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Portland man accused of two murders was jailed days prior for interfering with police at protest — but that charge was dropped the next day, and he was let go


Portland protesters have been routinely released without bail soon after their arrests

Image source: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

A Portland man accused of double murder was arrested just days before for interfering with police during a protest — but the charge related to the protest was dismissed the next day, and he was released from jail, KOIN-TV reported.

What are the details?

Cassy Leaton, 22, and Najaf "Nate" Hobbs, 39, were stabbed to death June 16, and police arrested Phillip Lawrence Nelson two days later, the station said, adding that the suspect faces two murder charges and is being held without bail.

Cassy Leaton and Najaf "Nate" HobbsImage source: Portland Police Bureau

But on June 12, Nelson was arrested at a protest in downtown Portland on a misdemeanor charge of interfering with a peace officer, KOIN said, citing court records. However, that charge was dismissed the next day, the station said. Booking information indicates Nelson was released from the Multnomah County Detention Center.

This summer, Portland protesters routinely have been released in such a fashion following their arrests. As the Oregonian reported:

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt has said his office won't pursue demonstrators accused of interfering with police and disorderly conduct, among other charges, if the allegations don't involve "deliberate'' property damage, theft or force against another person, or threats of force.

As for the murders, KOIN reported that they may have stemmed from an ongoing dispute between the suspect and victims. Leaton and Hobbs' roommate told police they were renting a unit in a fourplex from Nelson, who claimed to be the owner of the building, the station said, citing court records. But when the three roommates learned Nelson actually was squatting there, the trio changed the locks to their unit, which angered Nelson, KOIN reported, citing records.

More from the station:

On the afternoon they were murdered, surveillance video captured Hobbs and Leaton going into the basement of the building, where the water control is located, according to court records. The pair came back upstairs, but then went back just a minute later. Shortly after that, surveillance video captured Leaton running out of the basement, stumbling and shouting for help before falling down. Bystanders rushed to her aid, but she did not survive.

Both Leaton and Hobbs had been stabbed numerous times, according to the medical examiner. A police officer said he found Hobbs' body on the stairs, with a trail of blood leading to the basement. The officer also allegedly found a long-bladed knife and "significant amount of blood" inside the basement.

Nelson listed the lower left unit of the fourplex as his address the night he was arrested at the protest, police said. The surveillance video from June 16 allegedly captured him leaving through the back door of that unit after the stabbing, as bystanders were trying to save Leaton. Detectives found blood stains on the inside and outside handles of the door, according to court records.

Nelson told authorities he had been homeless, living in the Portland area for the two months before the crime, KOIN reported, citing court records for the murder arrest. His next court appearance is scheduled on Sept. 28, the station said.

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