In the end, it was a drink at the Horse Brass Pub in Southeast Portland that led to a break in the cold case killing of an airport worker who disappeared more than 20 years ago.
Court records filed by Multnomah County prosecutors shed new light on the case against Christopher Lovrien, 55, who was arrested two years ago in the 1991 killing of Mark Dribin, 42, and the 2000 death of Kenneth Griffin, 53.
Lovrien is accused of two counts of second-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and being a felon in possession of a gun. He is being held in the Multnomah County Jail and has pleaded not guilty.
At the time of Lovrien’s arrest, Portland police said they feared he had additional victims, though investigators said Monday they had not identified anyone else.
Portland cold case detectives reopened the Dribin case in 2019, sending DNA from the case to a lab for analysis.
Those tests hit on a potential match: One of three brothers was the likely suspect, according to court records.
Police quickly ruled out one of them. They then reached out to another brother, Jesse Lovrien, who said he wasn’t involved and his other brother, Christopher, wasn’t either.
The men refused to submit to DNA testing, according to prosecutors.
But a week later, Jesse Lovrien reached out again to the investigators. He and his brother said they would meet with detectives. They settled on the Horse Brass Pub, the English-style bar on Southeast Belmont Street.
During the meeting, Christopher Lovrien denied killing Dribin, but acknowledged that at the time he had been involved in a “criminal lifestyle” that involved methamphetamine and stealing cars, court records say.
The men again refused DNA tests and left.
But three undercover detectives were also in the pub that night, keeping an eye on the drinks the brothers ordered, according to the court filing. They later collected the glasses to have them analyzed.
The results of that genetic genealogy analysis linked Christopher Lovrien to the DNA found throughout Dribin’s home, including on a bed sheet, and Dribin’s car.
Analysts often use DNA data in genetic genealogy investigations that mine open-source databases for potential links. Researchers typically use death and marriage records, data from family trees and home-based DNA tests that people upload into a public site.
The court records don’t spell out whether Lovrien had taken a genetic genealogy test to learn about his own family tree, but in the months before he was identified as a suspect, he and an acquaintance chatted about their family histories.
According to the acquaintance, Lovrien said he did not know about his birth mother. The acquaintance suggested Lovrien take a genetic test to see if he could find her. The acquaintance doesn’t know if Lovrien ever followed up.
The new court filing last Friday by Deputy District Attorney William Garms sheds little light on how Lovrien knew Dribin, who worked as a United Airlines cargo worker at Portland International Airport.
The record says cold case investigators reviewing the original case file said Dribin’s father had found a handwritten note in his son’s home with Lovrien’s name and contact information about the time the family went to sell Dribin’s home shortly after he had gone missing.
At the time he disappeared, his car was also gone, the court record records say. It was later found in the parking lot of a drug treatment facility – about 30 yards from the front door of the home where Lovrien lived at the time.
Dribin’s remains have never been found.
The court filing also reveals additional details about Griffin’s death.
Lovrien’s jailhouse calls with Jesse led police to Griffin’s remains, the records show.
About 11 days after Lovrien’s arrest, he spoke with his brother by phone in a call monitored by investigators. The men discussed Lovrien’s house, located in the 12000 block of Southeast Foster Road.
Jesse Lovrien asked about the shed in his brother’s backyard. Christopher Lovrien was adamant: Don’t touch the shed. Keep it locked, he told his brother, the court filing says.
Six days later, Christopher Lovrien’s lawyer called police and gave them permission to open the shed.
Bring hazmat gear, he warned, according to court filings.
When police opened the shed, they discovered “three large totes that were sealed with the corners on each having been screwed shut,” court records say.
Griffin’s dismembered remains were found in the containers. An autopsy concluded he had suffered fatal “chop wounds” to the head, according to court records.
Lovrien testified before a grand jury and said he met Griffin at the 82nd Street Tavern and later took him to his house to meet his two dogs.
He said they smoked marijuana and ordered a pizza. He testified that he had let Griffin use his credit cards to pay for the food and that Griffin had not given him back the cards.
The two ended up fighting, he said, and at one point Lovrien “retrieved a crossbow” from a glass case and fired into Griffin’s chest and face multiple times. He testified that he then struck Griffin with an ax.
The court record notes the range of weapons Lovrien kept in the house. He had two long guns, two pistols and a wall where he hung hatchets, swords and knives. He also had a gladius, which prosecutors described in court records as a “short sword commonly used by ancient Roman foot soldiers.”
Lovrien left Griffin’s body in the house for three days, then dismembered the remains and stowed them in boxes, which he put in his shed, the records say.
An obituary for Griffin said he was born in Mississippi and moved to Portland with his mother in 1977. He graduated from Roosevelt High School, where he played football and wrestled. After high school, he won trophies for weightlifting, bench pressing more than 300 pounds.
Lovrien’s lawyer, Ryan Scott, declined to comment on the case Monday.
The case is set for trial in October.