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Justice system appears unable to provide necessary mental health help for Terri Zinzer

Terri Zinzer has been arrested and released multiple times in the past two months because she needs mental health help — but she's not getting it.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The strange case of Terri Zinzer, the woman who allegedly broke into a house and lay down on a child's bed several weeks ago, continued in recent days with another break-in Friday and a missed court appearance Monday.

The latest incident occurred at around 4:30 p.m. Friday at an apartment on Northeast 17th Avenue near Northeast Broadway. Drew Doety told KGW his mother came home from work and found a stranger in her bed.

"She unlocks the door to find a person sleeping in her bedroom under her blanket," he said. "At first she thought it was my sister, but then discovered that it was a random person, random woman in her bed. She yelled at them to get out, then realized that it was just better to leave the apartment and call police."

RELATED: Portland woman finds home intruder curled up on 10-year-old's empty bed

Doety said his mother went back in to check on things and found the woman hiding in a closet and wearing his mother's clothes. When police arrived, Zinzer had barricaded herself in the bathroom. The police broke the door down and took her away in handcuffs, he said.

"I would say it was a pretty distressing situation for everybody involved," he said. "And definitely not the kind of thing that you expect to come home to, but in Portland it is seeming more and more commonplace."

The statement feels especially true in Zinzer's case, in light of the way the justice system has seemingly failed to get her help. The district attorney said she needs mental health treatment, but she refuses it, and has racked up numerous run-ins with the police in just the past couple months.

RELATED: Portland woman arrested for breaking into home, climbing in child's bed, is back in jail on new charges


On July 21, she was cited by police for theft in Gresham, and the DA's office didn't charge her with a crime.

On Aug. 13, she was cited by police for criminal trespass. Again, the DA's office did not charge her with a crime.

On Sept. 12, she broke into the home of Kelsey Smith — an act caught on home security video. At first, the DA's office said it would not charge her, arguing that she needed mental health help rather than jail — but later opted to press charges. She was indicted last week.

On Sept. 19, a warrant went out for her arrest after she skipped a hearing in Clackamas County to figure out if she was mentally fit to proceed with a separate theft case.

On Sept. 27, she was arrested for theft, disorderly conduct and giving false information. The DA's office did not charge her, and she was released from jail.

On Sept. 30, three days later, she was arrested for apparently breaking into the apartment on Northwest 17th Avenue and sleeping in Doety's mother's bed.

"Definitely everybody's a little shaken up about it," Doety said. "Definitely violating to have somebody come into your home, and to find somebody in your bed. So we spent the night basically sanitizing the entire apartment, and now it's a matter of calling police and insurance and hoping everything can get solved and that we can press charges and have this woman put away."

Zinzer was supposed to appear in court Monday, but is instead being held in an isolation cell in jail. Court documents state that she is screaming and swearing at officials, and pounding on the cell door and spitting all over the windows.

Her record goes back much further than this summer — she was charged with 16 misdemeanors in 2018, for example — but she does not appear to have ever gotten help.

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