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June 12, 2024

The Cowden Family Murders


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The Cowden family murders took place in the Siskiyou Mountains. The Cowden family was a family of 5; Richard Cowden, a 28-year-old male, his wife Belinda, a 22-year-old female, David, a 5-year-old boy, Melissa, a 5-month-old girl, and their dog, Droopy. The family had gone camping in the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon, from August 30th to September 1, 1974, over the Labor Day weekend.

The family drove to the campsite in their Ford pickup truck. Originally they had never planned to go camping that weekend Richard was going to use the time to fix their rigged driveway but Unexpectedly the truck that he was going to use to haul gravel broke down, so instead, the family went to the Siskiyou Mountains for a last-minute trip away. When they arrived, nothing was out of the ordinary. It was like every other one of their trips, but that would soon be untrue. According to Grunge on that Saturday Richard and David would go to the General Store on foot around 9 a.m. to buy milk, since they realized they were out. Then would leave the store and head back to their campsite. This would be the last time the Cowden family would ever be seen again. On that evening, Belinda’s mother, who had lived less than 1 mile from the campgrounds, was expecting the family to come over for dinner, but when they failed to show, she went to the campsite herself to see if there was a problem. When she arrived, there was no sign of the Cowden family. The truck was parked with the keys on a picnic table along with Belinda’s purse and a half-finished carton of milk, which matched the one that Richard and David bought at the store earlier that day. Richard’s expensive wristwatch and wallet were on the ground as well. The truck also appeared untouched containing their clothing inside as well, with only their bathing suits missing. Their dog, Droopy, was also left scratching at the front door, which was the most alarming part since they didn’t go anywhere without their companion.

After a half hour of Belinda’s mother waiting, she went on to leave the campgrounds to notify the authorities of the situation. Then a sheriff, many troopers, and the local Oregon state police came to the crime scene. The area was searched for any sign of the family until it grew dark. The search for the family was one of the biggest in the history of Oregon, lasting 2 weeks of pure search parties.
It would be about 7 months later approximately 7 miles from where their campsite, that the family would be found, but sadly not alive. On Saturday, April 12, 1975, two hikers who happened to be hiking through a pathway in a forest near Carberry Creek would find the horror of a decomposing adult male’s body that had been tied to a tree. When the authorities were called to the scene once more, they searched the area to find 3 more bodies, one of them being an adult female and 2 children in a cave that was sealed with rocks. They would then all be identified as the Cowden family by using dental records.

As they could not find any links to a murderer being involved, the case was left unsolved. To this day, the case remains cold, and it’s still unknown who murdered the Cowden family or how they ended up so far from their campsite.

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Prisma Chavez, Writer
Prisma Chavez is in 10th grade and has just started her sophomore year. She likes music, art, and being with the people she loves.

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    Yvonne MurphyMar 10, 2024 at 2:06 pm

    This was my Uncle Richard and his family. We still do not have closure. It will be 50 years since their bodies were discovered, April 12, 1975. Not a day goes by I don’t think about how horrific this crime was. My Uncle Richard has one sister living. I would like to have the case re-examined. The man Jackson police suspected was
    Dwaine Lee Little. He has never been charged with this crime. He is in prison for life on unrelated crimes in Oregon.