Help find Curtiss Olson’s killer

Be sure of this – someone knows who murdered this fused-glass artist on December 15. Your tip could help bring a killer to justice – and put $1,000 in your pocket …

In the cold grip of a winter storm, police detectives sifted through the home of Curtiss Olson, looking for clues to who killed him.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The funeral for 67-year-old Howard Curtiss Olson on January 3 was especially sad for those who marked his premature passing. Police say Olson died of “homicidal violence”, and was discovered on December 15.

Judy Taylor, Olson’s sister-in-law, said the victim – commonly called Curtiss – was a special, unique person.

Curtiss Olson’s life was cut too short, friends and family members say; he had many friends who will miss his bantering and good-natured companionship.

“Many people didn’t know he had chronic pain from injuries he suffered in a 1978 car accident, from which he never fully recovered,” Taylor told us. “I didn’t know him well, but since his death, I’ve met more and more people whose lives were touched by Curtiss. They told me they cared about him – and how he committed ‘random acts of kindness’, just to see people smile.”

Curtiss was a man who enjoyed lively conversation, and would sometimes make outlandish statements, because he’d “love to get a reaction. He enjoyed it even more when someone would come back with a witty comment.”

Olson became well known for the fused-glass artwork he made in his home studio. Photo used with permission of InSite Dynamics.

An unusual artist of note
Olson created fused glass art pieces at his Hazelwood neighborhood home studio, and sold them through dealers, and on the Internet through his firm – the Bad Attitude Art Glass Company. Especially popular were the kitty and star pins he sold through his website, Note: While the website is still running, no one has stepped up to run Olson’s business; please do not order from it.

Tim Justice, a website developer, and partner at InSite Dynamics, told us, “The day he first called me, he said gruffly, ‘I want a website; and I want it now.’ We weren’t too sure about this wacky-sounding guy.” Other web developers didn’t take Olson seriously, he added, but after visiting Olson’s studio, Justice said they could see the potential for a great Internet business.

These are some of the Kitty Cat pins created and sold by Olson. Photo used with permission of InSite Dynamics.

“He’s one of the most caring persons I’ve ever met,” Justice continued. “The initial image he presents is wacky or out-of-his-mind, but he truly knew what he was doing. Life was always good for him. He’d call me just to make sure I was smiling that morning. He was very connected to politics, but would try to pretend he didn’t care.”

Police seek leads
Detectives are saying little about the ongoing investigation. Off the record, those who knew Olson admitted that he lived a somewhat bohemian lifestyle.

Speaking about murder investigations in general, Portland Police Bureau Homicide Division’s Sergeant Rich Austria told East Portland neighbors at a December meeting, that unless there is an eyewitness to a murder, detectives start by determining with whom victim was associated.

“In about 85% of homicides, victims know their suspects in some fashion,” Austria said. “It could be by association – people they know who are prone to violence. Or, it is lifestyle-related – hanging out with people who are involved in crime, drugs, and prostitution, or are involved in domestic violence.”

You can help
If you have information on this case, contact Detective Steve Ober at (503) 823-4033, or Detective Jim McCausland at (503) 823-0449.

Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in this case, or any unsolved felony, and you remain anonymous.  Call Crime Stoppers at (503) 823-HELP (4357) or leave a tip online at

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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