limbo.

Almost nine years after the disappearance of former Reedie Tim Moreau, a Multnomah County grand jury indicts Larry Hurwitz, former owner of the Starry Night club, on five counts of aggravated murder. Hurwitz pleads not guilty.

After 17 years in captivity, Keiko the killer whale is hoisted out of his tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, packed in ice and flown in an Air Force C-17 cargo plane to Iceland, near his original diving-grounds. Departure of the cetacean star of the 1993 movie Free Willy makes Oregonians blubber and--er--wail.

Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie--swing is in, man, and all the hep cats are dressing zoot and cutting the rug. Eugenesters the Cherry Poppin' Daddies' new album, Zoot Suit Riot, climbs the charts.

Some 160,000 metro-area residents greet the long-awaited opening of the 18-mile westside MAX. Tri-Met's 20-station line, which includes a three-mile tunnel through the West Hills, is an engineering triumph, but draws fire from local Buddhist clerics who fear that the tunnel, which runs beneath a cemetery, may have disturbed the souls of the dead. Later the clerics hold a ceremony to reassure ancestral spirits that all is well.

Hold your breath: Oregon voters approve the use of marijuana as medicine. By June 1999, infirm inhalers can sign up for an official get-out-of-jail-free card with the Oregon Health Division if they can get a doctor's note. Registration fee: $150 a year.


  He was always something of an enigma, this rough-hewn, backwoods, chain-smoking journalist with a voice like a Douglas fir, who lobbed his fulminant jeremiads at government gone awry. But there's no question that ACE HAYES was the grand-daddy of Portland conspiratologists. As editor of the far-out Portland Free Press and longtime host of the monthly Secret Government Seminars (held at the Clinton Street Theater), the 58-year-old Hayes was a walking catalog
of cover-ups who attracted a bizarre following of tax resistors, mutant hippies and gun-totin' computer geeks. But although Hayes was unflinching in his criticism of covert government operations, he never descended into black-helicopter paranoia. Portland lost an original voice when this former logger, machinist and union organizer died of a brain aneurysm--on Friday the 13th.



  It was the ultimate in identity politics. In 1998, a group of political neophytes, led by an art teacher from Nehalem, did what had never been done before in the United States: They convinced the voters of Oregon that they, too, had the right to look at their own birth certificates in order to answer the age-old question, "Who am I?"

Measure 58 was a longshot about an issue no one had ever heard of.

It passed largely because chief petitioner Helen Hill had the money (nearly $100,000 of an inheritance from her adoptive father) and the smarts (she hired veterans of Bill Sizemore's signature-gathering camps). And she had Bastard Nation, a

national group of adoptee-rights activists who used the Internet to spread the word, give her legal advice and send in the troops to hold rallies in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

As soon as the measure passed, six "Jane Doe" birth mothers, backed by a national closed-records group, filed suit to block it, arguing that opening birth records would invade their privacy. The court battle is not expected to end until 2000, frustrating the thousand-plus Oregon adoptees who have applied for their birth certificates. Meanwhile, Measure 58 has sparked a similar initiative in Washington state and inspired other groups: Now the progeny of anonymous sperm donors, fondly dubbed Baster Nation, are starting to rally for their identity rights.



Soon after Kip Kinkel's rampage in Springfield, when the intensity of juvenile crime in America had everyone looking for answers, WW broke the story of two schoolboys from Grant High who had committed as many as 20 armed robberies. What made the case so unsettling was that the young men involved, Tom Curtis and Ethan Thrower, weren't typical misbehaving youths.

Curtis was Grant's student body president; Thrower was a choir boy. They were both from two-parent families. They weren't poor. They weren't gang-bangers. Indeed, they were both downright all-American: Thrower was a star runner with a college scholarship in his future, and Curtis was an Eagle Scout. As underclassmen, they were both homecoming princes at Grant.

But beginning in November 1996, police noticed an unusual number of robberies near the school. The thieves often wore ski masks and brandished weapons. Detectives knew that was odd. Most robberies are stick-ups on the street; the perps don't wear ski masks, and they certainly don't count down how much time someone has to hand over a cash drawer "or else"--that's for television.

The teenagers' downfall came in November 1997 when, after robbing Rustica of $454 at gunpoint while diners hit the floor, Thrower accidentally shot himself. Curtis called 911 for help and later filed a false police report, saying that gang members had shot his pal; Thrower told police a different version.

What detectives figured out was that the Rustica robbery had happened moments before the 911 call. They also found a ski mask and a pool of blood inside a stolen Chevy Suburban abandoned nearby. Witnesses had reported seeing the gunmen drive off in just such a vehicle.

Thrower was arrested for the Rustica robbery on April 16, the day before Grant's senior prom. Curtis went to the prom, but skipped town soon after. A nationwide media circus ensued, with Curtis turning himself in to authorities in Las Vegas that July after his case was aired on America's Most Wanted.

Why did two young men with bright futures turn to a spree of armed robberies? The answers rest with Curtis and Thrower themselves. Curtis is serving a 12-year sentence at Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, while Thrower, who cooperated with prosecutors, was sentenced to 8 1/2 years and is sitting it out at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton.


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