Salem, Oregon. (AP) — On the night of Jan. 26, police focused their efforts on the tiny unincorporated community of Wolf Creek in southwest Oregon as they hunted down a suspect who was wanted for kidnapping and torturing a woman nearly to death — and who had previously been convicted of a similar crime in Nevada.
Five days later, Benjamin Obadiah Foster was dead, and finally the police found him in the basement under a house on nearby Grants Pass, the same house where his victim had been found bound unconscious a week earlier. Meanwhile, Foster entered another home and killed two strangers, leaving a gruesome scene as he dodged one of the biggest manhunts in the state in recent memory, police said Wednesday.
In 2019, Foster held his then-girlfriend captive in her Las Vegas apartment for two weeks, torturing her. Police said he broke seven of her ribs, blackened both eyes, choked her unconscious, and forced her to eat lye before she managed to escape. Foster had already been given a suspended prison sentence for concealing a weapon and was awaiting trial in another domestic violence case.
Two months after he made a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to one to two and a half years, he was released on October 21, 2021, the same day he was transferred to the Nevada State Penitentiary. A Nevada Correctional Officer said Foster was released because the judge gave him 729 days in jail before sentencing.
Fifteen months later, Foster, a 36-year-old bartender, was in a relationship with a woman at Grants Pass. On January 24, her friend became worried because she had not been seen for several days. The friend went to the woman’s house, where she was found beaten unconscious, bound and close to death. On Wednesday, the victim was hospitalized in critical condition.
The case has rocked Grants Pass, a city of 40,000 that has experienced high levels of unemployment and poverty, as well as layoffs due to the lumber industry’s decline. The police said they were devoting all their resources to finding Foster.
“We are focused on capturing this man and bringing him to justice,” Police Chief Warren Hensman said at a January 26 news conference.
That same night, Grants Pass police, sheriff’s deputies, an Oregon State Police SWAT team, and federal agents raided Wolf Creek, nestled among forested mountains, where traffic was passing nearby on Interstate 5. The agents confiscated Foster’s car, which he drove along the embankment, apparently trying to hide her, and arrested a 68-year-old woman for obstruction of prosecution. But Foster is gone.
Investigators believed he was helped to escape the area. The next day, the police announced that he was using dating apps to find people who could help him avoid the police or find more victims. Authorities offered Foster a $2,500 reward and set up a tip line.
One call came from a taxi company, Hensman said Wednesday, saying the man had requested a taxi from Sun Valley, south of Wolf Creek. The police inspected the houses to make sure the residents were all right.
But through the window of one house, they saw what turned out to be a crime scene. According to Oregon State Police Captain Kyle Kennedy, they entered and found the bodies of Richard Lee Barron, Jr. and Donald Owen Griffith, who were killed sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and died from blunt force trauma.
“Unfortunately, this is a violent scene that we are processing,” Kennedy said. There is no indication that Foster knew either Barron or Griffith, who lived together, prior to the murder.
They took a few things, as well as a male dog. On Tuesday, Foster was spotted 20 miles (30 km) south in the Grants Pass area – with a dog.
Law enforcement officers in helmets and bulletproof vests rushed to the neighborhood with rifles and at least one armored personnel carrier. They searched the house next door where they found the woman last week. According to the chief of police, it was a nervous situation.
“While we send out teams to secure the residence, we also have to consider what this man just did – he brutally murdered two innocent people in Sun Valley and we didn’t know when he was going to stop,” Hensman said. . Residents of the area were ordered to take cover on the spot.
The officers searched the house and found no one at first, but then they sent the sheriff’s department robot underground and found signs that Foster had dug deep under the house. His presence was confirmed by a camera. The fugitive had water and other supplies hidden, apparently in the hope that he could wait out the presence of the police unnoticed.
According to Hensman, the officers expected a firefight, but Foster shot himself in the head instead. Arriving police found Foster unconscious, pinned under the house and holding a .45 caliber pistol. The officers had to cut the floorboards to get it out.
Foster was taken to the hospital, where he died on Tuesday evening.
“It was a long and difficult task,” Hensman said. “It all ended with Benjamin Foster committing suicide.”
Associated Press contributor Rio Yamat of Las Vegas contributed to this report.