Oregon man accused of torture may be using dating apps to avoid capture

Benjamin Obadiah Foster was believed to have tied and bound a woman in her own home, severely beating her unconscious. PHOTO: GRANTS PASS POLICE DEPARTMENT/FACEBOOK

GRANT PASS, Oregon – A man who the authorities said tortured a woman this week in Oregon and held her captive before fleeing into the wilderness has been using dating apps in recent days to either target more victims or force someone to help him elude capture, police said on Friday.

The authorities in Grants Pass, Oregon, have deployed dozens of officers and investigators to find the man, Benjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, who they believe tied and bound a woman in her own home and severely beat her until she was unconscious.

Investigators are still piecing together a timeline of the crime, but Lieutenant Jeff Hattersley of the Grants Pass Police Department said in an interview on Friday that investigators believe the woman, whose name has not been released, was kidnapped sometime between Monday, when she was last seen by a friend, and Tuesday evening, when she was found and taken to a hospital.

On Friday afternoon, the woman was still hospitalised in critical but stable condition, police said.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 32 years,” Lt Hattersley said, “and this is one of the most heinous, terrible cases I’ve ever seen.”

Lt Hattersley declined to share many details about Foster’s activity on the dating apps. He said detectives had learned of his activity after obtaining his electronic devices through a search warrant.

The prospect of Foster remaining free has unnerved the community in Grants Pass, a city of about 39,000 residents in southern Oregon where homes are surrounded by forests, as police officers continue their sprawling search.

Lt Hattersley said Foster “knew the victim already” before attacking her, but he declined to elaborate because of the continuing investigation.

On Tuesday, a friend of the victim was concerned that he had not heard from the woman in hours, so he walked to her home and “interrupted” as the torture was occurring, Lt Hattersley said.

Foster then fled the rural neighbourhood in his car and later “escaped into the wilderness” on foot, he added.

Lt Hattersley said that were it not for the friend showing up at the house, “I think we’d have a completely different investigation” into a possible killing.

“It’s clear that his intent was to kill her,” Lt Hattersley said.

Earlier this week, a Louisiana man who used the dating app Grindr to lure gay men in a scheme to kidnap and kill them was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison for kidnapping and trying to kill a man he found on the network in 2020.

The attacker, Chance Seneca, 21, told the authorities that he considered the social media platform for LGBTQ people a “hunting ground”, and that he had used it to lure another man, Mr Holden White, to his father’s isolated home in Lafayette, Louisiana, on June 20, 2020.

The men also communicated on the messaging app Snapchat, court documents said. They had been in contact for weeks when Seneca, then 19, picked up Mr White, who was 18, in his car and drove him back to the house, where he propositioned him, persuading him to put on handcuffs, according to the documents filed in US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Once at the home, Seneca strangled, bludgeoned and stabbed Mr White, before slitting his wrists, court records said.

The attack left Mr White in a coma that lasted several days and left him with lasting injuries.

Seneca used a belt to strangle Mr White until he was unconscious, before pulling him into a bathtub, where he hit Mr White in the head with a hammer, and stabbed him in the neck with an ice pick, to make sure that he was dead, according to prosecutors.

Seneca later told the authorities that he slit White’s wrists in an attempt to cut off his hands – which he planned to keep – but panicked when he saw bone, court records said.

Just before midnight, Seneca called 911 and told dispatchers that someone had been strangled, according to court documents.

He told the dispatcher, “It’s my fault.” NYTIMES

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.