Opportunity Village resident found dead after winter storm

A spokeswoman with the Eugene Police Department told KEZI 9 News that there was no sign of forced entry or anything that indicated foul play in Richard Kirkman's death.

Posted: Mar 21, 2019 7:25 PM
Updated: Mar 21, 2019 7:26 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Family and friends are mourning the death of a man who died at Opportunity Village around the time of February's winter storm, and his mother says it's been hard to get answers on what caused her son's death.

Police said Richard Ross Kirkman, 35, was found dead on March 4 laying on his bed at his home at Opportunity Village, a tiny home community for homeless people that is overseen by a nonprofit. Kirkman's mom Cindy Peterson said her son was funny and kind but struggled with drug addiction.

"He had a giving soul," Peterson said. "In the dead of winter, he would come home without a coat because someone else needed one and he knew I would buy him another one."

Dan Bryant is the executive director of SquareOne, the nonprofit that oversees Opportunity Village. Bryant said they thought Kirkman left town in late February to visit family before the snowstorm hit and got stuck in his car. He said after a couple of days, another resident got concerned and asked for somebody to check on him.

"His death should be no different than any other death of someone who dies on the streets," Bryant said. "It's a tragedy that we need to respond to the best we can."

A spokeswoman with the Eugene Police Department told KEZI 9 News that there was no sign of forced entry or anything that indicated foul play in Kirkman's death.

Just like any other community, residents of the village can come and go as they please. Bryant said this is the first death that has happened to a current resident of the village, which has helped more than 100 people get back on their feet. He said they plan to meet with residents to find out what they can all do to prevent something like this from happening again.

"Some of that conversation has really already started," Bryant said. "We really wanted to get through this grieving process first, but that is one of the things we are looking at. What do we all learn from this? What can we do differently?"

Meanwhile, Peterson said police never told her about the circumstances of her son's death and neither has the medical examiner. Eugene police said since they did not find any evidence of foul play, that moved the case into the hands of the medical examiner.
KEZI 9 News reached out to the Lane County District Attorney, who oversees that office, but hasn't heard back.

Peterson said it could take months before lab results shine a light on what happened.

"It would be closure," Peterson said. "It would bring acceptance."

Opportunity Village plans to hold a celebration of life for Kirkman on Saturday.

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