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Body of suspect who leapt into river found near Monroe.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

MONROE - One month after jumping into the Willamette River to avoid the clutches of Valley River Center security guards, the fate of suspected shoplifter William Christopher Griffith is known: His body was found washed ashore about 20 miles north of Eugene.

Benton County sheriff's officials identified Griffith, 37, as the person whose body was discovered Sunday along the river by deer hunters near Dodge Island Road, east of Monroe.

"It's a sad ending to this case," Eugene police spokeswoman Melinda Kletzok said.

Before this week, police were unsure of Griffith's fate.

He dove from the Maurie Jacobs bike bridge in Eugene into the chilly waters of the Willamette on the night of Oct. 30.

At the time, Griffith was being chased by mall security guards who said he stole a bracelet and a pair of shoes from Macy's.

Kletzok said the guards tried to persuade Griffith to come back to shore, but he did not heed their advice.

Eugene police and Lane County marine deputies searched several hours that night for the suspected shoplifter, with no luck.

At the time, investigators said it was possible that Griffith - whose identity was not known - found his way to a riverbank and escaped.

Officials with the state Medical Examiners Office concluded that Griffith likely drowned, although the cause of death is officially undetermined.

Benton County Sheriff Diana Simpson said it took some effort to figure out that Griffith was the person who ran from the guards in Eugene.

"The detective working on the case learned of the shoplifting incident and was able to get the surveillance tape from Macy's," Simpson said.

"The body was decomposed to the point where no facial identification could be made, but (Griffith) was wearing the same T-shirt," she said.

Police showed an earlier mug shot of Griffith to mall security guards, who "were 90 percent sure" it depicted the person who fled Macy's and jumped into the river, Simpson said.

Oregon State Police investigators identified Griffith through fingerprints.

Court records show Griffith lived in Eugene. Simpson said police notified Griffith's family in Arkansas of his death.
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Title Annotation:City/Region
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 4, 2008
Words:353
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