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May-23-2007 18:50printcomments

Suspect in Police Officer Shooting With Ties to Missing Oregon Couple Found Dead

A missing Oregon couple is known to have associated with the man in Arizona, and their location remains a mystery.

Cole with the missing Oregon couple
Cole with the missing Oregon couple
All photos: Arizona DPS

(QUARTZITE, Ariz.) - The suspect in a May 17th shooting of a Quartzite, Arizona police officer was found dead in the desert today, about twenty miles from the California border. Gregory Allen Cole who went by the nickname of "Groundhog", is also tied to the disappearance of an Oregon couple.

Gregory Allen Cole

Cole was found dead off US Highway 95, according to AZcentral.com. The 45-year old suspect was located with an assault type rifle and police believe he shot himself. His body was located near Milepost 114 just west of the freeway.

Tim Mason with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona's state police, says Cole has been identified as the man who shot Quartzite Marshal’s Officer James Kemp less than a week ago, on May 17th, during a traffic stop.

"As Officer Kemp began to exit his patrol car, several shots were fired at him from the motor home from an unknown number of suspects. After the officer was shot, the driver of the motor home fled the scene. Investigators found the motor home soon after, abandoned in the La Posa Campground parking lot in the Quartzsite area."

Yuma, Arizona's KYMA TV told Salem-News.com today that Kemp is recovering from the gunshot wounds. It is not clear whether or not he has been released from the hospital.

Quartzite is a place known for its ample numbers of rock collectors and "snowbirds." Thousands of residents from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and other places flock to this part of Arizona each year to enjoy pleasant off season temperatures. These snowbirds can be found in abundance as they literally triple the region's population each winter. Unfortunately, with that influx of visitors, there is animosity from many locals.

Police are looking for Betty Lou Japel and Kenneth Miller, from McMinnville, Oregon

What the snowbirds really bring to this part of the country is a substantial economy. They spend money and they buy and rent property and they eat in the local restaurants and buy groceries and an endless list of goods. These season-long vacationers are often kind, and unfortunately, they also fall prey to criminals who take advantage of their age and often semi remote camping locations.

The missing Oregon couple is known to have associated with Cole. Police have distributed photos that show them at a camp site together. Betty Lou Japel and Kenneth Miller, are from McMinnville. Police believe it is a strong possibility that they were killed by Cole. With the street name of "Groundhog", Cole, who seemed to sport a look that was a split between military and outdoor survivalist, was already sought by police over two felony warrants that are unrelated to the shooting. He apparently had a substantial criminal history.

Oregonlive.com quoted Betty Lou Japel's son Joseph's reaction to the latest news, "They told us we might not ever see (Japel and Miller) again since (Cole) was the only one who knew where they were and he seems to have committed suicide."

Another image showing Cole with the missing couple in Arizona

The whereabouts of Miller and Japel remain a mystery, according to Mason. He says investigators had a small advance in the case when officers located the couple’s black and silver Dodge Ram pickup truck in Montana. The truck's discovery unfortunately, did not yield many clues. "It is unknown how long the Dodge had been in Montana and how it got there."

Mason says investigators have also learned that the motor home used in the shooting displayed a license plate that belonged to the couple, which was from their Dodge Ram.

The couple did have a motor home as well as the Dodge truck. Police initially assumed Cole was in possession of the couple's motor home after he sped away from the shooting.

They learned while doing a records check on the vehicle identification number (VIN) that the motor home driven by Cole was not registered to the couple, it was in his own name. Furthermore, the couple’s motor home was recently located in Oregon.

But police had to sort things out, because as it turns out, Cole’s motor home is very similar to the couples’. It is a twisted story and Cole apparently had what it took to cause people harm. But dead men tell no tales and the whereabouts of Kenneth W. Miller and Betty Lou Japel remains unknown.

Arizona DPS, the United States Marshals Office and Quartzsite Police have established a tip line and are urging anyone with information to call 1-877-WANTED (1-877-926-8332) or 9-1-1.

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Tim King May 25, 2007 12:09 am (Pacific time)

S. Cole,
Thank you for adding that, and I am sorry that the phrase comes across to you in a negative way, I understand that a family member with this take on the story would feel that way. What you stated is not something I was able to learn from the police; please email me at newsroom@salem-news.com and tell me why you believe he is innocent of harming the couple.
Thank you,
Tim King

S Cole May 24, 2007 10:53 pm (Pacific time)

Greg had been friends with Ken and Betty for at least 10 years, they were good friends, without a doubt. I truly believe that he would not harm them, and something else must have happend. And the "dead men tell no tales" is very distasteful.

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