Washington County murder becomes true crime documentary
The story of a Forest Grove woman murdered near Hillsboro in 2014 is getting national attention, after her death and the investigation to find her killer were featured on Investigation Discovery over the weekend.
The newest episode of the cable channel's series "On the Case with Paula Zahn" featured the death of Nicole Laube, 29, who was killed outside a Cedar Mill apartment complex in 2014.
Last year, jurors found her killer, Jaime Tinoco, guilty on charges of aggravated murder and unlawful use of a weapon. Tinoco is serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole.
The March 4 episode, titled "As She Lay Dying," looked into some of the twists and turns investigators struggled with in the case, from Laube's bizarre killing, to the sexual assault of a woman outside Autzen Stadium in Eugene, which played a crucial role in Tinoco's arrest.
The hour-long episode interviewed many involved in the case, including retired Washington County Sheriff's Office Detective Jim George and Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lesowski, who worked on the case, as well as eye witnesses and family members.
Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, said series producers reached out to the department last fall. Talbot said the agency reached out to the family, the Washington County District Attorney's Office and the Eugene Police Department before agreeing to discuss the case.
"Our biggest priority was to respect the family and make sure we did right by them," Talbot said. "We had a lot of discussions and collaboration before we agreed to tell Nicole's story and honor her legacy."
Laube had been handing out flyers at the Commons at Timber Creek apartment complex where she worked when she was stabbed once in the chest by 17-year-old Jaime Tinoco on Aug. 19, 2014.
Laube was able to reach a group of bystanders before she died, and warned them about her attacker, who she said was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and camoflauge-colored shorts.
The seemingly random nature of Laube's attack, which occured in broad daylight in a busy apartment complex, made headlines across the Portland area. A Forest Grove resident, Laube had grown up in Hillsboro. Her father, Rich Jones, is founder and pastor at Hillsboro's Calvary Chapel Worship Center.
Stranger on stranger crimes are rare, Talbot said. The uniquene nature of the case is what drew the show's attention to Washington County, he said.
"It's heart wrenching," Talbot said. "The impact that Nicole had on the community is immeasurable. She was chased down and murdered by a complete stranger."
The case was a whodunnit, George said. In the days following Laube's death, authorities received a tip about a teenager who lived nearby who had been threatening people with knives. The teen, Taylor Rhodes, confessed to the crime, but George said he believed the man's confession to be false. He didn't know important details about the crime, including where Laube had died. Authorities determined Rhodes, who had mental illness, wasn't the suspect they were looking for.
The case was in danger of going cold, George said, when authorities in Springfield suggested George look at Tinoco as a suspect.
Tinoco had been arrested days earlier for raping a 39-year-old woman outside Autzen Stadium in Eugene a month after Laube's death. He had separated from a group of youth offenders on a trip to the game through the Washington county Juvenile Department.
Tinoco lived across the street from the apartment complex where Laube had died. A search of his home revealed he owned clothing similar to what Laube had described. Several witnesses had also reported seeing a man in that outfit running across the street toward Tinoco and .
Tinoco had pleaded guilty in that case, and officers suspected he might have been involved in the Cedar Mill crime after police released a sketch of the suspect.
Prosecutors said Tinoco had intimate knowledge of the crime that wasn't released to the media, such as the fact that Laube was carrying balloons and packages of microwaveable popcorn to residents in the area at the time of her death.
Tinoco eventually confessed to the crime and told police that he intended to rape Laube, but fled the scene when she began screaming after the attack.
During his 2017 trial, Tinoco's attorneys argued police had arrested the wrong man. His clothing didn't
Tinoco had schizophrenia and had falsely confessed to the crime due to his mental illness. His attorney's argued his client wasn't able to aid or assist in his own defense. Washington County Circuit Court Judge Kirsten Thompson found him mentally fit to stand trial.
Jurors deliberated for less than a day before they returned with a guilty verdict.
Jones, Laube's father, said he offered Tinoco forgiveness.
"I told him to take this forgiveness as an opportunity to start over," Jones said during Sunday's episode. "Change yourself. Stop hurting people."
Since Laube's death, Jones has co-founded a program to work with Oregon inmates on faith-based matters.
According to the channel, the episode is schedule to play a handful of times on the Investigation Discovery over the next few weeks, and can be watched in full through Youtube or the Investigation Discovery website.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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