Cold case: Portland woman strangled, left near pedestrian bridge - KPTV - FOX 12

Cold case: Portland woman strangled, left near pedestrian bridge

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Photographs of footprints and tire tracks are among the potential clues investigators gathered in the search for the killer of Latanga Watts, but they need information from the public to solve the murder.

Watts was strangled and dumped in the grass near North Concord, by the Going Street Pedestrian Bridge, on March 18, 1987.

Police say Watts, a mother of three, had fallen into drug use and prostitution.

“This just seemed to be how she made money,” said Det. Jim Lawrence, with the Portland Police Bureau's Cold Case Homicide Unit. “She seemed to be a nice girl who was caught up in a bad lifestyle.”

Investigators suspect Watts' job made her a target.

“I think it's very likely that the reason she was victimized is because she's a prostitute and because it's believed that nobody cares,” said Det. Jim Lawrence, a homicide detective in the Portland Police Bureau's Cold Case Homicide Unit. “It was a very dangerous time in the 80s to be involved in prostitution from the prostitute's side of things.”

Lawrence said prostitutes would often be attacked and forced into sex acts they did not agree to.

Many were afraid to report the crimes and their attackers knew that, he said.

At the time Watts was killed, prostitutes worked streets like North Interstate Avenue and Northeast Union Avenue, which is now known as NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Watts was last spotted on NE Union Avenue on the night of March 17, 1987.

A passerby discovered her body the next morning.

Investigators believed she was killed in another location and moved to the grassy area near the bridge.

It's a spot that prostitutes who worked North Interstate Avenue would bring their clients.

“Latanga was known to work MLK, or Union Avenue, so this would be an unusual spot for Latanga to bring a john,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence said investigators do not know if a john killed Watts.

The original investigators collected as much evidence as they could and interviewed Watts' associates and johns, but no substantial leads developed.

Cold case detectives would like to speak with anyone who knew Watts or knew people who frequented prostitutes during the 1980s.

If you have any information about this crime, contact Lawrence at 503-823-0867 or

You can also leave a Crime Stoppers tip online at, text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP, followed by your tip, or call 503-823-HELP (4357) and leave your tip information.

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