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‘The Pain Is Immense’: Oregon Man Accused of ‘Brutally’ Murdering Girlfriend and Discarding Her Body in Nature Park

Jose Antonio Caraballo and Kathryn Muhlbach

Jose Antonio Caraballo and Kathryn Muhlbach

Law enforcement authorities in Oregon have identified a 43-year-old man as the suspect in the slaying of his 27-year-old girlfriend, whose body was discovered in a nature park last week.

A nationwide warrant was issued for Jose Antonio Caraballo, who is wanted on the charge of second-degree murder (domestic violence) in the death of Kathryn Muhlbach, police announced.

According to a press release from the Portland Police Department, officers stationed at the East Precinct responded at approximately 3:16 p.m. on Dec. 9 to a report of a body found in Powell Butte Nature Park, located in the 16000 block of Southeast Powell Boulevard in Portland. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders located an adult female victim, later identified as Muhlbach. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Due to the “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the victim’s death, detectives with the Portland Police Homicide Unit were dispatched to the scene and took over the investigation. An autopsy conducted by the office of the medical examiner determined that the manner of Muhlbach’s death was a homicide and the cause of death was determined to be “homicidal violence,” according to the release.

Officials did not release any additional details regarding what injuries Muhlbach sustained, where in the park her body was located, or who discovered her body and called the police.

According to police, Caraballo is believed to have fled the Portland area following Muhlbach’s death. While his last known address is within the Portland city limits, investigators say that he is known to have associates in other areas of Oregon, as well as California and Mexico.

Muhlbach’s older sister, Jen Keller, reportedly told San Diego ABC affiliate KGTV that the news about Muhlbach’s death left their family stunned.

“The pain is immense, and we’re just in shock,” Keller reportedly told the station. “It hurts. It’s pain. Our world has changed. Nothing seems the same.”

Keller reportedly said that Muhlbach, the mother of a 4-year-old boy and an 8-month-old boy, was originally from San Diego and moved with Caraballo a few years ago to Portland, where they opened a moving and storage company together.

According to Keller, several family members grew concerned when they were unable to reach Muhlbach last week. Sensing something was wrong, the family drove up from San Diego on Wednesday and reported Muhlbach missing earlier in the day Friday, the same day her body was found in the park.

“We reported her missing, and Friday, she was found a mile from her home, brutally murdered,” Keller reportedly said.

Keller reportedly told KGTV that investigators looking into her sister’s murder have asked her to refrain from mentioning certain details about Muhlbach and Caraballo’s relationship. She reportedly said that the family had grown concerned for her sister’s safety of late, however.

“We’ve been hearing he was being abusive towards her, but never could have imagined it would lead to her death,” Keller reportedly said. Keller also reportedly said that Caraballo “has contacts in Ramona, Chula Vista, Tijuana, and Rosarito” and “frequents Mexico often.”

[image via Portland Police Dept.]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.