But many others lost their lives in less high-profile killings that police described as domestic attacks. A 44-year-old man fatally stabbed his longtime partner in the detached garage where they lived in Southeast Portland. A 17-year-old man is accused of fatally stabbing his 63-year-old grandmother in her Milwaukie bedroom. A 31-year-woman was stabbed or cut 25 times outside her Tualatin apartment complex, and her live-in boyfriend is accused of murder.
"Some people think domestic violence is unavoidable," said Annie Neal, Multnomah County's domestic violence coordinator. "But when we look back at the fatalities, we can usually identify the high-risk markers that victims and people around them don't seem to notice."
In 2005, Oregon lawmakers called for the creation of a domestic violence fatality review team to study the deaths. It took until late 2010, when 38 Oregonians died from intimate partner killings, for the state to act. The team is now in place and has reviewed one fatality."The purpose of the group is not just to study what went wrong but to learn from it, so we can prevent fatalities from occurring again and hopefully reduce the incidents of domestic violence," Erinn Kelley-Siel, director of Oregon's Department of Human Services, told state lawmakers last month.
"Domestic violence affects all of us, whether we recognize it or not," said Erin Greenawald, a domestic-violence prosecutor with the state Department of Justice.
It touches people of every age, cultural group and socio-economic status, Kelley-Siel and Greenawald told lawmakers.
A domestic violence fatality team in Multnomah County, active since 2006, found that men who are suicidal because of an estrangement or the end of a relationship are at greater risk of killing.
Prior domestic violence is the most significant predictor of domestic homicides. An offender's access to guns, lack of a job and financial problems increase the danger, the team's reviews show.
While women are more likely to be killed in domestic violence nationally, five of Portland's seven domestic-related killings in 2012 involved male victims.
Sexual assaults, drunken fights, robberies and gang disputes led to other killings in 2012.A homeless sex offender is accused of the sexual assaults and killings of two female victims in Portland. One was a 15-year-old runaway from California whose body was left near Washington Park. The other was a 32-year-old woman, sexually assaulted and strangled, who met her alleged attacker volunteering at a downtown homeless ministry and allowed him to stay at her apartment.
In Gresham, police say a woman was shot by a neighbor accused of kidnapping and sodomizing her before dumping her body on Larch Mountain.
The year culminated with shocking killings by strangers. A 38-year-old former neo-Nazi accused of slashing a 57-year-old man to death with a machete and knife during a home-invasion robbery in the victim's home outside Lake Oswego. And a 22-year-old opened fire with an AR-15 rifle inside Clackamas Town Center, killing two and wounding a third before turning the gun on himself.
In Portland, there were 29 homicides in 2012, up from 24 in 2011 and the same number recorded in 2010. The recent numbers are slightly higher than the 21 killed in 2009, the year with the fewest killings since 1971, when there were 15. The slight uptick in 2012 came as crime citywide increased 5 percent from the prior year.The city's victims ranged in age from 4 months to 64 years old. Thirteen of the killings involved guns; seven were stabbings. Two resulted from officer-involved shootings. Two died from child abuse, authorities said.
One of the most brutal was the March 16 discovery of a 64-year-old man in his Pearl District apartment, who police say was punched, stomped in the face repeatedly with steel-toed shoes and stabbed more than 20 times before being robbed of his watch and wallet. A 21-year-old suspect with mixed martial arts experience now faces an aggravated murder charge.
While the number of Portland gang-related shootings increased in 2012 to 118, gang-related homicides dropped from eight in 2011 to four last year. Police say one victim was targeted because he testified in a trial against another suspected gang member.
Portland gang enforcement Sgt. Don Livingston and Portland police Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks, who oversees criminal investigations, said they suspect fewer people died from gang shootings last year partly because there were fewer close-range shootings.
Many of the gang shootingswere either drive-bys or so-called "walk-bys," where gunshots were sprayed from a moving vehicle or a suspect standing at a corner fired at pedestrians a block or more away. They're less personal and less accurate, Livingston said.
Police also credited an increase in uniformed officers working high-visibility gang suppression patrols during summer, as well as the life-saving skills of trauma teams.
Yet multiple bullets were fired in most of the gang shootings last year, police said. Officers recovered 30 bullet casings after one North Portland shooting. Remarkably, no one was wounded, Livingston said.
"I'm only surprised there aren't more victims,'' he said. "The community is lucky.''
Robert Green, a 30-year-old security guard outside Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge, wasn't so lucky. Police say he was an innocent victim, gunned down by a bullet fired during a gang-related disturbance outside the business. No arrest has been made.