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Cold case detectives solve 1982 hate crime murder of gay man; suspect is dead

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By Laura Rillos

Portland, OR (KPTV) — After 33 years without answers, the family of Robbie Altom believed they may never find out who killed him and why.

On Wednesday, Portland Police Bureau cold case homicide detectives announced they’ve identified Altom’s killer as Cecil Corrie Turner, who was 24 years old at the time of the murder.

Turner died in Oregon in 2009 so he will not be charged, but the district attorney’s office has granted “exceptional clearance” in the case.

“I think that a lot of us are in shock,” said Dawn Luna, Altom’s niece. “Because like I said, none of us thought it was going to get solved. We hoped. We hoped. It’s been a long time since 1982.”

Altom, 30, was found bleeding and unconscious outside JB’s Paradise Room in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 1982.

He died three days later from blunt force head trauma.

Altom was killed because he was openly gay and the death is what is now called a hate crime, according to Det. Angela Hollan.

The original investigators learned a man was harassing Altom in the bar before he left.

The man used gay slurs and pushed Altom off a bar stool.

Turner was a person of interest during the initial investigation, but police did not have enough evidence to arrest him.

Police got a tip one night the man who was harassing Altom was in the bar and when police showed up, they found Turner.

Turner was later picked out of a photo lineup, Hollan said.

But Turner claimed he left the bar before Altom, and Turner’s girlfriend backed up the story.

“I think Robbie was tired of being harassed and decided it was time to go home. I think Cecil followed Robbie outside the bar and this is what happened,” said Hollan. “I think unfortunately people didn’t come forward with that information back then.”

Detectives in the Portland Police Bureau’s Cold Case Homicide Unit began reviewing the case.

FOX 12 profiled the murder in 2013.

Detectives recently spoke with a witness, who provided them with new information.

“Thirty-three years later she remembered some things she wasn’t really wasn’t willing to tell police back in 1982,” said Hollan. “I think there was a lot of fear about what might happen to her.”

That woman’s statements helped them determine Turner is “without a doubt” responsible for Altom’s death, said Hollan.

Altom’s niece is angry her uncle was killed because of his sexuality.

“My uncle Robbie was a good man,” she said. “He didn’t deserve to die because he was gay.”

Her feelings of gratitude and relief are stronger.

“It’s just nice knowing that my uncle’s not in a box sitting in a warehouse somewhere with the words cold case written on him,” said Luna. “He’s not. It’s solved and now it’s put to rest.”

Prior to his death, Turner did spend time behind bars.

He was convicted of robbery, sodomy and DUII in 1983, harassment in 1989 and drug-related crimes in 2001 and 2002.

FOX 12 was unable to locate any of Turner’s relatives for comment.

The Cold Case Homicide Unit has reviewed approximately 250 homicide cases and solved more than 40 since it was formed in 2004.

A sergeant and four detectives make up the unit. They are assisted by several retired investigators who volunteer their time.

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