Mother accused in river murder has history of domestic violence

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by By ERIC ADAMS and KATHERINE COOK, Kgw.com Staff

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:36 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Tualatin "suburban mom" accused of drowning her 4-year-old son and attempting to kill her daughter has a history of domestic violence and was going through a divorce, according to public records obtained by KGW.

Amanda Jo Stott-Smith faces aggravated murder and aggravated attempted murder charges after her children fell 75 feet from Sellwood Bridge into the Willamette River early Saturday morning.

She was taken into custody five hours after her son, Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith was found dead in the river, and her daughter seriously injured. She will be arraigned Tuesday. No motive has been revealed.

Court records show that Stott-Smith filed for separation from her husband, Jason Smith, in March. They had joint custody of the children.

Neighbors say she moved out of their Tualatin home several weeks ago.

Stott-Smith was charged with domestic assault nine years ago, according to her public criminal record. Shortly after the assault charge she was picked up for misdemeanor shop lifting.

Her daughter, who survived an hour in the river, remained hospitalized in serious condition, but was expected to live. Police said Sunday afternoon that the girl's condition was improving and she had spoken with officers.

"How she's not dead is a miracle," said Sgt. Mike Marshman, a Portland Police Bureau spokesman, who has witnessed people take their lives by jumping off the bridge south of downtown.

It remains unclear how the children ended up in the river and hoped to determine whether they were thrown, pushed or had jumped in for some reason.

Tip leads detectives to mother Portland homicide detectives were contacted by Tualatin police and told of a missing person case possibly involving the two children.

Someone later called detectives and said the two children found in the river may be relatives.

Screams lead to children in river

The children's identities were confirmed based on information provided in that phone call and from other family members.

Stott-Smith was found Saturday morning on the ninth floor of a downtown Portland parking garage, threatening to jump off a ledge when officers arrived, Detective Sgt. Rich Astoria said.

Her car, a dark blue four-door Audi sedan, was seized.

Anyone who may have seen a car matching that description on or near the Sellwood Bridge Saturday morning around 1 a.m. was urged to call police.

Police did not know late Saturday whether Stott-Smith had contacted an attorney to represent her. Courts reopen Tuesday after the Memorial Day holiday.

'Horrifying screams' lead to children It was the chilling sound of children's screams on the waters of the Willamette River that set in motion a massive search and rescue operation early Saturday morning.

Two young children were found in the river, one dead and one injured, after someone called authorities saying they'd heard screaming near the Sellwood Bridge, according to police.

Eldon Smith and his older sister were eventually recovered from the river after an hour-long search involving officers from two police departments, Portland Police and Fire bureau boats, Multnomah County River Patrol officers, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and private citizens who had heard the screams.

The boy was dead.

At least two 9-1-1 calls were made reporting the screams and the search had begun just after 1 a.m., Pashley said.

The screams were still audible when searchers arrived and were apparently traveling with the river's current, from the bridge area toward downtown Portland. They could be heard for nearly an hour as searchers scoured the river's banks and a helicopter beamed light from overhead.

Couple launches private boat, locates 2 children A couple who lived nearby launched their personal boat to join the search and ultimately discovered the children. They had heard the screams and decided to try and help, police said. They found the two children about a half-mile downstream of Sellwood Bridge.

The good samaritan brought the children to the docks of the Oregon Yacht Club. The 4-year-old boy was dead and the girl was taken to an area hospital for treatment.

"It must have been horrifying. The water is so cold, it was dark, and so for two little kids, I can only imagine how horrifying that must have been," he said.

Patti Carr lives in the yacht club and heard the early-morning commotion.

"It makes me sick, it just does. It makes you think about your family and want to make sure everybody is safe," she said.

Police officers, detectives and others continued to search the area through the night. Homicide detectives took over the investigation after the boy was found dead.

Anyone with information -- or who finds anything suspicious along the Willamette River -- was urged to contact police.

KGW Reporters Amanda Burden and Wayne Havrelly contributed to this report, along with AP.

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