Woman's remains found, police look to son as a suspect

Woman's remains found, police look to son as a suspect

COLUMBIA CITY, Ore. - Police find the remains of an elderly woman months after she was reported missing and years since she was last seen. Now police are looking to her son as a suspect.

Stephen Bahl, 59, is already facing charges for his father's death in 2009 and was arrested in August. The grand jury indicted him for negligent homicide, saying his father was malnourished when he died years ago.

Bahl is also charged with stealing thousands of dollars from his 91-year-old mother, Frieda, and now he could face more charges since investigators believe they finally have her body.

Neighbors say the Bahl family has lived in the little brown house off James Street for years and that they never talked much.

But now the family is the talk of the town ever since May when police realized Frieda was missing.

She suffered from dementia and no one has seen her since July 4, 2010.

"They pretty much stayed to themselves. So for us to notice she was missing would have been very difficult," said Robin Eidem who lives in the neighborhood.

Once police and search dogs began looking for her in the spring everyone in the area noticed and wondered. They looked to her son Stephen for answers. But they got few of them.

"When people are on drugs, they make really goofball decisions," said Eidem, adding that he thought it was "a given" that Stephen Bahl was on drugs.

In August, police arrested Stephen Bahl on charges connected to his father's death, and to his mother's missing money. But charges for her death couldn't be filed until she was found.

Police say it was information Stephen finally provided that led them to the remains they were looking for. They found them not far off Smith Road buried in the woods.

"I'm glad they found her," said Eidem. "I pretty much made the same assumption everyone else did. She was long dead and the probability was fairly high that he had done something with her body."

Now police and neighbors believe Stephen's daughter lives at the home while he is in custody.

No one answered the door when a KATU News reporter knocked. And when Stephen's daughter appeared outside, she avoided the reporter.

Some neighbors said they fear the daughter more than her father. They said she hangs out with dangerous people. KATU confirmed she was convicted for heroin possession earlier this year.

Despite worries about her, neighbors are glad police have made progress and a "case closed" seems near.

"I'm glad it's come to an end. We don't need that around here," Eidem said.

An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday to confirm the identity of the remains and the cause of death. Police don't know yet if Stephen Bahl will be charged. But that's definitely a possibility, especially since he apparently knew her location.