KATU 2 News - Portland, Oregon
Forest family had an elaborate camp among trees
May 20, 2004
PORTLAND, ORE. - A man and his 12-year-old daughter spent the last four years living in a remote hillside in Portland's Forest Park, police said.
The pair was discovered in a dense, wooded area by an Australian cross-country runner and his wife.
They reported seeing an older man with white bushy hair and a beard, and a young girl at what appeared to be a "well-established transient camp." They called police on April 28.
That afternoon, North Precinct Sgt. Michael Barkley sent four officers on all-terrain vehicles to find the pair but they didn't find them.
"We had very little to go on, " Barkley said. "There's no way you could not do everything you could because it was a report of a child living up there."
The next morning, the runner escorted police to the site.
After an hour-and-a-half hike, police found an elaborate camp dug into a steep hillside.
Under a tarp-covered, wood-framed shelter, they found sleeping bags, a partially burnt log, a Bible, a stack of old World Book Encyclopedias, rakes and other tools.
Sgt. Barkley talks about finding them
How the two were discovered
A rope swing, a tilled vegetable garden and a small creek were nearby.
A police dog found the pair huddling behind a tree about 50 yards from the camp.
The man and girl told police they had lived in the park for four years. The pair appeared clean, well-fed and healthy, Barkley said, and the girl was well-spoken beyond her years.
The man, who identified himself as Frank, told police he was a 53-year-old Marine Corps veteran and college graduate who served in Vietnam.
He came to Oregon with his daughter, Ruth, from Tacoma with no job and virtually no money. Frank told police that the girl's mother was institutionalized in New Hampshire, and the two now lived on a $400-a-month disability check.
Rather than live on the streets and expose Ruth to alcohol and drugs, Frank said, they hiked deep into Forest Park and built a lean-to.
The pair went into the city twice a week to stop by the bank, attend church, buy groceries and clothes from Goodwill. Frank, a devout Christian, said he taught his daughter using the old encyclopedias.
They grew vegetables and used the nearby creek to keep clean. They stored perishable foods in a small pool of water at the creek's edge.
The man and girl told police that the runner was the first person to find their camp in four years.
Their biggest worry was being split up, Barkley said.
"Please, don't take me from my daddy," the girl told the 26-year police veteran as they sat on a log talking for at least 30 minutes.
Barkley, who has a 6-year-old daughter, said he was struck by the relationship between father and daughter.
"What was so clear was that their living conditions were unacceptable, but their relationship was a real deep love and caring for each other," Barkley said.
Officer Joe Campbell, who helped find the pair, said separating the pair would have broken their hearts. "Their whole lives seemed to revolve around each other," said Campbell.
A pediatrician found the girl free of any illness, any signs of physical or sexual abuse - and no cavities. A criminal background check came up empty, according to police reports.
Even though the child and father lived for such a long time disconnected from society, the girl had been home schooled and was in good physical shape.
In fact, the girl received a very good education from her father while living among the trees. Officials said the girl, who would be normally in 7th grade, is at a 12th grade equivalency.
"When we interviewed this little girl, she was very impressive. She really was very responsible, and she really looked as though she was way advanced in her years," said Portland Police Cmdr. Scott Anderson said.
KATU Television has been given permission from 'The Forest Family's' father to set up a college fund for 12-year-old 'Ruthie.'
To make donations for the girl, who for the last four years have lived in the forest and was educated by her father, to 'Ruthie's College Fund’ at any Bank Of America Branch.
Police say the father was ecstatic when KATU offered to set up a college fund for his daughter.
The father has done a wonderful job of educating the girl, says police. She reportedly performs at a 12th grade level.
Police persuaded them to leave the camp, promising help them find food and shelter.
The pair spent two nights at a homeless shelter. Barkley found the man a job and a place for the two to live on a friend's horse farm in Yamhill County.
Now, Barkley said, the pair are living in a mobile home and adjusting to life with heat, electricity and running water.
The man mows lawns and is learning to drive a tractor, and the pair ride bicycles to a nearby church on Sundays.
"The amazing part of this was the fact that Sergeant Barkley really evaluated what was best for these people," North Precinct Cmdr. Scott Anderson said. "Sometimes police would be a little quicker to hand things off to state workers. But instead ... he saw this through to the end."
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2 posts • Page 1 of 1
You just know this had to burn the asses of all those statists who feel we are not capable of carrying on our lives without their assistance. Poor babies must be heartbroken to find that there are people who dont need big brother arranging their lives. The only sexual abuse was the doctor who examined this young lady. She must have felt violated by their examination. Sickos!
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