“Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.”
– W.S. Merwin
Winter had washed the city of Vancouver, Washington in a snowy white in December of 1971. A petite blonde in jeans and a striped shirt walked out into the chilly air from Fort Vancouver High School after attending her classes for the day. Her home was only a few miles from the school, but it was a walk she would not complete; the snow would melt and spring would be welcomed, but she would never be seen or heard from again.
Jamie Rochelle Grissim was born November 11, 1955 in Newport, Washington. Legally orphaned at the age of four, Jamie and her sister, Starr, were in the foster system as children and lived in Vancouver, Washington growing up.
Jamie was a well-liked sixteen-year-old with an artistic spirit, wrote poetry and drew pictures in her spare time, and had recently won a $500 art scholarship. Listening to music was another pastime, and she loved Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Elvis, and the Bee Gees. She had been hired at the Vancouver Army Barracks and was working part-time while going to school.
Starr was only in junior high when her older sister vanished walking home from school on December 7, 1971. Her favorite memories are those spent with her sister the summer before she disappeared.
“We went swimming nearly every day out at Lacamas Lake in Washington,” she remembers. “We went horseback riding. Jamie was an avid horseback rider and was in 4-H. I rode with her just once, and it was my first time on a horse.”
Starr and Jamie were getting ready for Christmas with their foster parents and had already purchased each other presents. Footie pajamas were the popular item that year, and both girls received them as gifts.
Jamie never got to open hers.
Where did she go?
“I believe Warren Forrest picked her up, raped and tortured her, and strangled her,” says her sister, Starr.
Warren Forrest, a suspected serial killer, had prowled the streets of Clark County for years. According to The Charley Project, both he and Jamie had attended the same high school, although they were several years apart in age.
“His childhood home was less than two miles from our childhood home,” Starr says.
Forrest was convicted of the murder of Krista Blake who was killed in 1974. He is suspected of several girls’ deaths, including Martha Morrison and Carol Valenzuela.
Not all of Forrest’s victims have died, however. Norma Countryman Lewis was only fifteen years old when she was abducted by Forrest on July 17, 1974. She was smoking a cigarette outside near a park when Forrest drove up and offered her a ride.
“He pulled into a meadow, got out and got back and put a knife to my throat,” Norma remembers.
Norma survived the attack and managed to escape, but the invisible scars of the incident remain.
“It had a profound effect on me when I was a teenager and as a new mother. It’s kind of been just an ongoing rolling wave,” she says. “I took it harder as an adult.”
Norma attends every trial for Forrest and is vocal about her story. She wants to make sure justice is served for each girl Forrest is suspected of killing.
“He’s not the accidental killer of one girl; he’s a serial killer,” she says. “These lives have been impacted. He is a monster on so many levels because of all of the pain and ripples of that pain that he caused.”
In the time spanning from the 1970s to now, countless things have changed. One thing remains the same: Jamie is still missing and deserves to be brought home for a proper burial.
According to the Help Find Jamie Grissim website, Jamie’s purse and ID were found in May of 1972 near where two other missing women’s bodies were located. Other than those items, her family still does not have answers.
“I will continue to seek justice,” Starr promises.
Warren Forrest is currently awaiting trial for the 1974 murder of Martha Morrison. If you have any information about the disappearance of Jamie Rochelle Grissim, please contact the Clark County Sheriff’s Office at 360-397-2020.