Teen indicted for murder of NE Portland girl

Amid searches for evidence, accusations, and speculation in the community, a Multnomah County Grand Jury heard evidence that’s led to an indictment of 16-year-old Parrish Ian Bennette Jr. for the murder of 14-year-old Yashanee Vaughn. And, see exclusive photos of the extensive search for her body in East Portland …

This tragic incident has gone from being a “missing person” case – involving this girl, 14-year-old Yashanee Vaughn – to a murder investigation. Media poster image

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
What started as a “missing persons” report of an outer NE Portland student, 14-year-old Yashanee Vaughn, to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) on March 21, has now officially led to 16-year-old Parrish Ian Bennette Jr. being indicted for her murder by a Multnomah County Grand Jury on Friday, April 8th.

Originally, Shaquita Louis had called police to report her daughter, Yashanee Vaughn, was missing, PPB Chief Michael Reese revealed on March 31. “Ms. Louis said she hadn’t had contact with her daughter since Friday, March 18.”

Reese added, “I share the community’s concern with the disappearance, and now the subsequent murder investigation, of a young Portland woman. Our Detectives are actively involved in investigating this case.”

Detectives had no reason to believe that Yashanee had been abducted or that foul play was involved, until they received additional information on Sunday evening, March 27, officials said.

“Subsequent search warrants, and additional information, has brought new information to light,” stated PPB Public Information Officer Lt. Kelli Sheffer. “Detectives have informed the family about these new developments in the investigation. 16-year-old Parrish Bennette has been arrested in this case.”

Inside Helensview School, Yashanee Vaughn’s friends hold a vigil for their missing friend and classmate.

The evening of March 31, students and friends of the missing girl gathered at Helensview School, the alternative high school that Yashanee had been attending, operated by Multnomah Educational Service District.

“Yashanee was a good girl; she was so sweet,” said one of the students at the evening vigil.

To those organizing search efforts for her daughter, Shaquita Louis told media, “I thank you for helping me with the effort to find my daughter.  I really appreciate it.”

On April 1, Parrish Bennett – this is an image from his Facebook page – is arraigned at Donald E. Long Detention Center.

Trained and certified searchers begin their section-by-section exploration, here on Rocky Butte.

Places of interest, including Rocky Butte and the surrounding area, became the focus of an intensive search starting April 1. Roads were closed off to the butte as the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit led the effort to assist detectives with the search.

That afternoon, in the shadow of Rocky Butte, at City Bible College Church’s parking lot at 9200 NE Fremont Street, friends and family of Yashanee Vaughn gathered to talk with media.

Family friend Ionka Mitchell spoke with the media about efforts to find Yashanee Vaughn.

Saying she was a classmate of Shaquita Louis at Madison High School, and had a 14-year-old daughter of her own, Ionka Mitchell spoke with us.

“They should have been searching days ago,”scowled Mitchell. “If they don’t [search] and they don’t find her, we plan on getting out in the morning and go until we can’t go anymore. Our community needs to support Shaquita.”

Mitchell continued, “[They] start talking about the Multnomah County budget – I don’t like to do the race thing, but when you think about Kyron Horman, it’s not right.”

Searchers take a break from their efforts while being briefed by Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

At that time, some still had hopes that Yashanee was still alive, Mitchell said. “We just want to find her. All the ‘what happened’ and ‘whodunits’ come after.”

Mitchell said she didn’t know Bennette personally. “But I had teenage daughters, and they have their ‘versions’ [of their relationship]. Everyone seems to know both of them right now.”

Volunteers rest before coming heading out to search another section of Rocky Butte at the search operation’s base camp.

On April 2, we ventured up to Rocky Butte, as the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office coordinated a detailed search of approximately 200 areas of difficult terrain on the Rocky Butte bluff. Approximately 80 volunteers showed up today to assist in the search.

The groups included volunteers from Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue, Washington County Explorers, Clark County Civilian Search and Rescue, Columbia Search and Rescue Alliance in Clark County, Mountain Wave Communications, Northern Oregon Search and Rescue, and Wind River Search and Rescue in Clark County.

A search crew leader debriefs after their team searched a section.

PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson met us near the City Bible College and drove us up to the search headquarters encampment atop Rocky Butte. “We are continuing to ask for the public’s help in learning more about where Yashanee was before she was reported missing, and thereafter. Obviously, we’ve made an arrest, but there’s a lot more to do from an investigative standpoint.”

Simpson introduced us to the effort’s leader, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Coordinator Sergeant Diana Olsen.

The narrow roadway was filled with vehicles and volunteers. “The big motor home comes from Emergency Management; they loaned it to us as a place to run our incident command,” Olsen explained. “The tent on the left is used for briefing and debriefing the search teams. The next trailer over is Mountain Wave, a volunteer group that handles communications for us. And, we have a cooking trailer with bathrooms in it.”

A crew from Multnomah County Search & Rescue loads up, heading out to search another area of Rocky Butte.

A search team leader checks the handheld GPS unit coordinates against the grid section assigned to the squad.

Three law enforcement personnel directed the operation, overseeing the efforts of the volunteers. “They are all trained and certified in mountain search and rescue. There are different levels of certification; some of them have advanced medical training, for example.”

Olson said search area was broken into a grid. “Some areas are larger, some are smaller, determined by the difficulty of the terrain and ground cover. Because of the difficulty – like brambles and steep grades – some grid sections take longer to search than others.”

It’s not easy going, as search team members move through thick Himalayan blackberry brambles – on a very steep hillside.

When a search crew returns to the base camp, the leader is debriefed, and the handheld GPS tracking unit is downloaded to verify that the designated section was covered.

“That’s the difference between searching by wandering through an area,” Olsen explained, “as opposed to the organized, systematic search that we are providing to thoroughly cover the area.”

Although the comprehensive search effort didn’t turn up the evidence they’d hoped for, Olson remarked, “These searchers did a great job. It was hard work searching this terrain; they volunteered and worked for free – some of them took vacation time to be here.”

Incitement returned
While the search for evidence continued, a Multnomah County Grand Jury was empanelled during the week, seeing evidence, and hearing testimony from eleven witnesses, including Shaquita Louis, and Panish Bennette, Sr.

The Grand Jury handed down an indictment for Parrish Ian Bennette Jr. on one count of Murder with a Firearm and one count of Manslaughter in the First Degree with a Firearm.

The official document alleged that Bennette “did unlawfully and intentionally cause the death of Yashanee L Vaughn, another human being, contrary to the Statutes in such cases, made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the State of Oregon. The State further alleges that during the commission of this felony, the defendant used and threatened the use of a firearm.”

According to court document, Bennette is being held without bail.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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