The torture suspect who killed himself Tuesday as Grants Pass police closed in is now suspected of beating two people to death after evading capture for days, authorities said.
Josephine County sheriff’s deputies saw evidence of a crime through the window of a home in rural Sunny Valley while going door-to-door during the search for Benjamin O. Foster.
Foster, wanted in the Jan. 24 kidnapping and torture of a woman found bound and near death in neighboring Grants Pass, had eluded a dragnet after police located him on family property in Sunny Valley two days later. The woman remains in critical condition, police said.
Foster is believed to have subsequently killed Richard Lee Barron, 73, and Donald Owen Griffith, 64, who lived nearby, sometime after 3:30 p.m. Monday, said Oregon State Police, who took over the investigation. They died by blunt force trauma.
“It’s a brutal scene,” said state police Capt. Kyle Kennedy during a press conference Wednesday. The two men lived in the house where they were found dead and had no prior relationship with Foster, Kennedy said.
As the manhunt escalated, authorities received a tip from a local cab company that a man had requested a pick-up in Sunny Valley about 7 a.m. Tuesday and was taken south back to the scene of the kidnapping in Grants Pass. Foster was spotted later Tuesday morning walking a dog, which police said he had stolen during the double homicide.
“You can imagine the fear and the concern that came across your chief of police and every single law enforcement professional when we learned this happened. He brutally murdered two innocents,” said Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman. “... And we didn’t know when he was going to stop.”
Hensman said no officers were stationed at the kidnapping victim’s home but officers immediately returned to the area once they had learned of the cab ride.
Foster, 36, died at a hospital Tuesday evening. He was found with a .45-caliber gun in his hand, buried deep in the crawl space of the Grants Pass home where the woman was discovered. Authorities used a battering ram attached to a Bearcat to breach the home and then discovered Foster’s underground hiding spot using cameras attached to a robot.
He had shot himself in the head, authorities said.
Foster was convicted in 2019 in Nevada for kidnapping an ex-girlfriend, but was released from prison the day he arrived after spending nearly two years in jail while awaiting trial.
Police have also charged Tina M. Jones, 68, with hindering prosecution after she allegedly allowed Foster to stay in her home and helped him ditch a vehicle during the manhunt.