On November 2, 1964, the mutilated body of Orla Fay Fipps, 16, was found in Cedar Flats, Oregon. Dwain Lee Little, 15, was convicted of her murder. He was released after serving 10 years. A few months after his release, Little became the prime suspect in the Cowden Family murders, though he was never convicted. In 1980, Little would attempt to murder Margie Hunter, a pregnant woman in Tigard, Oregon in 1980.
Orla Fay Fipps
Orla Fay Fipps was a 16-year-old girl who lived in the rural Springfield area of Lane County, Oregon. Friends and family described her as a blonde-haired, beautiful girl who stood 5’8” and weighed 135 lbs. According to her friends and classmates, the high school junior was a “quiet, friendly girl.” Her obituary stated she was born in Eugene, Oregon and had lived in the Springfield area her entire life. She was a “member of Camp Creek Community Church, The Thurston High Choir, and the Camp Creek 4H Club.” She lived with her parents William and Marcella Fipps along with her older brother, Floyd, on a farm, which allowed her the room to keep her horse. Orla rode her horse every day. The route that she took led her past the home of Dwain Lee Little, 15. Little had been casual friends with Orla’s older brother.
On November 2, 1964, Orla had taken her horse out for her usual ride. A few hours later, when she had not returned home for dinner, Orla’s parents became worried, thinking she had been injured during her ride. The neighbors joined the Fipps family in a search of Orla. One neighbor, Roy Stucky, 21, had been searching a wooded area and found Orla’s horse. The Fipps family immediately contacted police, who expanded the search. Stucky continued to search the immediate area and discovered Orla’s body laying face-up in thick under-brush. He noticed immediately that her throat had been cut and her clothes had several rips. Police placed a guard over the scene, which remained there through the night, until investigators and the medical examiner could clearly view and process the scene in broad daylight the following morning.
Investigators reported she had suffered an extremely violent attack. The medical examiner determined Fipps had suffered blunt force trauma to the head, resulting in a fractured skull. Her throat had been slit, and she had been stabbed many times. Investigators found further evidence that showed the assailant raped her post-mortem. She had sustained several defensive wounds, which suggested that she fought her attacker.
The Investigation Begins
Investigators immediately began interviewing residents of the Fipps neighborhood. They also requested males in the area to supply blood, hair (both head and pubic), and saliva samples to compare against samples that had been taken from Orla’s body. As part of their neighborhood canvas, police spoke with the Little family. They requested DNA samples from male members of the family. Mrs. Little agreed on behalf of her 15-year-old son, Dwain. Forensics determined the samples collected from Dwain were a conclusive match. Police arrested Dwain Lee Little on November 18, 1964. The grand jury indicted Little on the charge of rape and murder on November 20, 1964.
The question of jurisdiction came to light because, at the time the indictment occurred, he was 15 years old. He turned 16-years-old on December 20, 1964, while awaiting further court proceedings and later, sentencing. His legal team filed motions concerning juvenile vs. adult court jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Oregon determined that juvenile jurisdiction would be sent to the circuit court/adult jurisdiction.
The Trial and Sentencing of Dwain Little
On Thursday, February 10, 1966, a jury found Dwain Lee Little guilty of the rape-murder of Orla Fay Fipps. The following day, Feb 11, 1966, Lane County Circuit Judge Roland Rodman gave Little a life sentence, to be served in the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, OR. At the time of his incarnation, Little was determined to be the youngest person housed in the penitentiary.
A further legal argument was made on April 4, 1967. Little and his legal team argued that the procedure to collect his DNA samples was made without his (or his parents) expressed consent, making it an illegal search and seizure. The Supreme Court of Oregon determined that the collection was legal and his argument was dismissed. The entire exchange can be found here.
Ten years into his sentence at the Oregon State Penitentiary, as per Oregon State law, Little was granted parole and released on May 24, 1974. He returned to his parents’ home in Springfield. Three months later, on September 1, 1974 (Labor Day weekend), the gruesome murders of the Cowden family took place in neighboring Copper, OR. A local man offered evidence that Little and his parents had signed a guest book that was in one of his remote cabins just outside of Copper. Investigators looked at Dwain Little as a possible suspect. Little’s girlfriend informed investigators that Little was in possession of a firearm in December 1974. His parole was revoked, and a judge ordered him to return to prison on a parole violation on January 25, 1975. The remains of the Cowden family were found on April 12, 1975, seven miles from the location of where they were last seen. Despite their best efforts, investigators could not gather enough information to charge Dwain Lee Little in the Cowden family murders. Police never made any connections between the Little family and the Cowden family. Their murders remain unsolved.
Dwain Little is Charged in Another Attack
On April 26, 1977, Dwain Lee Little was paroled. Just over three years later, on June 2, 1980, Little picked up Margie Hunter, a 23-year-old pregnant woman from Tigard, OR., after her car had broken down. Little viciously beat and raped Hunter. She and her unborn baby survived the attack by jumping from the car and rolling down the highway embankment. Little was apprehended. and convicted of attempted homicide. He was sentenced to three life sentences to be served concurrently. The parole board has denied all of his requests for parole. Little remains in the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Best-selling author, Ann Rule, released a book in 2009, titled: But I Trusted You: Ann Rule’s Crime Files #14 (ISBN 978-1-439-16054-1) where she touches on the Cowden Family and Dwain Lee Little. Over the years, there has been extensive news coverage, video coverage, blogs, and podcasts on Dwain Lee Little, Orla Fay Fipps, and the Cowden Family.