Discovery of Yashanee Vaughn’s remains comforts family

See the touching memorial where the girl’s remains were located, and learn what her family says about those involved with her death …

As searchers return to Rocky Butte on July 15, media assembles for a press conference held on NE Rocky Butte Road.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The story of the fate of NE Portland’s 14-year-old Yashanee Vaughn has taken many twists and turns since it started as a “missing persons” case on March 21.

Although 16-year-old Parrish Ian Bennette Jr. was indicted for her murder by a Multnomah County Grand Jury on Friday, April 8, Vaughn’s body had not then been found, even after an extensive search of the Rocky Butte area.

> To see our original story, including exclusive photos of that search effort, CLICK HERE.

At NE Rocky Butte Road, a memorial for Yashanee Vaughn continues to grow.

More information came out in court on hearings that began in late June. Then, in a bail hearing on July 7 – some said it seemed more of an actual trial, than a bail hearing – Judge Richard Baldwin ruled there was sufficient evidence to prove the 16-year-old Bennette killed Vaughn in March.

Multnomah County prosecutors and police detectives revealed that evidence, including statements Bennette was said to have made to his father, and detailed the alleged efforts by Bennette to cover up the shooting – including cleaning the crime scene, and allegedly hiding the victim’s body.

In defense of Bennette, his attorneys argued that the evidence produced by the prosecutors could just as easily show that Bennette panicked after he accidentally killed Vaughn.

When the hearing ended, it was determined that Bennette, who has plead not guilty, will remain in custody until the trial. But, the location of Vaughn’s remains at that time were still a secret.

Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer Lt. Robert King tells why NE Rocky Butte Road is again closed off for an investigation.

Then, on July 15, reporters were called to NE Rocky Butte Road for a press conference with Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer Lt. Robert King.

“Today, Portland Police Bureau detectives, and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, are here on Rocky Butte to further the homicide investigation involving your Yashanee Vaughn,” King began.

“We are here, today, conducting additional searches,” King continued. “Our work here today is twofold. First is to conduct a thorough, professional, and complete homicide investigation,that results in holding those responsible accountable for their crimes. Number two is to bring Yashanee home to her family so they have closure. That, ultimately, is our hope.”

King concluded, “We all know this is a terrible tragedy. A young woman has lost her life. Our hearts break for Yashanee’s family. We know that they are suffering, and again our ultimate hope is to bring closure to this case, and to bring her home.”

This crime scene tape indicates the steep hillside location where Vaughn’s remains were located on Rocky Butte.

The following day, July 15, King called another press conference to announce that searchers had, indeed, found human remains near the tunnel entrance along NE Rocky Butte Drive. He added that officials from the Oregon State Medical Examiners Office had taken custody of the remains.

Then, on July 19, King revealed, “The Oregon State Medical Examiner has made a positive identification, by DNA test, of the body recovered on Rocky Butte as that of Yashanee Vaughn.  The manner and cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.”

During press briefings, King declined to speculate whether any additional parties were being considered to be suspects in this murder investigation.

Just yards north of the lower entrance to the NE Rocky Butte Drive tunnel is a path that leads to this area, marked by a memorial of balloons, a T-shirt, and flowers, where Vaughn’s remains were said to be found.

No plea deal was made with Bennette, said the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, to entice him to reveal the information that led investigators to Vaughn’s remains.

At a press conference that evening, Yashanee’s mother, Shaquita Louis, said, “This was the biggest part that I wanted, to find my daughter. I got her. We still want justice, but this was the biggest part of what I wanted.”

At the same time, Lewis – as well as Reynelda Hayes, the slain girl’s grandmother – restated their belief that “other people who know what happened to Yashanee”, and urged them to come forward.

Yashanee’s cousin, Deanasha Williams, says she’s helping pay for funeral expenses by selling T-shirts and other things at this stand, the site of many past vigils.

The family is moving forward in planning a Celebration of Life Funeral Service, Hayes said, now scheduled for Saturday, July 30 at 1 p.m., followed by a reception. The funeral will be held at City Bible Church’s Rocky Butte Campus at 9200 N.E. Fremont. The family is inviting the public to attend.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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