A teenager reported missing earlier this month in Oregon was found murdered, and authorities believe she may have died after she accepted a ride while walking home from work, RadarOnline.com has learned.
Troy Phelps, 39, was being held without bail on charges of kidnapping, resisting arrest, and first- and second-degree murder in connection to the stabbing death of 18-year-old Kendra Hanks, The News-Review reported.
On July 7, Hanks finished her shift around 3:30 p.m. at Ingram Book Company in Roseburg and began her walk home.
According to surveillance video obtained by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, investigators were able to track Hanks movements for about the following two hours, and they noted a burgundy Saturn Outlook repeatedly appeared in footage that day along the teenager’s usual route, court documents obtained by The News-Review show.
Investigators believe at one point during her walk, Hanks accepted a ride and got into the Saturn SUV, and she was later seen in surveillance footage in the vehicle’s front passenger seat with the window down, the documents state.
The vehicle’s movements were then traced via video to the town of Riddle, and investigators determined the driver appeared to be a white male with dark facial hair who was wearing a cap, investigators said.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said investigators later connected the SUV in the video to the suspect, Phelps, after police in Winston reported officers had an interaction with a driver in a similar vehicle on July 13 — the day Hanks' body was found in Cow Creek, about 40 miles from where she worked.
An autopsy determined the teenager was stabbed twice and likely died from a wound to her neck, according to court documents.
Eight days following the grisly discovery, on July 21, deputies executed a search warrant at Phelps’ residence, and they took him into custody following a brief altercation, the sheriff’s office said.
“Kendra was a sweet, caring, and kind young lady,” the victim’s brother-in-law, Brandon Russell, told KEZI-TV. “She loved her animals. She was always there to lend a hand. She had a silent, yet direct way of caring for family and showing her love, and that's really how we want to remember her.”
The News-Review reported Phelps was acquitted in 2020 of murdering Brandon Michael at a bar three years earlier.