An Oregon man has been charged with two cold-case murders that were committed more than two decades apart, the authorities said this week, noting that there may be more victims.
Investigators in Portland said they still had not found the remains of the first victim, Mark Dribin, who vanished in 1999. But they discovered the dismembered body of Kenneth Griffin, who disappeared in 2020, in a shed at the home of Christopher Lovrien in Southeast Portland when they went there to investigate the first case.
Mr. Lovrien, 53, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree abuse of a corpse and six counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, the authorities said.
On Thursday, he pleaded not guilty in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
“Time will never stand in the way of justice,” Mike Schmidt, the Multnomah County district attorney, said in a statement on Wednesday announcing the charges against Mr. Lovrien.
Investigators have asked for the public’s help in identifying anyone who might have lived beneath an Interstate 205 bridge and had gone missing from the summer of 2019 to May 2020. They declined to say why the underpass had become a focus of their continuing investigation.
Mr. Lovrien’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday night.
Cold-case detectives with the Portland Police Bureau said they zeroed in on Mr. Lovrien after sending a DNA sample that had been recovered from Mr. Dribin’s house and vehicle in 1999 to Bode Technology, a private company in Virginia that specializes in genetic genealogy testing, for further analysis in 2019. The sample had previously failed to turn up a match on a possible suspect in the killing of Mr. Dribin, who was 42 and an airline cargo worker. (In 2000, the authorities declared Mr. Dribin dead.)
The analysis, which involved crosschecking DNA evidence with ancestry records, pointed to Mr. Lovrien and several brothers, according to the authorities, who said they narrowed down the list of suspects from there.
“They sort of point us in the direction of, ‘Hey you may want to look at this person or this family,’ ” Detective Brendan McGuire of the Portland Police Bureau said at a news conference on Thursday. “We still then have to target those leads and build our own evidentiary case on it.”
The detectives said they obtained a search warrant to collect a DNA sample from Mr. Lovrien, which matched the genetic evidence in Mr. Dribin’s death.
Last May, Mr. Lovrien was arrested on a murder charge in that case. Just over two weeks later, investigators said, they found the dismembered remains of Mr. Griffin in a shed at Mr. Lovrien’s home. Mr. Griffin had been missing since February of last year.
An age for Mr. Griffin, who officials told local news media did not have long-term stable housing, was not immediately available.
Investigators said they found no evidence that Mr. Lovrien, a metal fabricator, and the two murder victims knew one another. A motive for the killings, they said, remains unknown.
During a search of Mr. Lovrien’s home last year, the police said, they recovered two 9-millimeter pistols, a .40-caliber pistol, a .357-caliber revolver and two .223-caliber rifles.
The case against Mr. Lovrien is among the latest breakthroughs for the science of genetic genealogy.
Genetic genealogy has been instrumental in identifying more than 40 suspects in languishing cold cases, most notably the so-called Golden State Killer in California.
“Sort of the advent of this was a couple of years ago with the Golden State Killer in California when that investigation broke,” Detective McGuire said. “Now there are agencies and companies across the country that are doing this quite a bit.”