Corvallis Cold Cases: Justice Needed for Five

Every day, detectives and officers at the Corvallis Police Department respond to crimes all over town. Most of the time it’s something simple, like a stolen bike or a frat party getting too loud, but every once in a while, there’s more than just games afoot. While the CPD has solved countless crimes, there are five cases that still haunt the department, and these are those stories.   

Doris Snedker  

Doris Snedker was born in 1936. She moved to Corvallis in 1961, and her death certificate reports that she waitressed at a local restaurant. According to her obituary, Snedker was a member of the Milledgeville Lutheran Church, and she had one daughter before her death. She married Darrell Snedker on October 16, 1963, but it was an incredibly short union, as her unexplained death occurred on December 22, 1963 – a mere 37 days later. She was 27 years old at the time.   

At first her death was ruled a suicide, but even once foul play was suspected, CPD never found her killer. Today Snedker is listed in their case files under Unsolved Homicides and her case is still open, to be reviewed periodically.   

Richard Kitchel  

Richard Kitchel, the subject of Rebecca Morris’s book, A Murder in my Hometown, is believed to have been killed on October 12, 1967. He was 17 years old at the time of his death, and attended Corvallis High School.  

Kitchel was found floating in the Willamette River on October 21, 1967, by two young boys who were down at the dock fishing. There were several suspects in the case, including Kitchel’s father Ralph and a friend named Doug Hamblin. According to the book by Morris, the detectives at the time of the murder thought that Hamblin had murdered Kitchel but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. The case is still open, and filed in Unsolved Homicides. 

Ann Ellinwood  

Following a period of 11 years, the next unsolved crime was a disappearance that was later ruled a homicide.   

12-year-old Ann Ellinwood was walking with her friends on April 15, 1978, and began to fall behind. Her friends noticed her talking to a strange man with a small dog, and the next time they turned around, she was gone.   

The trail went cold for years, but was picked up in 2014 by Salem Police when retired sergeant James “J.R.” Miller discovered that Earl Fred “Woody” Chambers, a convicted sex offender, was responsible not only for the disappearance of Ellinwood, but also for kidnapping another girl, 11-year-old Stephanie Ann Newsom. Chambers committed suicide 36 years ago, but Ellinwood’s body has never been discovered.   

According to Lieutenant Ryan Eaton at the CPD, a tip led them to a well in Polk County where Ellinwood’s remains were rumored to be, but the search turned up empty. The case is still open and filed with CPD under Homicide with Unknown Victim Location where it will remain until Ellinwood is found. 

Patricia Lynn Wilson-Swanberg  

When Patricia Lynn Wilson-Swanberg was reported missing by her boss at a home for the elderly on August 12, 1992, she was 34 years old. Police found her car in the downtown area of Corvallis the same day, and none of her possessions were reported to be missing, including her purse, which was found in the car.   

According the Charley Project, Wilson-Swanberg was involved in an abusive relationship, and had a restraining order against her ex-husband, who claims he has not seen her since the day before her disappearance. Her case with CPD is still filed as a Missing Person, but she is presumed to be deceased.

Kimberley Hakes  

In 2015, Kimberley Hakes, a homeless woman who was well known to both police and the community, was found murdered in Alan B. Berg Park, where she was camping. Hakes, who was 42 at the time of her death, suffered fatal blows to her head. Police received dozens of tips but were unable to find any substantial evidence or clues as to her murderer.   

Hakes is remembered for her big and loving personality, and for being a helper to those around her. Her case is still open, and filed under Unsolved Homicides alongside Snedker and Kitchel. The department is eager to find any information that would lead them to justice for Hakes.   

What CPD is Doing  

Lt. Eaton sent a description of Cold Case Investigations from CPD General Orders. It states that “Due to limited resources not all cases will be solved.” Cases are designated as cold when “the investigation is discontinued due to lack of evidence or leads.” Cold cases can be reopened “when new evidence or new investigative techniques provide active leads.” Cold case investigations are looked into periodically as resources allow.  

 CPD is anxious to receive tips about these cases from the public. If you have any information about one or more of the cases above, please reach out to the Corvallis Police Department via their website or by calling the NON-EMERGENCY phone line at 541-766-6924.   

Please DO NOT call 911 for anything other than life-threatening emergencies.    

By Kyra Young