By KGW and AP Staff
The mother of Miranda Gaddis, Michelle Duffey, briefly toured a makeshift memorial in front of Ward Weaver’s house in Oregon City late Sunday.
Surrounded by friends and family members, she perused the hundreds of items stuck in the chainlink fence that stretches half a city block.
Teddy bears, flowers and notes have been attached to the fence by people who have been coming there for the past two days — neighbors, total strangers and relatives of Ashley and Miranda.
Other supporters gave the mother a respectful distance.
Friends of Miranda Gaddis had burst into tears earlier Sunday when the FBI announced at a press conference outside Weaver’s house that the human remains found in his shed the previous day had been identified as those of Miranda.
“It just kind of shocks me,” said Sarah Vottratz, a 13-year-old friend of Gaddis, as she wiped tears from her eyes.
“I think they should have searched here sooner, ” said Vottratz, “It was right next to the apartments.”
Vottratz said she is making a scrapbook of her friend. She said she has newspaper articles, flyers, and photos of Miranda on her dance team, The Misfits.
Kayla DeMacon and Stephanie Janousek, both 13, hugged each other and cried. DeMacon said she couldn’t believe this had happened.
“It never should have come to this,” said DeMacon as she put her arms around Janousek.
“What did these little girls ever do to him (Ward Weaver)?” asked Jennifer Johnson, an adult friend of Miranda’s family.
Oregon City has reacted with anger and heartbreak over the past two days as word spread that two sets of human remains were found behind Weaver’s home.
Medical Examiners determined the identity of the first body found Saturday as that of Miranda Gaddis. And the second discovery on Sunday dashed hopes that Ashley Pond might still be alive.
Immediately after the first body was discovered Saturday, the chain link fence in front of Weaver’s house started filling up with flowers and stuffed animals.
Michelle Brasfield was one of those who attached a bouquet of flowers to the fence.
“We came to pay our respects” to Miranda and Ashley, said Brasfield, holding the hands of her children — 10-year-old Augustus and Emma, age 5.
“Ever since they disappeared, we’ve been hoping they’d come home,” she said. “I have children of my own, so I feel for the family. It’s a huge tragedy.”
The security fence has become a makeshift memorial. For the past two days, mourners have signed a large banner covered with thoughts and prayers for the missing girls. The banner reads: “We’ll always remember u.”
Other notes attached to the fence read “we love you and miss you” and “Always in our hearts. We’re so sorry, we love you.”
Miranda’s aunt, Terri Duffey, said the family was “absolutely distraught… We’re sick to our stomachs.”
While sadness filled the air, there was also anger from some people who thought the police should have checked Weaver’s yard sooner.
Many of the people who waited outside the security fence have wondered why it took the FBI so long to focus on Ward Weaver in an investigation that’s lasted for more than half a year.
They included Cheryl Sellars, a third cousin of Miranda Gaddis.
“I’m angry like everybody else, hurt, that things didn’t come sooner,” she said.
Oregon City Mayor John F. Williams, Jr. said he believes there will be answers as to why it took so long to uncover the remains on Weaver’s property.
“I don’t have the details why they didn’t do it sooner,” Williams said. “But I’m not surprised.”
Weaver’s ex-wife, Kristi Sloan, said she told the FBI five months ago about her suspicions about Weaver, who once attacked her with a cast-iron frying pan.
“The parents should have had closure five months ago,” she said. “I’m not disturbed, but I’m disgusted with the discovery.”
Sloan said it “makes her sick” that it took the FBI so long to find the bodies.
“I’m kind of surprised it took this long to really go in and search this place,” added Aaron Hixon, a 28-year-old neighbor of Weaver’s.
“The girls had been in and out of his house. He certainly had the opportunity to do whatever he wanted.”
Ashley Pond, a friend of Weaver’s daughter Mallori, had been a frequent guest at the house, and for several months in 2001 she lived there while her own father was in jail on multiple charges of abusing her.
Weaver said he often gave Ashley a ride to Gardner Middle School in his black, 1977 Ford Firebird car.
Weaver also said he broke up with a girlfriend after fighting about Ashley’s frequent overnights in his house.
Weaver told The Associated Press in an interview last month that he treated Ashley as a daughter when she came to visit. He said he noticed Ashley’s penchant for wearing halter tops, mini skirts and other revealing clothes, and that he often asked her to change into something more appropriate while at his house.
“My sister, the first time she saw Ashley, she told me I got to watch myself,” Weaver said. “I said ‘shut up’, she’s 12.”
Weaver, whose own father is on death row in California for killing two people and burying one of them in his yard, told reporters several months ago that the FBI considered him a suspect. The previous summer, Ashley had accused him of molesting her, but he denied the allegations and was never charged.
Miranda Gaddis, the other missing girl, also knew Weaver’s daughter and visited his home, but stayed overnight only a few times, said Michelle Duffey, Miranda’s mother.
Duffey also said, through her lawyer, that she didn’t share any of the anger others have about the length of the investiagtion.
“She (Duffey) wants to let people know that she does not see anything at all that the FBI or police could have done differently,” attorney Linda Beloof said. “She understands that if things are done outside of the law, then potential evidence could be thrown out, and that would be a real shame.”
The family also thanked the steady crowd of outlookers who have come to pay their respects, and said that donations to support the families of Ashley and Miranda can be made at area Bank of Americas.
The family would use those donations for funeral expenses.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)