Search of hairstylist’s home in drug case finds false wall, stolen tools, police vests

Residents suspected drug trafficking at a small house across the street from South Salem High School.

In February, they reported their concerns to police.

“Drug activity has been occurring since April of 2023,” one resident told police.

There were reports that the man living in the Southeast Rural Avenue house was selling methamphetamine to high school students.

Affidavits used earlier this month to search the house and arrest the man provide fresh details about a high-profile police action that closed Rural Avenue for hours.

One area resident reported “unknown persons briefly visiting the home at night, motorcycles revving and speeding through the school zone and residential neighborhood during the day and at night, children seen at house with suspected domestic violence, gang activity, and drug sales,” according to one affidavit.

Another resident reported “multiple cars parked on the property and loud activity, machinery and tools at all hours of the night.”

Early the morning of Tuesday, March 12, Salem police surrounded the home and for 45 minutes hailed the man inside to come out. After police breached a window, he emerged and was arrested. He was later charged with endangering a minor by having the juvenile “present during a standoff with police,” according to an indictment filed Tuesday, March 19.

Police then searched his house and detached garage.

Among the items they seized was an Oregon State Police ballistic vest with a cloth police badge, stolen from a trooper’s state vehicle in Salem last October.

The arrested man was no stranger to the Salem Police Department.

Wilson “Gene” Voorhis, 43, a hair stylist by profession who had worked at a downtown Salem salon, has arrests dating back 20 years, including convictions in 2006, 2009 and 2017 for being a felon in possession of a weapon.

Police had searched the Rural Avenue house in August 2022 in an earlier investigation. They recovered methamphetamine, cocaine and five guns, according to a police affidavit.

In a plea agreement in June 2023, Voorhis admitted having a gun, resulting in yet another conviction for illegal possession of a weapon. He also admitted threatening a woman with a crowbar and attempting to sell methamphetamine in the area of the school.

He agreed then that if he committed any other crime, he would be imprisoned for those past charges.

Eight months after that conviction, a source told police in February that Voorhis was “in possession of over two pounds of methamphetamine” and that he “was selling methamphetamine to students at South Salem High School,” according to the affidavit of Det. Andrew Parsons of the Salem Police Department. He is assigned to the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force working in the Salem area.

On Feb. 21, Parsons and a partner stopped a car driven by Karey L. Phillips, 48, after he left the Rural Avenue house. Police found what they said was methamphetamine and tools later determined to be stolen from local contractors, according to Parsons’ affidavit.

Police searching Phillips’ phone found a photo sent in January by Voorhis of power tools arrayed on plywood sheeting, the affidavit said.

A month later, police said, the two men had this exchange:

Voorhis: “Yo!!! Tell me you have the lineman tools in your possession!!??”

Phillips: “No I don’t we put them in the truck. Are they gone?”

Voorhis: “In the Ford? That’s right.”

Phillips now has been charged in Marion County Circuit Court with first-degree theft.

Police detailed the results of their search of Voorhis’ home in an affidavit supporting his arrest on new charges.

“We located a false wall behind a built-in shelf in the living room,” Parsons wrote. “Detectives removed the false wall and located a digital safe. Inside the false wall detectives located a digital scale, packaging material, large food saver bag with methamphetamine residue, and ammunition.”

They found three sets of body armor in a bedroom.

“I noted one of the body armor vests had “STATE TROOPER” written on the back. I saw an Oregon State Police badge affixed,” the affidavit said. “The vest had two loaded rifle magazines inserted into pouches.”

A concrete saw, a hedge trimmer and other tools police said were stolen and  valued at $10,000 also were recovered, the affidavit said.

Police also recovered road signs, including two “Police Vehicle Parking Only” signs from the city of Salem, a “Wilson St. S.” sign and a “High Water” sign from Polk County, the affidavit said.

They also found a backpack with basketball gear reported stolen from a middle school student and a Chromebook belonging to the Salem-Keizer School District.

Voorhis remains in custody at the Marion County Jail, facing felony charges of attempted delivery of methamphetamine near a school, possession of methamphetamine, first-degree theft, aggravated first-degree theft and felon in possession of body armor. He also has been charged with misdemeanor tampering with evidence. recklessly endangering another, and endangering a minor.

Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.