Overview of Rodney Grissom
Rodney Grissom was a typical teen who lived in a blended family that had struggles of its own. When he met Karen Lee, plans to run away to California for a better life blossomed.
Rodney Grissom was only 14 when he met Karen Lee, 15. The pair quickly became friends, and as typical teenagers, they talked about wanting to escape their lives.
It's hard to believe that two young people would actually go through with their runaway plans.
To that end, Rodney had tried to run away before.
Rodney's mother, Marjorie (Grissom) Burt said her son was living in Bend, Oregon, shortly before he disappeared. Earlier in 1977, she found Rodney after a three-day search in downtown Hillsboro, and sent him back to his father's house in the same town for him to finish up school.
Only a few months later, both Rodney and Karen would vanish.
On May 24, 1977, Rodney is last seen at his father's home in Hillsboro. Two days later, his friend Karen would be last seen. It's presumed that the pair met up and started their hitchhiking fantasy down to California.
Investigators were later able to trace a May 26, 1977 phone call that Karen made to a payphone in Lebanon, Oregon.
"Our ride is here," Karen told her friend over the phone. "I have to go."
This was the last time Karen and Rodney were ever heard from.
Historical weather station data for the 48 hour period covering May 26 and 27 of 1977 from the Albany OR weather station detail that on the 26th, the high was 56, with a low of 45. It started raining at 11:00 pm, continuing throughout the night and intensifying in the very early morning hours and continuing throughout the 27th. The high for May 27 was 55, with a low of 45.
Months and years later, both Karen and Rodney's clothing and belongings would be discovered in dense areas off of logging roads in rural Linn County.
On November 8, 1981, Rodney's clothing was discovered by Willamette Industries Loggers off of Soda Ford Road — just a quarter of a mile where Karen's clothes were found wrapped in a bundle under heavy brush.
The items located included:
- Levi denim jeans
- Blue jacket with a precision-jeweler type screwdriver and remnants of Marlboro Reds cigarettes
- Levi denim jeans with the belt still buckled
- An anchor keychain with a house key on it
- A wallet within the jeans containing cash and ID cards for Rodney
- A wrist watched stopped on "27th at 4:50"
- It's unknown whether the time was 4:50 a.m. or p.m., and what month the 27th was — but investigators note that it's most likely not a coincidence that Karen was last heard from on May 26, 1977.
Family members of Grissom reported that he should've been in possession of an orange backpack with an aluminum frame, penned with the name "R. Grissom" on the inside. Detectives later learned that the backpack was purchased from a pawn shop in Bend on Greenwood Street during the Spring of 1977 or 1978 — and was then later sold at a garage sale.
Rodney's backpack is still unaccounted for.
Did a serial killer take Karen and Rodney's lives?
Infamous killer John Arthur Ackroyd has been circumstantially linked to both Rodney and Karen's cases.
In 1977, he began working for the state highway department along U.S. Route 20 that ran east to west across Oregon. He was responsible for clearing wrecks, helping people whose cars broke down on the highway, and maintenance.
When Karen's clothing was discovered, it bore a chilling similarity to two of Ackroyd's earlier assaults — items of the clothing were sliced.
Karen's jeans appeared to have been cut in a similar manner that rape survivor Marlene Gabrielsen's boots and underwear were sliced. The waistband on murder victim Kaye Turner's yellow jogging shorts were also cut.
One of the original Detectives, Jim Salberry, told reporters in 1983: "They didn't just go down there and throw their clothes off."
Karen’s mother, Violet Gillmore, is a strong believer that Ackroyd is behind her youngest daughter’s disappearance. She told Oregon Live that she knew Ackroyd had abducted a runner near Highway 20 and that he was from Sweet Home, not far from where Karen had used the pay phone to call a friend.
Soda Fork Rd is also similar to other "dumping grounds" associated with Ackroyd.
Soda Fork Rd is a gravel logging road that begins at US 20 and goes back into the Cascades. This is similar to Swamp Mountain Rd (Swamp Mountain Doe), Santiam Wagon Rd (Marlene Gabrielsen), and Burnside Rd (Snow Creek Doe). Elizabeth Mussler's remains were found in a shallow grave on Thistle Creek Rd, 325' from the junction with Quartzville Rd, above Green Peter Resevoir. Quartzville Rd begins at US 20. Kaye Turner was murdered inside Camp Sherman, again just off US 20
Rodney was initially reported missing to the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon in 1977. He was recently reported missing to the Linn County Sheriff's Office in 2012. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Linn County Sheriff's Office at (541) 917-6654