Police reports provide insight into investigation of body found in suitcase, trunk

Lena Weib

Nobody else was supposed to be staying at the apartment where ARCHES placed Richard Flennory. Salem officers conducting a welfare check found two men in the apartment, one of whom later pleaded guilty to putting Flennory’s body in a car.

Salem police responded to the Claxter Court Apartments Dec. 2 for a death investigation (Courtesy photo)

Just after 10 a.m. Dec. 2, 2021, Salem police got a call from the apartment manager at Claxter Crossing telling them to check apartment #431.

Caseworkers with the Salem Housing Authority stopped by daily to see a tenant, 59-year-old Richard Flennory, but hadn’t seen him in days.

The manager showed Sgt. Vincent Dawson a video of a man dragging what looked like a tan, roughly 5-foot-long duffle bag down the stairs, then down the sidewalk east of the complex around 3 a.m. Nov. 30, according to Salem Police Department reports. The man put the bag in the trunk of Flennory’s silver Ford Taurus, video showed.

The manager told police nobody else should be in the apartment.

The details come from police reports Salem Reporter obtained through a public records request. The documents provide more information about Flennory’s death and the circumstances that led to an Albany man’s guilty plea to abuse of his corpse.

After speaking with the apartment manager, Dawson and Cpl. Stuart Gamble knocked on the door and, when no one answered, used her key to get in. There they found a man who appeared to match the person in the videos and identified himself as “David Foster,” the police reports said.

Police used keys found in the apartment to open the trunk of Flennory’s car.

“Cpl Gamble called me on the radio and told me something to the effect of ‘It’s what we thought it was,’” Dawson wrote in his report.

The man later admitted to police his real name was Linson Johnson. He pleaded guilty Jan. 11 in Marion County Circuit Court to carrying away Flennory’s body two days before police arrived.

Flennory was considered chronically homeless and had lived in the apartment since July 16, 2021, a Salem Housing Authority caseworker told police. He was in drug treatment in Portland before being placed in the apartment by the ARCHES Project, one of Salem’s largest service providers, “but he has gone down hill since moving into the apartment,” according to the reports.

When police found Johnson, 51, he was lying on the couch in the living room, twitching and unable to control his bodily movements. “His speech was rapid and he had a difficult time identifying himself,” Dawson wrote in his report, adding that he believed Johnson was under the influence of methamphetamine.

Gamble opened the trunk to find a brown blanket he recognized from the video, pulled it back and saw a teal blue suitcase.

“I opened the suitcase lid, which was unzipped, and saw a leg and foot with what appeared to be the rest of a body inside. It was clear based on the skin tone and the way the body was folded that this person was no longer alive, so we did not search any further,” he wrote.

Detective Tim Johnson later said in his report that it appeared one or more people had “essentially folded his body in half” and crossed his legs to fit him in the suitcase.

Once Gamble told Dawson over the radio what he found, two other officers detained Johnson, handcuffed him and took him to the police station to talk with detectives.

“He did not make any statements on the way to the station,” Gamble wrote.

Linson was lodged later that day at the Marion County Jail based on existing warrants, the report said. Police cited him the day of his arrest to appear for a second-degree theft charge in Linn County Circuit Court. He was charged Nov. 4 with theft of property worth $100 or more from Catholic Charities, according to court documents.

Police also detained another man who was using the bathroom in the apartment. The man told police he was homeless and Flennory had been letting home come to the apartment for a little over a month, but that he didn’t know anything about “Richard being missing,” according to the reports.

He said he was on the sidewalk that morning near the intersection of Northeast Hyacinth Street and Portland Road when Johnson approached him and they started talking. He said Johnson offered to take him to Flennory’s apartment so he could shower and charge his phone.

Detectives learned that Flennory had “multiple health issues” that may have contributed to his death, the news release said. When Johnson found Flennory dead, he put him inside the suitcase and in the trunk of the car “to avoid a police response,” Salem police said in a Dec. 3 news release.

Dr. Rebecca Millius, a state medical examiner, conducted an autopsy and told police there was no trauma or sign of assault to Flennory. She ruled out homicide as the cause of death.

The state medical examiner’s office could not immediately be reached for clarification on the cause and manner of Flennory’s death.

In an interview with detectives, Johnson admitted to putting Flennory’s body in the car, a transcription of the interview dated Dec. 8 showed. 

Johnson told detectives he was on post-prison supervision. 

Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree abuse of a corpse on Jan. 11. Marion County Circuit Court Judge Donald Abar sentenced him to six months in prison and a year of post-prison supervision, court records showed.

He remained on the Marion County Jail roster as of Thursday morning.

 Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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