Father & Daughter Relocated from Forest Park Slip Away
Fearing they were being tracked by news helicopters, the man and his daughter, 12, leave a newfound Yamhill County home
Where have Frank and Ruth gone?
A month ago, a man and his 12-year-old daughter abandoned their 4-year-old hermitage in Forest Park for a Yamhill County horse farm. Now, they have seemingly vanished into the spring air of Oregon's coastal range.
Portland police Sgt. Michael Barkley, who found a place for the homeless pair to live on a friend's farm, said he has been unable to find Frank to tell him about $6,500 deposited into a relief fund by donors around the country.
Barkley said he last spoke to the 53-year-old former Marine two Saturdays ago. While he was happy to have a job on the farm, Frank was uneasy with news stories about him and his daughter.
Police have withheld their last names to protect their privacy. Still, Frank said it had gone too far. He told Barkley that television news helicopters kept showing up in the sky over the farm.
Frank felt "hunted" by the helicopters, Barkley said, and feared that kids would call Rut, "the Forest Park hillbilly" if her face showed up on TV.
"He was talking about leaving the state," Barkley said. "He said, 'We love it here. We don't want to leave.' But he expected the TV cameras to show up any day."
Frank and his daughter were living in a mobile home on the farm.
If there were helicopters trying to find the pair, they didn't belong to any of Portland's news stations, according to news directors. None of them tried to track down Frank and Ruth from the air.
Barkley said their departure was more of a flight than a disappearance. Last Monday, Frank and Ruth gathered their belongings from the mobile home, expressed their gratitude to the owners and left.
Parishioners at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Cornelius, where the father and daughter showed up at services and other gatherings on bikes, said the pair departed without leaving a phone number or address.
"I have a feeling they have gone under again," said the Rev. Ronald McCallum, pastor of the church. "They're trying to stay private. And if they stayed in Forest Park for four years, they could be almost anywhere."
The father and daughter were discovered in late April by extreme cross-country runners "hashing" through a dense, wooded area of Forest Park above U.S. 30.
The pair told police they had lived at their elaborate camp dug into a hillside for four years. Police questioned them extensively.
They were clean and health. Ruth, who was home-schooled with a stack of thrift-shop encyclopedias, was well-spoken beyond her years, police said. A physician and state child-welfare investigators found no evidence of abuse, according to police reports.
Frank, a college graduate who served in Vietnam, told police that he came to Oregon with no job and little money. The girl's mother, he explained, was institutionalized in New Hampshire.
A devout Christian, Frank said he didn't want to live on the streets and risk exposing Ruth to drugs, alcohol and crime, so they hiked deep into Forest Park.
Last Wednesday, a pack of runners revisited the creekside campsite. Some reported seeing Frank and Ruth there. Bret Lubic, who was at the rear of the group, didn't see them. "But I saw books stacked up there," he said. "The lean-to shelter was up, and the garden looked tended to."
Although it is possible that the father and daughter visited the site, Barley said he doubts they have re-established the camp. "Frank knows that if he ever goes back up there to live, Ruth will be taken from him," he said. "It's crystal clear to him."
A North Precinct officer went back into the woods to check the area Friday. Although park crews had yet to tear down the old shelter, the officer reported that there were no signs it was being used again.
Department of Human Services officials weren't tracking Ruth and her father because there were no signs of abuse, said spokeswoman Patricia Feeny. "And the child being educated, and apparently well educated," she said. "It was just a beautiful human interest story."
Moved by the story, which appeared everywhere from newspapers to outdoor adventure Web sites, many people responoded by donating money to a fund to help with living costs and the girl's education.
About $6,500 deposited at Bank of America branches has been transferred into Frank's personal account at Wells Fargo Bank through direct deposit, Barkley said. It is impossible to know if the man has withdrawn any of it.
Eleven days ago, when Barkley last spoke to Frank at the horse farm, he said he was preparing to enroll his daughter in the local middle school. He said he wanted Ruth to experience a normal Oregon childhood.
Yet nothing seemed certain.
Frank said news helicopters seemed to flying along the cvoast range, searching for the right farm. He said they sometimes flew so low he could see their station logos.
Sunday morning, Barkley drove to Cornelius and waited for the pair to show up for services at the Lutheran church. They didn't come.
-- Joseph Rose: (503) 221-8029
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