Malheur County team turns attention to cold case involving nurse

A cold case team created by Brian Wolfe, Malheur County sheriff, is ready to look into the death of a local nurse who was found floating in the Snake River in March 2001. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – The death of a local nurse more than 18 years ago will get a fresh look this spring by a cold case team assembled by Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe.

The team of 12 volunteers will review the case of May Hori, who worked at what was then Holy Rosary Medical Center, who was found clad in thin pajamas and floating in the Snake River north of Ontario in March 2001.

Law enforcement officials investigated her death off and on for five months before closing the case in August 2001.

The manner of Hori’s death was listed as drowning, a conclusion that Wolfe doesn’t dispute. The cause of her death, though, is still a question for the sheriff.

Wolfe was the county undersheriff when Hori died.

At the time, said Wolfe, police were not convinced her death was accidental. The team, led by Chuck Wade, a retired Portland city safety and security officer, is already reviewing reports and other documents about Hori’s death.

“Everybody has been going over all the files. I have read them all at least two times and am getting ready to read them for a third time,” said Wade.

Wade, an Ontario resident and Nyssa High School graduate, said the cold case team consists of six women and six men.

The team, he said, is filled out by retirees and younger people with an age range from mid-30s to 70.

“I am excited to be part of it and looking forward to getting underway,” said Wade.

The cold case team began work in January 2018. The first task it tackled was the case of former Georgia resident Barry Howard. Howard was reported missing from an area about eight miles southwest of Ontario in April 2017. Howard was spotted near Jacobsen Gulch Road shortly after he was reported missing. The sheriff’s office searched most of April but never found him. Howard was described as an African-American male, 5-foot-7 and about 145 pounds.

Wade said work on Howard’s case has been suspended because the cold case team believes he may be in the area. Wade said the team collected information off and on between June and December that Howard was still in the Ontario area.

“There seemed to be some sort of ongoing information that kind of made it clear to a lot of folks he is still around. Some of the team members actually thought they had a visual sighting of him,” said Wade. Wade said if new information comes into the team it will reopen the case.

“I can only speak for myself, but I am sure he is around,” said Wade. Wade said the first year of work by the team was rewarding.

“I think it is one of the best things I have ever done. The luxury we have, of course, is we don’t have a time clock. We can work as long as we want during the day or, if we have other things to do, we can do that also,” said Wade. Wade said enthusiasm by team members has not waned.

“I am just amazed at the intensity at which a citizen can go and say, ‘I want to be part of this team,’” said Wade.

Wade said the group meets each month at least once and sometimes more.