KPD seeks new leads in city’s only unsolved murder

The Keizer Police Department is renewing its call for help in bringing a killer to justice. 

Christine “Chrissy” Speten’s body was found inside her locked apartment on Valentine’s Day 2011. Speten’s mother, Sharon, and a friend made the discovery and Speten had already been dead for several days. Speten was 43 at the time of her death and she left behind four children.

Keizertimes featured Speten’s murder in 2018. At the time, new leads in the case had largely dried up even though KPD detectives considered it a “dormant” case, not a “cold” one. 

Det. Tim Lathrop, who responded to Speten’s apartment when her body was discovered, said the case was never a “whodunit,” it’s a matter of having the evidence to pursue charges against those who committed the crime. 

“There are people who we think know what happened and those people don’t want to be truthful or simply don’t want to come forward with that information,” said Lathrop in 2018. “At the very least we believe there are people who know what happened and, if we had that, it could lead to making an arrest.” 

Det. Andy Phelps is taking over the case and anyone with information is encouraged to contact Phelps at 503-856-3497. To make a report anonymously, call 503-856-3519 or email [email protected].

An autopsy determined Speten died of blunt force trauma to the head and she had been deceased at least 24 hours before she was found. Sharon had been trying to coordinate a Valentine-themed crafting day with Speten and her youngest daughter for several days before discovering her body. Sharon had shown up at the apartment each day knocking on the door and calling for Speten. When she noticed an unlocked window, Sharon enlisted one of Speten’s friends to crawl through it and unlock the front door. 

Blake Wheeler, who lived at the neighboring apartment in 2011, told the Keizertimes he last saw Speten about four days prior to when her body was found. He said she came to his apartment after he overheard her side of an argument with a man, Speten claiming she was being “manipulated.” 

Speten asked Blake if he could use a cell phone, and called her own cell because it had been stolen, Wheeler said. Wheeler described Speten as “very respectful. She was religious, and she felt comfortable around us.” He said he heard music playing in her apartment for several days straight before her body was found.

Sharon suspects her daughter’s murder and the phone are linked. 

“The phone caused a lot of trouble. Everybody went to her to use it to set up [drug] deals. It had all the phone numbers in it,” Sharon said. “I begged her and pleaded with her to get rid of it. I told her I would buy her a new one.”

Speten had a history of drug addiction, but was making strides toward sobriety while staying in contact with associates from her past. 

The eight years since Speten’s death have been a waiting game for police and Speten’s surviving family.

“The hope is that the right people will have a change of heart and they realize that this is important. We can’t force them to talk, but we hope that guilt gets to them,” Lathrop said.