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Rail Tunnel Beating Death Victim Identified

By NewsChannel 21 Team
Published On: May 31 2012 06:14:38 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 04 2012 07:05:13 AM CDT
WARM SPRINGS, Ore. -

Jefferson County authorities late Monday identified the 48-year-old Seattle fisherman whose body was found in an abandoned rail tunnel near Warm Springs last week, leading to the arrest of two Warm Springs tribal members.

The victim has been positively identified as Dennis Michael Jones, said Jefferson County sheriff's Sgt, Jason Erickson.

Two suspects were brought from the reservation's jail to the Jefferson County Jail in Madras late Friday, facing murder and first-degree manslaughter charges.

James Ryan Johnson, 31, and Steven Neal Anderson, 23, remained lodged at the county jail without bail Saturday on a Jefferson County warrant for murder and first-degree manslaughter.

Erickson confirmed Friday afternoon that the man?s body was found Wednesday morning near Mecca Flats Campground, a popular fishing destination in northern Jefferson County, just south of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

The sheriff?s office was notified of the discovery around 10:15 a.m. Wednesday and Jefferson County deputies and detectives responded to the scene, beginning the homicide investigation, Erickson said.

Sheriff Jim Adkins told NewsChannel 21 on Friday the victim was a fisherman from Seattle who had been to the Deschutes River fishing spot before.

Adkins said the victim knew at least one of the suspects and that alcohol appears to have been involved. The cause of death has been determined at autopsy to be ?blunt force trauma,? the sheriff said.

Several agencies have been involved in the investigation, including Warm Springs police, Deschutes County sheriff?s deputies, Oregon State Police, BLM law enforcement and the Jefferson County District Attorney?s Office, Erickson said.

After a ?nearly 24-hour straight investigation,? the two suspects were identified Thursday and were contacted by detectives, the sergeant said.

Meanwhile, the fisherman from Klamath Falls who found the grisly scene Wednesday talked with NewsChannel 21's Nina Mehlhaf Friday about what the grisly scene he'd found -- along with his 14-year-old daughter.

"We walked up to it, and the first thing i noticed -- my daughter was behind me -- was there was a large pool of fresh blood," said Randy Skelton.

It was not the innocent history lesson Skelton was hoping to share with his daughter and her friend at the century-old abandoned railroad tunnel.

Up visiting his brother to go salmon fishing, Skelton had heard the stories of the railroad and the long-ago closed rail tunnel on the border of the Warm Springs Reservation.

Before fishing at Mecca Flats Wednesday, Skelton and the girls went to check out the tunnel, but immediately saw a very disturbing scene at the entrance.

"I walked in probably 25 feet or so, and I noticed something laying on the ground -- and I noticed it was a human body," Skelton recalled.

"Being that it was fresh blood, I was wondering if whoever hurt this guy was still in the tunnel," he said. "And I was really cautious at that point. I wouldn't let me daughter come any farther."

Skelton says the man was on his back, after what clearly had been a very violent fight.

"There was blood everywhere, and the guy's face was covered with blood," Skelton said.

Jefferson County deputies said their suspects had crossed the border onto the reservation -- sovereign land, requiring special paperwork and lots of help from Warm Springs detectives before they could make an official arrest.

While Skelton's daughter and her friend are getting over the shock of what they saw, he's just glad to have some closure.

"That was a pretty ugly scene," he said. "Whoever did that should be in prison."

Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche will decide on the formal charges the two men face. Adkins said the cooperation between Warm Springs police and the county sheriff's office is the best it's been in years.

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Earlier story:

Down a winding road just off Highway 26 near Warm Springs, dozens of cars slowly creep down a gravel road.

The cars are filled with fishermen all headed to Mecca Flat Recreation Area hoping to land the big catch in the Deschutes River.

But it's what one of them found on land Wednesday morning that has many talking.

"When I came in, there were three sheriff's cars and crime scene tape and a lot more activity than normal," Randy Carrier, a passing fisherman, said Thursday evening.

Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, a body was found in a century-old abandoned tunnel off Mecca Road, near the Rainbow Market.

Investigators say an out-of-town fisherman had decided to explore the area and came across what quickly became the scene of a homicide investigation.

Jefferson County sheriff's deputies say they believe the man is in his mid to late 40's, and not from the area.

One man passing by the tunnel, headed for Mecca Flat Thursday, said the tunnel is frequented by a group known locally as the Road Warriors.

He said they use the area for shelter and oftentimes drink alcohol.

It's not known if anyone from that group is a suspect in the case.

Sheriff Jim Adkins told NewsChannel 21 they are working a lead which they can not disclose just yet.

The body was taken to the state Medical Examiner's Office near Portland Thursday for an autopsy.

Deputies say it appears the body had not been in the tunnel for very long.

The taped-off crime scene is near a road on a hill behind the Rainbow Market, about a half-mile from Highway 26, Adkins said.

The remains were found in Jefferson County, just south of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation boundary.

Anyone with information that could assist investigators was asked to contact the sheriff's office at (541) 475-2201. You could also contact the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-877-876 TIPS, or use the form on KTVZ.COM's Crime Stoppers page. You can remain anonymous, and you could be eligible for a cash reward.

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