Records previously thought destroyed provide the clearest
picture yet of the investigation of claims Ed Murray sexually
abused his foster son.
An Oregon child-welfare investigator concluded that Ed Murray
sexually abused his foster son in the early 1980s, leading state
officials to assert that “under no circumstances should Mr.
Murray be certified” as a foster parent in the future, according
to public records obtained by The Seattle Times.
The investigation by Oregon Child Protective Services (CPS) of
Jeff Simpson’s allegations determined them to be valid — meaning
the agency believed Murray sexually abused Simpson, the records
“In the professional judgement of this caseworker who has
interviewed numerous children of all ages and of all levels of
emotional disturbance regarding sexual abuse, Jeff Simpson has
been sexually abused by … Edward Murray,” CPS caseworker Judy
Butler wrote in the May 1984 assessment.
Murray, elected Seattle’s mayor in 2013, last week repeated in
an interview with The Seattle Times that he never abused
Simpson, and he underscored that prosecutors had decided decades
ago not to charge him.
Still, the newly disclosed records reveal that a Multnomah
County prosecutor withdrew a criminal case against Murray
because of Simpson’s troubled personality, not because she
thought he was lying.
“It was Jeff’s emotional instability, history of manipulative
behavior and the fact that he has again run away and made
himself unavailable that forced my decision,” Deputy District
Attorney Mary Tomlinson wrote.
“We could not be sure of meeting the high burden of proof in a
criminal case — of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and to a
moral certainty. However, this in no way means that the District
Attorney’s Office has decided Jeff’s allegations are not true.”
Unlike a criminal case, CPS child-abuse investigations determine
whether “reasonable cause” exists — a lower standard of proof
than for criminal cases, but still meaning the abuse likely
occurred. In Oregon, about 10 percent of child-abuse reports
annually have in recent years been deemed to be founded.
The newly obtained records, previously thought destroyed,
provide the clearest picture yet of the investigation of Murray,
then a paralegal who had worked as a counselor to Simpson and
other troubled children.
The documents, released to The Seattle Times this month by
Oregon’s Department of Human Services, also contradict public
statements in recent months by Murray and his lawyer contending
investigators had debunked Simpson’s allegations at the time as
A letter to The Times sent Saturday night by Murray’s Portland
lawyer, Katherine Heekin, stressed: “Oregon’s Child Protective
Services is supposed to err on the side of believing a child’s
accusations. The agency is not responsible for judging sex abuse
cases. It merely investigates allegations of sex abuse. In
contrast, law enforcement is responsible for determining whether
or not a crime may have happened. Here, there was no indictment,
no charges filed, no conviction, and no crime.”
Murray said last week he had never been told of the CPS finding
and would have appealed had he known. The Seattle Times provided
him copies of the newly released investigative records Tuesday.
In an interview Thursday, Murray and Heekin questioned why
Oregon officials kept the records without informing Murray. They
also disputed the importance of the documents.
“Other than the salacious nature of it, I don’t see what the
story is,” said Murray. “The system vindicated me. They withdrew
Murray said his previous comments that Simpson’s allegations had
been discredited were based on his lawyer’s impressions about
the decision to drop the case. He said he learned from the
documents that the case was withdrawn before a grand jury could
vote whether to indict him.
“I feel even more strongly that my statement was correct because
(the criminal case) was withdrawn,” Murray added. “ … That is
unusual because we all know people get indicted and they get
indicted pretty easily. As I said, one of the attorneys told me
you can get a ham sandwich indicted in the grand jury.”
The withdrawn case included another foster parent Simpson had
accused of abuse.
Murray pointed to statements his attorneys collected and
submitted to investigators from people who had known him or
Simpson. They included other foster parents who described the
youth as sometimes violent and impossibly difficult to care for.
Oregon officials previously said records of the investigation
had been purged, but located them in April under a newer
computer-tracking system. In releasing the typically private
information to The Times, that state cited, in part, a provision
of public-records law that allows disclosure “to protect
children from abuse and neglect.”
The finding by CPS supporting Simpson — who had been abandoned
as an infant and later lived under Murray’s care for nearly a
year and a half as a teenager — prompted Oregon child-welfare
officials to decide that Murray should never again be a foster
parent, a June 1984 report shows.
The abuse finding — the result of a required administrative
investigation — remains in effect and could still prevent him
from being a foster parent in Oregon, officials said.
“Thank you, Jesus”
Murray, 62, a longtime Democratic state lawmaker and gay civil-
rights leader, has attacked the credibility of Simpson and other
men who say he sexual abused them decades ago. Murray has
suggested the claims are politically motivated.
The scandal led Murray to drop his re-election bid. The mayor
has said he’ll serve out his term, which ends this year.
Simpson, 49, who abandoned an effort to sue Murray in 2008 due
to statute-of-limitations issues, was happy when reporters told
him last week that the CPS report backed his claims.
“Wow, wow. Thank you, Jesus,” he said.
Simpson added that he and his attorney had tried to find such
documents, but were told none existed.
The Times first published details about Simpson’s claims in
April when a Kent man, Delvonn Heckard, made similar accusations
against Murray in a sexual-abuse lawsuit. Heckard withdrew his
lawsuit in June, saying he intends to refile after Murray leaves
Shortly after Heckard sued, Murray’s attorney Robert Sulkin
attacked the lawsuit and Simpson’s allegations, saying Simpson’s
claims had been “completely debunked” and “found to be false by
Janet Hoffman, the Portland attorney who defended Murray in
1984, said in an interview in May that Portland prosecutors were
“very hard-nosed” and must have been “thoroughly convinced” the
allegations were “totally false.”
The records released this month show otherwise. Along with the
prosecutor’s letter and the CPS assessment, a state foster-care
specialist wrote in a summary:
“Mr. Murray allegedly sexually abused the foster child in his
home over a long period of time. Although he was not indicted,
the Protective Services department feels that the allegations
are true, as does the district attorney’s office.”
A police report shows two witnesses also told a detective they
were aware of allegations that Murray had abused Simpson and
were willing to testify before a grand jury. A high-school
friend of Simpson and the friend’s mother told the detective
Simpson had spoken to them about Murray’s alleged abuse before
telling social workers and that they had overheard a three- to
four-hour phone call between the two.
Two foster fathers accused
Simpson, who grew up in group and foster homes, met Murray at
the Parry Center for Children in Portland where Murray worked as
his counselor in the late 1970s. Murray remained close with
Simpson after the boy left the center.
At the time, Simpson had extreme emotional problems. Child-
welfare records described him as a “heavy street kid” and “one
of the agency’s most difficult children.” Murray was considered
a stabilizing presence whom Simpson called “Dad,” the records
In November 1982, a court designated Murray, then a 27-year-old
paralegal for a public defender’s office, to become Simpson’s
foster father. The teenager lived with Murray in two Portland
apartments until March 1984, records show. Social workers noted
some problems, but they called Murray the most successful foster
parent Simpson had ever had.
Simpson first alleged sex abuse in April 1984, a few weeks after
he’d been removed from Murray’s care due to drug abuse and
behavioral problems. The upheaval in Simpson’s living situation
weighed on him; two days after being moved to a group home he
slashed his wrist, cutting a 4-inch gash in his left arm.
When a social worker interviewed Simpson, asking if he’d ever
been sexually abused, Simpson told her a foster parent had
abused him years earlier. When she asked if he’d been abused
more recently, Simpson wanted assurances his answer would remain
confidential, the records show.
“After being reassured … that it would, Jeff acknowledged that
his foster father in his most recent placement also sexually
abused him,” a social worker’s report on the alleged abuse
CPS assigned Butler to assess the allegations a few days later.
Simpson was surprised and reluctant, saying he thought what he
told the social worker would stay private. He eventually told
Butler about the alleged abuse in an hourlong interview.
Simpson said the abuse began in 1980, when he was 13 and
spending a weekend with Murray. The abuse continued after Murray
became his foster father and lasted until he left Murray’s care
at age 16, Simpson said. At times, Murray paid Simpson $10 or
gave him drugs for sex.
“Jeff stared at the floor and appeared to be very depressed,”
Butler wrote. “At times his voice would shake as he described
his disappointment when Ed Murray, whom he had trusted and seen
as the only consistent adult figure in his life, began a process
of sexual abuse.”
Simpson gave a second interview a day later with Butler and
Portland police Detective Dave Foesch. Simpson told the
detective that Murray sometimes warned him that if he told
anyone, he’d be removed from Murray’s home and sent to an
When the detective asked if Simpson was willing to help
prosecute Murray, Simpson responded, “No, he is my father,”
Foesch, who has since died, wrote in a police report.
“It was then explained to Jeffrey that Mr. Murray is not his
father and that a father would not do these things to his son,”
Foesch wrote. “Jeffrey then thought about it for a while and
agreed that he may possibly be able to save some other child
from suffering the same indignations.”
The next day, Simpson, Butler and Foesch testified before a
grand jury, Butler’s report states. Meantime, Murray, unaware of
the allegations, called Simpson’s group home several times,
demanding to speak with him and threatening to sue when he was
denied contact, Butler’s report states.
After testifying to the grand jury, Foesch called Murray to
inform him of Simpson’s allegations and set up an interview. A
lawyer for Murray later told Foesch his client was “too
emotionally upset at this time to be interviewed,” the
detective’s report states.
Murray changed lawyers several times before settling on Hoffman,
who soon provided statements to investigators from people who
knew Simpson and Murray, and did not believe the allegations.
Murray also reportedly took a private polygraph, but “since the
exact results were not released to the D.A. my assumption is
that it was inconclusive,” Butler wrote in the assessment. She
noted Hoffman described Murray as “coming out ‘Real good’” in
Murray and Hoffman said last week they didn’t have records of
the polygraph results.
Simpson, who state foster reports show was prone to lying,
stealing, using drugs and running away, presented problems for
the district attorney in proving the case. About a month after
the allegations emerged, the prosecutor’s office withdrew the
case against Murray and the other accused foster parent from the
But in her CPS assessment, Butler found Simpson believable. She
noted he’d expressed concern that his claims would ruin Murray’s
career, and had “no motive to make something like this up”
because Simpson knew he’d likely be placed in an institution and
never allowed to live with Murray again.
“It is unfortunate that the criminal justice system chose not to
act in this case simply because a conviction of … Mr. Murray
would probably be the only way of mandating (him) in to
treatment for … sexual deviancy,” Butler added.
A few months after the investigation ended, Murray left Portland
and moved to Seattle.
“Those records exist”
Simpson said Friday he didn’t remember accusing the other foster
parent of abuse when he spoke with reporters earlier this year,
saying that was probably because it didn’t compare to what
Murray allegedly did to him.
“It upsets me that I didn’t remember,” he said. “I’m not trying
to be deceitful or anything like that. It hurts my validity.”
The other man was Simpson’s foster provider for about a month,
the records show.
Simpson is one of four men who have publicly accused Murray of
sexual abuse decades ago when they were teenagers. Heckard
claimed Murray started paying him for sex in 1986, when Heckard
was a drug-addicted 15-year-old. Lloyd Anderson and Lavon Jones
also separately allege Murray paid them for sex as teenagers.
In May, Murray’s personal spokesman, Jeff Reading, provided The
Times with copies of several statements from people who
supported Murray when Simpson first made his allegations in 1984.
Reading said he was providing the information because “there is
an existing body of evidence that rebuts and contradicts what
Jeff has said.”
The statements were given by people who had counseled or taken
in Simpson and described him as emotionally unstable and Murray
as having tried hard to help.
One couple, who took Simpson on weekend outings, told a Murray
defense investigator Simpson didn’t respond well to discipline
and in his early teens “seemed to be very obsessed with the fear
of being a homosexual.”
The couple believed the boy’s sex-abuse allegation “was nothing
more (than) Jeff acting up” and “striking back” for “some form
Another statement, from a counselor who had worked with Simpson
at Murray’s request, said the teenager previously had claimed
The counselor said “he recalled a telephone call in which Jeff
alleged that Ed had forced him into sex and paid for it,” he
told Murray’s defense investigators.
The counselor dismissed Simpson’s claim, saying “he did not
believe that allegation at the time, and found it to be
Some of the same statements were included in the state foster
records released to The Times this month. The CPS investigator
considered them before making her finding.
Murray said the CPS report doesn’t accurately reflect what
happened, noting other important records from Simpson’s foster
file and the D.A. inquiry that no longer exist would illustrate
Simpson’s destructive behavior.
“He got angry at every foster parent that he’d ever been
involved with,” Murray said.
In interviews, Simpson has acknowledged his troubled youth, drug
problems and lengthy criminal record, including a 10-year prison
He also has signed several waivers to allow authorities to
release his private counseling and other records.
In June, after Heckard withdrew his lawsuit, Murray held a news
conference at City Hall to declare he’d been vindicated. The
mayor also told reporters the media hadn’t gone far enough in
seeking information that would demonstrate his innocence in the
“All those records exist,” Murray said. “Also, that a prosecutor
and grand jury investigated it and didn’t pursue it, all those
When reminded Thursday of his statements criticizing the press
for not pursuing more records, Murray responded: “But you cherry-
pick records. You cherry-pick records.”
In the Saturday night letter, Murray’s attorney Heekin also
said, “The Seattle Times … seeks to reinvestigate the case, to
take the place of law enforcement and the District Attorney’s
Office, act as judge and jury without a full vetting and
disclosure of the facts that were available to law enforcement
in 1984, rewrite history, and mislead the public.”
We’re not opening comments on some stories about the Mayor Ed
Murray allegations. Here’s why.
Lewis Kamb: 206-464-2932
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Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 jbru...@seattletimes.com
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