By Phil Stanford
The Portland Tribune, Mar 21, 2006, Updated Oct 30, 2009
They say the statute of limitations never runs out on a murder. Don DuPay, who’s running for sheriff these days, isn’t so sure. He was working homicide for the Portland Police Bureau back in the fall of 1975 when he got a call to go to an address on Northeast Hancock Street, where the body of a young black man was laid out on a bed in a second-story bedroom, hands folded, as if he were in a casket.
The young man, Zebedee Manning, 16, had a bullet hole in his forehead. On top of his body lay a .22-caliber rifle, which, as a subsequent examination would show, had fired the fatal shot.
Uniformed officers at the scene had already concluded the death was a suicide, but DuPay wasn’t buying it.
In the first place, there were two other bullet holes in the room besides the one in Manning’s head, one in the ceiling, one in the wall. When DuPay checked the neighbors, they said they’d heard three shots.
So you’re thinking maybe the kid was just a bad shot? Not too likely, DuPay says.
• • •
As the medical examiner would later establish, the gun had been fired point blank at his head. The kid couldn’t have reached the trigger.
Downstairs on the kitchen table was a nearly empty whiskey bottle and four empty glasses. In the upstairs bedroom were the titles to three different vehicles. Then, as now, says DuPay, car titles often are used as collateral in drug deals.
The way DuPay saw it, it was a drug-related execution. An argument had occurred in the kitchen, and they’d taken the kid upstairs and tried to scare him. First, they fired a bullet at the ceiling, then the wall, and when that didn’t work, they put one in his head.
Plus, there was the anonymous phone call the kid’s mother got a few days later, informing her that if she pursued the matter, they’d get her, too.
• • •
So DuPay starts working the case as a homicide. After a week or so, his lieutenant calls him into his office. DuPay remembers his words to this day. Don, he says, he’s an N-word. He’s 16. He’s a junkie. We’re too effing busy. Go do something else.
DuPay’s no dummy. He gets his drift. But instead of dropping the case, he pursues it on his own time. When the lieutenant finds out what DuPay’s up to, he calls him in again and informs him that as of now he’s working burglary.
That’s when DuPay turns in his badge. He’s been a Portland cop for 19 years, and he’s seen some things that’ll make your hair curl, but this is one thing too much.
Since then DuPay’s worked as the manager of a homeless shelter. For the past three years or so, he’s had a cable access show promoting the legalization of marijuana, which, in itself, qualifies him as one of the more unusual candidates for Multnomah County sheriff in recent years.
But all this time, the “probable suicide” of Zebedee Manning has never been far from his mind. When Tom Potter, now mayor of Portland, was chief of police, DuPay sent him a fax expressing his reservations about the case. He says he never got a response.
A few years later, when Mark Kroeker was brought in from Los Angeles to take over the bureau, DuPay tried again, with the same result. Three years ago he tried again. Still no dice.
Who knows what might shake out if DuPay gets himself elected sheriff?
Contact Phil Stanford by phone at 503-546-5166 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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