CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. — It's been nearly six years since a hit-and-run double homicide near Cave Junction that has haunted the local community. Now the Josephine County District Attorney's office has released a full review of the Oregon State Police (OSP) investigation.
The DA's office statement identified a likely suspect who was found and interviewed in January of this year. However, the statute of limitations for the crimes has passed.
The story of the crash itself is a long and involved one. The DA's office said that on October 30 of 2013, just after midnight, 42-year-old Robert Calvin was walking with his girlfriend southbound on Highway 199 near milepost 30, just south of Cave Junction.
At the same time, 21-year-old Jared Houston was driving with a passenger on Hwy 199 northbound.
When Houston and Calvin intersected, the DA's office described a rapidly-escalating road rage incident that saw Houston get out of his vehicle and both men engaging in a protracted fight, with Houston as the apparent aggressor. The struggle eventually saw them stumble into the roadway, in the southbound lane.
"Jared Houston again was on top of Robert Calvin," the DA's office said the investigation had concluded.
It was at this point that both men were struck and killed by a pickup truck heading southbound on Hwy 199.
"The Oregon State Police conducted an exhaustive investigation into the hit-and-run deaths of Robert Calvin and Jared Houston. No person came forward with accurate information leading to the identity of the hit and run driver," the DA's statement said. "Under Oregon law the statute of limitations for the crimes of Failure to Perform the Duties of Driver to Injured Persons and Criminally Negligent Homicide are three years. The Oregon State Police could not identify the hit and run driver prior to October 31, 2016."
It wasn't until October of 2017 that people came forward with information about a possible suspect, Jesse Scott Coley. But when police interviewed Coley, he denied being the hit-and-run driver.
In December of 2018, the DA's office said that Coley's passenger at the time of the crash came forward to police and told them that Coley had accidentally struck and killed the two men as they were on the ground on Hwy 199.
"The passenger told law enforcement that Jesse Scott Coley was not paying attention to the road prior to the accident," the DA's office said. "[She] told law enforcement that she and Jesse Scott Coley may have been 'making out' at the time of the accident. The passenger told law enforcement that initially she and Jesse Scott Coley did not know what it was they had hit in the road."
According to this witness, Coley initially stopped his truck at the scene, but then continued driving. She told police that she had been drinking before the incident, but she did not think that Coley was intoxicated at the time. They drove back to Coley's house.
In January of 2019, the DA's office said that Coley again agreed to be interviewed by police — this time giving a very different story. Coley admitted to hitting something on the dark and foggy road that night, but said he had at first thought it was "garbage in the road." He said that he realized when it was too late that "it was a person."
Coley then told police that he'd later returned to the scene.
"Jesse Scott Coley told law enforcement that at the scene he approached a firefighter . . . and told the firefighter that he thought he hit a deer," the DA's office statement read. "[He] told law enforcement that the firefighter told him that two people had been killed. [He] told law enforcement that the firefighter did not realize that Jesse Scott Coley was saying he was involved in the accident."
After that, Coley told police, he went home. He claimed that he was not, in fact, "making out" with his passenger at the time of the incident — nor was he intoxicated, and he had been driving in a "normal fashion." He said that he did not see the two men until he was about a foot away from hitting them.
"Jesse Scott Coley’s conduct on October 30, 2013 constitutes the crime of Failure to Perform the Duties of Driver to Injured Persons. Jesse Scott Coley’s conduct on October 30, 2013 possibly constituted the crime of Criminally Negligent Homicide. Under Oregon law the statute of limitations for the crimes of Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver to Injured Persons and Criminally Negligent Homicide are three years," the DA's office concluded. "The statute of limitations for potential charges in this case expired on October 31, 2016. As a result, it is not possible for Jesse Scott Coley to be charged with crimes related to his conduct on October 30, 2013."