The Oregon Department of Corrections this week temporarily suspended a program that sends inmates to work in state forests, campgrounds and parks in response to the April escape of a 14-time felon who was on a crew and now faces attempted murder charges in the beating of two women in the Washington County woods.
The move comes more than five months after Jedaiah Lunn, 36, walked away from a work crew at the Gales Creek Campground in western Washington County and, authorities say, attacked two Japanese women, leaving both with significant injuries.
Lunn was incarcerated at the South Fork Forest Camp outside of Tillamook at the time. The minimum-security prison is operated by the Department of Corrections and the Oregon Department of Forestry and houses about 200 men.
In a memo to employees Wednesday, the Department of Corrections’ top two managers, Colette Peters and Heidi Steward, said they would “pause” work crew assignments “in order to review any potential changes following a walk away earlier this year.”
While work at forest, campground and park sites is suspended, fire crews will continue to operate, the memo said.
Corrections officials referred questions about the decision to the forestry agency. Forestry spokesman Jason Cox declined to explain the timing of the decision. He also could not say how long the program would be suspended, saying only that an administrative review of Lunn’s escape is ongoing.
“With public safety as our number one priority, we are taking this time to review measures already implemented, as well as whether there are any additional measures that could supplement these,” he said in an email.
Lunn is accused of accosting the women, both Japanese nationals who live in in the Portland metro area, while they were on a walk along a gravel road in the campground on April 14. He beat the women with a large stick, then stole their car. He was arrested later that day.
Gov. Kate Brown previously stood by the program in the aftermath of the attack, telling a Japanese diplomat in a letter that South Fork had been “largely been successful.”
Lunn faces multiple charges related to the attack, including attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and escape.
The women who survived the attack have sued the Corrections and Forestry departments in U.S. District Court in Portland.