On a cold January night in 1975, four friends traveled from Portland to Salem for a house party. In the early morning hours, one of them would go missing after following his friend out of the house. This is the story of the disappearance of Brian Joseph Page.
Brian was born in 1958 and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He went by the nickname Joe. He lived in Southeast Portland in the Mount Tabor area, attending Franklin High School.
Portland was, and still is, the largest city in Oregon, but its state capitol, Salem, is the second largest city and lies just 45 miles to the south of Portland. It’s a quick drive on I-5 to get between the two, and on the night of January 12th, 1975, Brian, his sister, and his friends took his 1962 VW bug–in a bright turquoise–down to the party.
The party was in downtown Salem, near the intersection of SE State Street and 25th. This area is just a mile east of the state capitol and right next to the Oregon State Penitentiary. While it is a densely populated area in Salem, the area is still largely residential, with primarily one level single family homes or small apartment complexes.
According Brian’s entry on the Charley Project, Brian listened to music at the party with his friend David. Reportedly, David took some LSD and wasn’t feeling well, so he went outside around 2am. Brian’s friends encouraged him to follow David and make sure he was okay. Brian was wearing jeans, a blue shirt with “Hilton” on it, and brown hiking boots. This is the last time Brian was seen.
It’s unclear where they went after this. David has said he has no memory of that evening. What is known is that by 5am, David was alone, a mile southwest of the party, at a car lot on the west end of downtown Salem near the Willamette River.
David found himself at the Capitol Chevrolet-Cadillac, located at 605 Commercial St NE. He allegedly broke in and stole the keys to a 1973 car and drove it off the lot. A short police chase ensued, and he was arrested in downtown Salem. According to The Charley Project, David was reported to have said that he thought he was in hell. David was later sentenced to a one year suspended sentence and three years of probation for charges related to the car incident.
Brian was never seen again. His car was never found. David was never reported to have any additional memories of that night surface.
So where did they go after the party? A news article reported an anonymous tip came in a week after his disappearance that claimed police would “find something not alive anymore” if they searched the area near the Wheatland Ferry. The water surrounding the ferry was searched but came up empty. The Wheatland Ferry is about 17 miles to the northwest of the party that night, and connects north Salem to farmland. It is not a direct route to Portland. The suggestion of Brian disappearing into a body of water is a valid one–since both him and his car vanished, a car accident of some kind where the car drops out of view would be one explanation. There are many bodies of water in the Salem area, the largest being the Willamette River. It runs north to south alongside the west end of the downtown area, and is crossed over by two one way bridges. Both bridges stem from streets just a block or two north of State Street, the street the party was on. Further, the bridges are only 8 blocks north along the river of the car lot David was at that evening. That said, it seems unlikely that David would have gone into the water had there been a car accident, as he was only unaccounted for for three hours, and there is no mention of him being wet when he was found. When did the two get separated? Is it possible that Brian never caught up to David after each walked out the front door of the party?
The car’s license plate is 7P3626. Brian was 5’6” and 140 pounds at the time of his disappearance, with brown hair and brown eyes. Today, he’d be 62. If you have any information about the disappearance of Brian Joseph Page, contact the Portland Police Department, (503)823-0000.
Welcome to Northwest True Crime, a blog about unsolved murders and missing persons cases in the Pacific Northwest. I aim to breathe new life into these cases by giving them the visibility they deserve. Today, in our first post, we’ll discuss the case of a Beaverton court reporter who went missing in the late 70s, and how she’s connected to a grisly crime between two chess partners a decade later. This is the unsolved missing person case of Floy Jean Bennett.
Our case takes place in February of 1978 in Beaverton, Oregon. Beaverton is a suburb of Portland, Oregon, and lies about 20 minutes to the west of the city. In 1978, a new rec center had just opened, the company that would become Nike had headquartered in Beaverton and officially changed its name to Nike that year, and the area was in a period of huge growth for the city: in 1960, the population was almost 6,000, but by the 1980 census, it was just under 32,000. This is the area now known as Silicon Forest since there are so many technology companies based in the western suburbs of Portland, and even in 1978 tech company Tektronix was already a big employer there.
Her family and friends called her Jeanie. She was 37 years old, 5’8” and 120 pounds. She had brown hair that she dyed blonde, and hazel eyes. She’d been born Floy Jean Aspley on March 28, 1941 in LaGrande, Oregon, a small town in eastern Oregon. She went to Jefferson High School in Portland, graduating in 1959, where she’d been on the pep squad.
Jeanie married Robert E Bennett at the First Methodist Church in Vancouver, Washington on February 17th, 1962. He was 24, she was 20.
By late February 1978, the couple was living in Beaverton and had just celebrated their sixteenth wedding anniversary. By then, Jeanie was a court reporter for Multnomah County Courts. Multnomah County is the county that houses Portland, so she had just a short commute to work into the city. From all reports, she was a well-liked employee there and excelled at her job.
On the evening of Thursday, February 23rd, Robert alleges she went on a shopping trip and did not return. Five days later, Robert reported to police that her rental car is parked in the driveway when he arrives home, and her suitcase and clothes were gone.Just two weeks later, he filed for divorce. He told friends and police that she ran off with another man. Her SSN has never again been used to work in the US. She had paychecks to pick up at Multnomah County Courthouse but has never claimed them. Her bank account , which contained most of a $90,000 inheritance she’d recently received, was emptied. The money has never been found.
Jeanie’s family and friends were quick to come to her aid. The Multnomah County Court Reporters Association and her immediate family created a $1000 reward for information that would lead to the discovery of her remains. Carol Chambers, Jeanie’s sister, stepped in to take care of her sister’s assets in her absence during the divorce. The Associated Press reported that “the divorce petition would have given Bennett all the family assets and left her with all the bills” had Carol not stepped in and had herself made conservator of Jeanie’s assets. Not only that, Carol continued searching for her sister in any way she could think of, including hiring a psychic. Sadly though, no one was able to find what had happened to Jeanie. She’d simply disappeared.
By the early 80s, the case had gone cold. Robert’s life continued on. His brother Joseph died in April of 1983 at the age of 46. Then three years later, on New Year’s Eve of 1986, Robert married his brother’s widow, Charlotte.
Private investigators as well as police continued to search for Jeanie. By March of 1988, Ray Montee, a well-known Portland private investigator, was on the case. In investigating Jeanie’s disappearance, he acted on a tip from a hired psychic and obtained permission to dig up a large brick bbq in the backyard of Charlotte Bennett’s old home. Charlotte was Robert’s new wife and had lived in northeast Beaverton at the time of Jeanie’s disappearance. A New York Times article painted an incredible picture of how dogged Montee was in his search and said Montee was “digging up bricks with a spoon” when the police stepped in and officially excavated the barbecue. However, nothing was found and the excavation was called off shortly after it began. Robert Bennett began to live a transient lifestyle, and by the year following the excavation, had left the state.
But that’s not the whole story for this family. Almost 11 years to the day that Jeanie disappeared, on February 22, 1989, in Salt Lake City, a man was searching through a dumpster behind Smith’s Food King in hopes of finding lettuce that had been tossed out so that he could feed his pet rabbits. The bin was set to be picked up that morning, but before it was, the man made a grisly discovery. But it wasn’t Jeanie. It was a man’s severed legs.
Around the same time, Robert Bennett had moved to a room in a boarding house in Las Vegas under the name “Bill Anderson”. It’s unclear why he chose Las Vegas, but it was confirmed that previously, Robert had lived in Salt Lake City between December of 1988 and February of 1989. While he was living in Salt Lake, he rented a home, again under the name of Bill Anderson, and befriended a local freelance writer, Larry Duane White. White was 51, a freelance journalist who lived with his father. He was an excellent chess player, and it was through chess that he met Robert Bennett. White taught him to play chess, and they formed a friendship, sharing meals and chess matches.
On April 6, Bennett was arrested on a federal warrant in Las Vegas related to Social Security fraud. During the arrest, detectives searched his home. What detectives found in his room at the boarding house was compelling: books on how to “manipulate the system to hide your identity”, White’s driver’s license and social security card. At the time of his arrest, Bennett had applied for a certified copy of White’s birth certificate, and he had rented a post office box with White’s name on it. According to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune in May of 1989, it was believed by police that Bennett was attempting to assume White’s identity, and not only that, but this was likely not the first time he’d stolen an identity. In the same article, the paper noted that “detectives in five states have been unable to locate missing persons matching the names used by Bennett over the years.”
Another key piece of evidence they found during the April 6th search was a set of license plates belonging to the landlord of Bennett’s previous residence in Salt Lake City. That led detectives to search the Salt Lake City home on May 8th.
Robert Bennett’s former home in Salt Lake City was a modest rental home on the south end of town. After searching the backyard there, they found what they described as “a patch of soft earth” between the house and a fence on the side of the house and it was then that they began digging. There, they found partial remains of a man. They found his armless torso wrapped in a plastic garbage bag. The body had been buried next to a septic tank just a few feet underground. The torso had five bullet holes in it from a .38 caliber handgun and was wearing only white shorts. They later found the man’s head buried as well. After using dental records, they identified the body as belonging to Larry White. He’d been reported missing just three days before by his father. Robert Bennett was arrested for White’s murder. In July of 1989, he entered a guilty plea and requested immediate sentencing. He was sentenced that day to 5 years to life for the second degree murder of Larry White.
Robert Bennett was up for parole in 2004 and spoke before the parole board about White’s murder. While he’d elected to plead guilty in order to avoid a trial, he said of White’s murder that “I lost it” and admitted shooting him five times during a car ride the two had taken to go job searching together.
As far as Jeanie’s case, it remains officially unsolved.
If she didn’t run off of her own accord, then she must have encountered foul play sometime after that shopping trip. If she left for the shopping trip and encountered a stranger who somehow made her empty her bank accounts and disappear, then that stranger also drove her car, unnoticed, back to her home five days later while Robert was away, entered the home unnoticed, and made sure that her things were packed into her suitcases…and then made those disappear as well.
There are still so many unanswered questions. The biggest one being, of course, where is Jeanie? What happened to her on February 23rd, 1978? Did she indeed run off with another man as Robert believed, or did she encounter foul play? If she did choose to disappear–why wouldn’t she take the car or her paycheck with her, and why has she never used her social security number to work in the United States again? Who packed her things into suitcases and where did all of her things end up? Where did the inheritance money and the money from Jeanie’s bank account end up? In 1985, Police Chief Don Newell told the Associated Press that “we believe that she has fallen to foul play–we have always thought that.”
For now, Robert Bennett is serving 5 years to life in Utah State Prison for the murder of White. He was up for parole in 2004 but was denied. He is 82 years old. If she’s still alive today, Jeanie would be 78 years old. If she lived, she might have had children, even grandchildren by now. Instead, Jeanie’s family continues to live with the mystery of her disappearance as they keep searching for her. It’s clear that she made an impact on the lives of those around her: her family, friends, and coworkers who supported the search efforts after her disappearance. If you know anything about the disappearance of Floy “Jeanie” Bennett, contact the Beaverton Police Department at 503-526-2260.