Portraits differ on suspect in killings

PORTLAND - People who know Todd Reed say he's a sensitive guy, a poet who held two jobs to support two sons.

Police say he strangled three prostitutes and left their bodies in a remote corner of a Portland park.

If Reed, 32, is the serial killer Portland police say he is, the idea that he lived two starkly different lives disturbs those close to him.

"This whole thing has got me," said Robert Reed, his adoptive father. "You don't expect to hear that sort of thing about your family."

Todd Reed has been in jail since July, charged with aggravated murder in what has become known as the Forest Park killings. He already had served prison time for attempted rape.

A Multnomah County, Ore., judge has entered not-guilty pleas to the murder charges in Reed's behalf. A trial is scheduled for January.

Reed was born Todd Alan Thomas in Portland on May 22, 1967, nine days after his mother, Ronnie Thomas, and his father, Marine Sgt. Alfred Thomas, were married.

He was 4 when his parents divorced. His mother's second husband, Robert Reed, adopted Todd and his younger brother.

"Todd was a little standoffish," said Robert Reed. "He went from having a dad to not having a dad. I think he took that hard."

Todd Reed was 12 when his mother and Robert Reed divorced. By age 14, Todd Reed had his first run-in with police. He was picked up for theft and sent to a residential program for at-risk youths.

Todd Reed earned a high-school-equivalency certificate and took college-level courses in accounting and horticulture.

In summer 1986, Reed, then 19, met Gail Bennett, 15, and they began living together. They didn't have much money, so they crashed at friends' homes and pitched a tent in a field. Reed burglarized homes, stealing meat and bread from freezers, and loading bags with wine. In 1987, Gresham, Ore., police caught him breaking into a home.

The same Multnomah County judge who sentenced Reed for the burglaries married Reed and Bennett in October 1988. Bennett said they chose the same judge because she wanted to prove to the judge they could amount to something.

Reed's first job as a married man was at a Sizzler restaurant. He later worked at a fruit distributor and then at a Safeway store.

For a hobby, he wrote poems and read them at a downtown cafe.

"It was about longing," Bennett recalled. "No pretty-flower butterflies."

While he appeared to others to be a hard-working father, his marriage was falling apart. When Reed worked nights, he showed little interest in anything during the day. Bennett said that he was secretive, that he hid porn magazines and a telephone bill for phone-sex lines.

A year later, he was arrested in an attack on a 24-year-old pregnant woman he lured to his car. He forced her into the car at knifepoint, had her perform oral sex and fastened a belt around her neck, court records show.

He pleaded no contest to attempted rape and was in prison from 1992 to 1995. Police took DNA from him and stored it in the state crime lab.

Reed and Bennett divorced in 1997. He was ordered to pay child support and was granted visits with his sons every other weekend.

While employers described him as a quiet, easy-going gentleman, police say he would sometimes pick up prostitutes after leaving his night job.

The bodies of Lilla Faye Moler, 28; Stephanie Lynn Russell, 26; and Alexandria Nicole Ison, 17, were found between May 7 and June 2, 1999. Each had worked as a prostitute on West Burnside Street.

On July 7, a female police officer who resembled the victims posed as a prostitute on Burnside, hoping the suspect might reappear.

Police say Reed stalked the decoy. A sergeant questioned him as he sat in a black Mitsubishi Eclipse. Police found "The Killing Gift" - a mystery novel about a woman who kills 16 men without touching them - in the car's glove compartment and yellow strapping material in the hatchback.

Police let Reed drive away, but they arrested him July 18 after the police crime lab found that DNA from a condom discovered 28 feet from Moler's body and from swabs taken from Russell's body matched Reed's DNA profile from 1992.