Oregon Supreme Court overturns death sentence of “Molalla Forest Killer”

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Nov. 13, 2021 12:56 a.m.

Between 1988 and 1989, Dayton Leroy Rogers was convicted of 14 counts of aggravated murder and sentenced to death.

In a unanimous decision Friday, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Dayton Leroy Rogers, who was convicted in the late 1980′s of killing eight women.

In the ruling, the justices ordered Rogers be resentenced by a lower court, presumably to life in prison.


The Oregon Supreme Court’s opinion follows an Oct. 7 ruling, also by the court, that found that two years ago state lawmakers had fundamentally altered “prevailing societal standards” for executions after they changed the kinds of crimes that constitute aggravated murder — the only charge in Oregon that carries a sentence of death.

In 1987, police discovered seven women in the Molalla Forest, which the medical examiner determined had been stabbed or cut. At the time, Rogers was in custody on suspicion of stabbing and killing another woman. Police found similarities between that case and the women found in the forest, including that all were sex workers, court records state.


Between 1988 and 1989, Rogers was convicted of 14 counts of aggravated murder and sentenced to death.

Oregon Supreme Court in Salem, Ore., May 19, 2021.

Oregon Supreme Court in Salem, Ore., May 19, 2021.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

In 2019, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 1013, which limited what crimes qualify as aggravated murder.

The crime currently only applies to murders of children younger than 14 years old, murders of law-enforcement officers, terrorist attacks that kill at least two people, and prison killings carried out by someone who’d previously been convicted of murder. That’s a far narrower scope than what formerly constituted a capital offense when Roger was convicted.

While the law change included a provision that didn’t make it retroactive, the supreme court’s ruling last month did just that, relying on a section of the state’s constitution that prohibits disproportionate punishments.

This is the third time in two months Oregon’s courts have scrapped the death sentence for an adult in custody.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the total number of victims as eight, not seven as previously reported.