It was around 10:00 pm on Thursday, August 9, 2001, when 11-year-old Joshua Jeffries decided to head to bed. It was a warm night, so the boy’s guardian, Gayle Hoefert, decided to leave the back door of their Portland, Oregon, home open so air could circulate throughout the house. It was a decision she would later regret, as someone entered the home in the early morning hours and shot Joshua.

Joshua had been living with Gayle off and on since his early childhood; his mother, Patricia Jeffries, struggled with drug addiction and was unable to take care of Josh and his older sister, Leanna. Rather than wait for Child Protective Services to get involved, Patricia asked her close friend Gayle for help. Gayle took on the responsibility of raising Josh and Leanna, though Patricia paid her regular child support payments.

Gayle, who had two older children, loved Josh and his sister and took care of them as if they were her own. She considered herself to be a bit of a mother tiger when it came to raising kids; she was very protective of them and did what she could to make sure they stayed away from anyone she thought might be a bad influence. She never could have imagined that he would be shot and k*illed inside her home.

No one knows for sure what happened that night. Josh came into Gayle’s room around 4:20 a.m. on Friday and said, “Auntie Gayle, someone came into my room!” It was hard for Gayle to figure out what was going on. “He scrunched up his little face, grabbed his little arms, and fell.” Gayle jumped out of bed and turned on a light as Josh fell to the floor. It was then that she saw that Josh was covered in blood.

At 4:23 am, Gayle called 911. The woman told the operator that she wasn’t sure what had happened but that she thought Josh might have been stabbed since she hadn’t heard any gunshots. Josh was rushed to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital by paramedics, who got there in minutes but quickly realized there was nothing they could do to save the boy. It was said that Josh was d*ead at 5:02 am.

Josh had been shot once in the upper back, and the bullet came out just under his left arm, according to the autopsy. He had been lying down when he was shot, and the medical examiner said it was likely that he was asleep.

Detectives in Portland had a hard time from the start of their investigation trying to figure out why Josh was k*illed. Josh was a friendly kid who didn’t have any known enemies. He had never been in a fight or argument at school and was well-liked by his peers. It was clear that he wasn’t involved in any illegal activities. He didn’t hang out with people who did drugs or were in gangs. Family and friends couldn’t believe he had been shot and ki*lled in his own bedroom.

Detectives were set on getting Josh justice. Mark Kroeker, the chief of police in Portland, told reporters, “The d*eaths of young people who were not involved in crime are disturbing.” The police department’s main goal was to find the ki*ller.

Police searched the house where Josh was kil*led, hoping to find something that would help them figure out who k*illed him. The room that used to be the laundry room was now Josh’s bedroom. It was in the back of the house. He had the back door of the house right in his room. Anyone coming in through that door would have been sitting right next to his bed.

Three other people were in the house when Josh was shot. Diane Lovett and Gayle Lovett slept in the front bedroom. Neither woman remembered hearing anything strange before Josh woke them up. “I woke up to Josh running into my room saying that someone had come in through the back door,” Gayle said again.

Leanna Jeffries, Josh’s 18-year-old sister, slept in a small room behind the kitchen and away from Josh’s room. After going to sleep around midnight, she didn’t wake up until Josh started screaming.

Even though there were no signs of breaking in, Gayle said that they had forgotten to lock the screen door and leave the back door open. “It was hot, and we left it open,” Diane said with sadness. We wish we hadn’t done that now.

Detectives talked to Gayle, Diane, and Leanna in great detail. Each woman voluntarily underwent a polygraph test and was found not to have had any involvement in Josh’s m*urder. It was also clear that Gayle’s adult daughter, who lived in a camper in the backyard, wasn’t up to no good.

Investigators went through the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, where Josh lived, talking to people and asking them if they had seen or heard anything strange that Friday morning. Detectives were told by a neighbor that he was working on his computer at 4:20 a.m. when he heard what sounded like a gunshot. Right after that, he heard dogs barking and someone screaming for someone to call 911. “I heard a shot, but it was hard to make out…It was hard for me to tell where it was coming from.

Joe Anderson, Josh’s neighbor, told police that he and his wife hadn’t heard anything strange before Josh was k*illed. “We were awake all night because our baby was born, but all we heard was the police running through our backyard. We thought they were after someone.”

After three weeks, detectives still hadn’t found the person who kil*led Josh. The Carole Sund-Carrington Memorial Foundation offered a $10,000 reward for information that led to the arrest of the person who k*illed Josh in the hopes of finding new leads. The foundation’s executive director, Kim Petersen, said, “He’s a good 11-year-old boy…”Anyone who could do something this horrible is a threat to everyone. “He can do it again if he can do it once.” Even though some tips came in, investigators were not able to come up with any solid suspects.

A press conference was held in November 2001 to give people new information about the mu*rder investigation. They said they didn’t have any suspects and hadn’t been able to figure out why the crime was done. Officer Shirley McLoughlin of the Portland Police Department told reporters that it could have been a case of mistaken identity. “It’s possible that someone else was meant to be the victim.”

The case didn’t move forward for months. There were many rumors in the neighborhood about who might have done it, but detectives didn’t have much proof to support any one theory. It looked like a lot of people thought Josh had been k*illed by accident, but no one knew who the mean person could have been.

Ruth Miller, who lived next door to Josh, told the police that she thought the k*iller had to be someone the family knew. “There are three dogs that always bark at everyone, not just me…”No stranger could have gone into that house without my knowledge.

Gayle did have three dogs: Roswell, a rottweiler who liked to growl at everyone who walked by; Sema, a dachshund who liked to bark at everyone; and Winston, an old Basset Hound. However, they were locked inside all night and hadn’t barked before the crime.

Police in Portland and people who live in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood both agreed that drugs were a problem in the area. A lot of people who used methamphetamine and a lot of people who sold meth made the neighborhood. One reason Gayle had been so protective of Josh was because of this. She let him know that drugs and guns were not okay. She wouldn’t let him hang out with anyone in the neighborhood that she thought was involved with drugs. Josh never stayed out late, and he had to be home for dinner every day at 5:45 pm. He was always on time.

Friends confirmed that Josh had always been a good kid who wasn’t affected by the crime in the neighborhood. But some people thought Josh might have seen something he wasn’t supposed to have, which is why someone k*illed him to keep him quiet.

People who were with Josh in the hours before he was ki*lled said that everything seemed fine. Josh played with his friends at their house all day and then went back to Gayle’s to eat dinner with his family. He spent a few hours at his friend’s house after dinner and then came home at 8:30 pm. When he got home, he was in a good mood and nothing seemed to be bothering him. Having seen a movie, he made himself a snack and then went to sleep.

Patricia, Josh’s biological mother, was sure that the k*iller hadn’t meant for Josh to die, and she begged the ki*ller to come forward. “He was so little.” They ki*lled a child while going after the wrong person. How can they walk around the streets now?

It had been years and years, and no one had found Josh’s k*iller. Gayle said in an interview in 2003, “Someone ki*lled my child.” We need to know who. We want this to be over with so Josh and I can rest. She was mad that the ki*ller could still walk around town. “It’s a monster, not a person…”I need to catch him right away. In fact, I wanted him caught on August 10, 2001.”

What investigators found after sorting through all the rumors about the case was pretty much nothing. Detective Meredith Hopper of the Portland Police Department said that they did not have any evidence that pointed to a specific person. “People have always thought that maybe someone else was the real target.” Detectives looked into that a lot, and they’re still looking into it, but so far nothing has really come up.

A reporter asked Gayle in 2008 if she still thought she could get justice for Josh. “That day was the worst of my life.” This person took a child who wasn’t theirs. He doesn’t have the right to be there with his family to celebrate and have fun.

Gayle had several serious health issues, including diabetes and congenital heart problems. Unfortunately, her health declined in the years following the mu*rder and she died in 2015 without ever learning who had kil*led Josh.

Josh’s case is still open but has been cold for more than a decade. Detective Hopper told reporters that the investigators still hoped to solve the case and they hoped that someone would come forward with the information necessary for an arrest. “It’s just very important to give the family closure, particularly on this heinous crime.

Joshua Jeffries was just 11 years old when he was mur*dered in August 2001. He was a friendly and popular child who had been looking forward to starting sixth grade that fall. Detectives have never been able to identify any suspects in the mur*der nor determine the motive behind the crime. If you have any information about Josh’s mur*der, please contact the Portland Police Department’s Cold Case Homicide Unit at 503–823–0400.

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