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Teen killer’s demands helped police solve case


The phone call to police on Christmas Eve 1976 promised more slayings if police didn’t pay $10,000.

“He said two more people would be killed with a .32 pistol and their throats would be cut,” then-Deputy Police Chief Robert Colliton told the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

It was a major break in a brutal murder that baffled police and shocked Spokane.

The bold but foolish extortion attempt by then 17-year-old John L. Forrester led to his arrest on two murder charges for the Dec. 16, 1976, slayings of James and Hattie Woods, both 73, at 5903 N. Atlantic St., where the couple had lived for more than 30 years.

Police said the couple was picked at random for robbery: Forrester stole about $100.

The Woodses were beaten and their throats were slashed. Hattie Woods also was shot; her husband’s skull was fractured in four places.

Police had only a description of a possible suspect until Forrester called eight days after the murders and gave details detectives say only the killer could know. He demanded $10,000 and said the mayor and police chief “had better be there,” according to the Chronicle.

Detectives picked up Forrester after he retrieved a package from the men’s restroom of a North Division Street bowling alley, where he told police to leave the money.

In a high-profile jury trial in May 1977, Forrester said he’d arrived to burglarize the home and found the bodies. But Forrester had already confessed and given police a detailed description, a recording of which was played for jurors.

His public defender objected several times to jurors being shown pictures of the crime scene, calling it “exceedingly gory.”

Jurors took less than two hours to convict him of murder.

Forrester was born in South Korea and adopted by a couple in North Bend, Ore., where he lived until being sent to a juvenile institution for burglary. He ran away to Spokane after he was paroled.

Forrester was sentenced to life in prison in June 1976 and remains at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

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