Oregon police hope photo can solve 1975 killings

Oregon police hope photo can solve 1975 killings
This June 1975 photo provided by the Salem, Ore. Police Department shows a man who identified himself as Thomas Hanson and told police he was born in 1945 and grew up in Alma, Mich. On Tuesday, June 3, 2014, police in Oregon are making another attempt at solving the deaths of two farmworkers in an arson fire that destroyed a hotel 39 years ago, circulating this photo of the man who fled after being questioned. (AP Photo/Salem, Ore. Police Department)

ALMA, Mich. (AP) — Police in Oregon are taking another shot at solving the deaths of two farmworkers in an arson fire 39 years ago, circulating a photo of a man who fled after being questioned and who claimed to have Michigan ties.

The man disappeared without a trace after police interviewed him in 1975, Salem, Oregon, police investigator Jim Miller told The Associated Press on Tuesday. It followed a fire at the Bligh Hotel that killed 49-year-old residents Arnold Stover and August Cico and destroyed the building.

The man identified himself as Thomas Hanson and told police he was born in 1945 and grew up in Alma, Michigan.

After he disappeared, authorities found no trace of anyone with his name and Social Security number, Miller said.

Miller, a retired police sergeant who came back to work three years ago to tackle cold cases, said he began looking into the arson deaths again after successfully closing another cold case. Miller said he hopes someone in Michigan recognizes the man.

According to Alma police Lt. Matthew Schooley, the man who called himself Hanson "told investigators that he had arrived in Salem only a week before the fire from Alma." The man "stated that he was raised in Alma and lived here until enlisting in the Army and was sent to Vietnam.

"He claimed to be a ranger and that while he was in the service, his wife and child were killed in a car accident in the Alma area."

Schooley said the man calling himself Hanson promised to return to the police department for a follow-up interview but instead left Salem on June 17, 10 days after the fire.

The hotel, built in 1912, had become more of a flop house by its final years, with its 58 rooms renting for about $2.50 a day. Both victims had been living there for years, Miller said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press