For 33 years, the murder of 30-year-old Robert Altom of Portland, Oregon, who was found bludgeoned to death outside a bar for allegedly being gay, went unsolved until police officials received a breakthrough Wednesday, but the suspect died seven years ago. According to KBOI2, in the early morning of November 8, 1982, Altom went to a local bar called JB’s Paradise Room, located at 3530 North Vancouver Avenue, where he encountered an individual, Cecil Turner, who continuously harassed him.
— KATU News (@KATUNews) March 10, 2016
Sources say that Turner, who was 24 at the time, used gay slurs and ultimately pushed Altom off his bar stool, causing him to leave the bar. However, it was reported that when he went outside, someone – witnesses said it was Turner – struck him over the head with an object and fled the scene.
Detective Angela Hollan said, “I think Robbie was tired of being harassed and decided it was time to go home. I think Cecil followed Robbie outside the bar and this is what happened. I think unfortunately people didn’t come forward with that information back then.” Hollan went on to say that it is believed that “there was a lot of fear about what might happen to her,” which is why the witness withheld information.
Altom was immediately rushed to a local hospital, but he died from his injuries three days later. After his death, Turner became a person of interest, but Portland police officials were not able to make an arrest as there was not enough evidence, according to KITV.
However, Portland police received a tip Wednesday from an eyewitness who was interviewed in 1982 but claimed that “she remembered some things she wasn’t really wasn’t willing to tell police.” The information the police received is being withheld, but it was evidence that pointed to Turner as the one responsible for killing a man for being gay.
Turner will not be charged with a hate crime because it was later uncovered that he had died in July 2009. Prior to his death, sources say he was no stranger to the law, as he was “convicted of robbery, sodomy and DUI in 1983, harassment in 1989 and drug-related crimes in 2001 and 2002.”
After learning that the evidence pointed to Turner as the murder suspect, reporters tried to contact his relatives for a comment, but it was to no avail.
The hate crime victim’s niece stated that she was shocked after learning that Portland police officials had solved the cold case, but she was even more stunned to know that the killer had died seven years ago. She went on to say that “none of us thought it was going to get solved. We hoped. We hoped. It’s been a long time since 1982.”
She later added that her “uncle Robbie was a good man. He didn’t deserve to die because he was gay.” However, she said “it’s just nice knowing that my uncle’s not in a box sitting in a warehouse somewhere with the words cold case written on him.”
In a statement, Dawn Frizzell-Luna, stated “My family and I are thankful that the case has been solved. We are thankful to the detectives that worked to solve the case and are grateful for what they have done for our family. My Uncle Robbie was an amazing man, who was loved, and is missed by his family and friends.”
“It is a good feeling to know my Uncle Robbie’s name is no longer among boxes with the words cold case on them, but instead among ones that say solved.”
After 33 years, the case is now officially closed.
[Image via Portland Police Bureau]