New details in the suspicious death of Robert Deveny
This morning, former Oregon attorney Lori Deveny will belly up to the bar, to receive her sentence in the state’s criminal case against her. She has already been given 8.5 years in federal prison for her “work” as a lawyer who forged, thieved, and defrauded her clients out of millions of dollars of personal injury settlement money.
As the curtain finally comes down on Lori’s decades-long charade, it appears that very few people remain in her thrall. People who used to be close to her are even talking, including her two step-daughters.
Specifically, they are all talking about the death of their father, Robert Deveny — who Lori claims committed suicide, coincidentally, at the very moment her true nature was about to be exposed.
Just as coincidentally, at the very moment she is finally facing serious consequences for her crimes, Lori has painted Robert as a psychological and sexual abuser. His manipulation and compulsive spending, Lori’s defense team now asserts, drove her to steal from her clients.
Nobody of note appears to be buying these claims of abuse, allegedly committed by a man who is conveniently no longer around to defend himself; and they’re definitely not buying it as an excuse for Lori’s fraud and theft.
Lori’s allegations mostly just raise new questions about Lori.
In early 2018, by all outward appearances, Lori Deveny was a successful attorney who maintained a high-profile in Portland’s legal community, through her volunteerism and generosity.
Privately, however, the Oregon State Bar had recently received three alarming complaints about her, two of which credibly asserted fraud and the theft of tens of thousands of dollars. To make matters worse, Lori was ignoring the Bar’s attempts to talk things over — a huge no-no.
By late February, Lori had ignored six such letters sent to her by the Bar’s Disciplinary Office, including a notice that she was administratively suspended for her failure to respond to their inquiries.
According to Robert’s adult daughters, Sarah Williams and Shannon Bowers, their father was unaware of Lori’s problems. The women also had no idea.
Robert was supposed to send Sarah $75,000 on March 12th, to help her purchase a house. “It’d been no more than a week since we had spoken by phone and only a few days since we had texted,” Sarah told me. Shannon had also spoken to him in the last few days. Neither woman detected any change in his demeanor. He seemed like his normal self. He gave his beloved daughters no indication of what would soon come.
On March 12th, Robert woke up prepared to wire-transfer the money. That morning, Sarah texted Robert about the house-closing and papers that needed to be signed. She awaited his response.
Instead, Sarah got a call from Lori a little bit later, saying that Robert had killed himself.
In the hours after Robert’s death, nobody around him knew or even suspected that Lori was going through some things with her law license and bank accounts, or that the sterling reputation she had forged for herself was actually a rickety house of cards.
When the Portland Police Bureau rolled up to the hunting-trophy-stuffed house that morning, they only knew what Lori — the sole witness to Robert’s death — was telling them.
When asked why she moved and wrapped in a towel the gun that was used in the incident, Lori answered that she wasn’t sure why she did so, except possibly “out of habit.” She made zero mention of the significant amount of money Robert was poised to wire that day. Instead, she was eager to lavish upon the police details about his “significant depression,” his meds, and that “he did not want to be a burden on anyone.”
For good measure, she spoke about his erectile dysfunction… and their final, tender sexual encounter.
Sarah and Shannon noted that Lori also told the responding officers that “Robert was most recently depressed that his children did not make efforts to stay in touch with him.”
They insist that this is not true. Sarah told me, “Right from the start Lori was doing that. The way she referred to us as ‘his kids’ [to the police] when she always said that she thought of us as her own.” Shannon added, “She had already begun throwing Sarah and I under the bus. Saying he had a strained relationship with us, or whatever the wording was. Super bizarre.”
The police closed the book on Robert’s death within 24 hours, having accepted the word of someone whose word is now known to be absolute garbage — and who is now convicted of stealing more than $3.8 million dollars from her former clients.
The Portland Police Bureau insists that their investigation was handled appropriately at the time. Through a spokesperson, they agency tersely stated, “The Medical Examiner’s Office responded to the scene and determined the cause and manner of death.” They had no response when asked if Lori had any special connections at the bureau.
Lori quickly had Robert cremated. “She had Dad’s ashes back within 2–3 days of his death,” Sarah noted. “There was no obituary or notice. There was no official funeral.”
Sarah and Shannon were floored by their dad’s death. They knew that Robert suffered from depression, but they had “zero hints” that he was despondent enough to take his own life. “When we heard the story, it was a complete shock,” Shannon stated.
In addition to the grief and confusion that Robert’s daughters were experiencing was the accumulated tension that surrounded the money Robert had promised. It was common knowledge in the family that Lori did not want her husband giving his daughter $75,000 from his own retirement fund.
“Lori was pissed about the money,” Sarah said. “Dad told me that — and Lori did as well after he died — but he was doing it anyway. He cashed in his 401k and told me it was all for me.” She added that Robert called it her “early inheritance.” Shannon confirmed, “Lori was 100% not on board with the house thing,” but Robert was sending the money regardless.
Shannon now believes that this is evidence that their father was oblivious to Lori’s mounting legal problems. “This is the number one reason why I don’t think Dad knew, because he would have never strung Sarah along like that,” with a house purchase hanging in the balance.
Sarah then recalled a conversation she had with Lori after Robert’s death: “We were all in the living room. I said something about how I hoped he didn’t [commit suicide] because of the money… that I would rather have him there [than have the money]. Lori got this strange look on her face. Shock, horror, fear, I don’t know. It was there and gone in a flash. I didn’t question it but remember how strange it was.”
Following the money
In the month after Robert’s death, Lori was quite busy, frantically stomping out fires in an effort to keep her law license, even as fresh complaints were rolling into the Bar. It is actually breathtaking that Lori believed she could simultaneously ignore her licensor while paying off her victims, in the hopes that everything would just magically go away.
Nine days after Robert’s death, the Bar filed a petition to suspend Lori for the remainder of their investigation — a sanction that is distinct from the administrative suspension she was already under.
Lori still did not respond, and was spotted a few weeks later looking quite chipper at midwest hunting convention:
Three days later, in her first known response to the Bar, Lori had the caucasity to ask for an extension of time to answer their petition, due to her grief over Robert’s “sudden death.”
The very next day, Lori made payouts to the two former clients who had filed the earliest complaints to the Bar.
Those payouts totaled $73,334 — almost the exact amount that Robert was poised to wire his daughter just a month prior.
At some point after his death, Lori deleted Robert’s Facebook account, which Sarah stated she often used to communicate with her dad. “It has occurred to me that Lori did so to delete any record of him mentioning the inheritance.”
Apparently, the $75,000 was a load-bearing wall in Lori’s unstable house of cards.
Shifting the blame
In the following months, Sarah and Shannon started hearing reports of Lori’s disbarment, and the possibility of criminal charges against her. They began asking questions.
Shannon stated, “From the moment Lori found out we knew, she acted like it was our failing that we didn’t ask her about it. She never told us about it, we found out from an article Sarah saw online, I think. And Lori just kept acting like everything was normal. When we finally called her on it, she yelled at us and played the victim.”
Sarah added, “When I asked her about the charges, it was clear that the relationship between us was ending.”
As their bond deteriorated, Lori implied to her step-daughters that they should prepare themselves for some unpleasant news about their dad that was about to come out, that would “change their opinions” of him.
“Lori hinted at that from the beginning when I asked her about the charges. It seemed clear from the start she was going to try to shift blame,” Sarah stated.
That being said, nothing could have braced the women for the allegations their step-mom slid into the dockets of both criminal cases filed against her: Lori’s sentencing memorandum included a sealed report prepared by hired evaluators, which portrayed Robert as a sexual abuser who preyed upon Lori’s sexual inexperience and her good, religious nature.
The sealed material apparently included copies of “hospital records and the like” which purported to show that Robert inflicted “sexual pain and injury” upon Lori. The material also apparently included “eyewitness testimony” backing up Lori’s claims.
Since we may not review this evidence, and are left to gather the dribs and drabs of information that are not filed under seal, it is difficult to comment on Lori’s allegations, except to note the following…
Lori’s psych evaluation appears to be at least partially based upon the opinion of a Dr. Constance Pederson — who was Robert’s therapist for many years — and who apparently supplied Lori with oral or written testimony about Robert after his death, which seems like a tangle of potential HIPAA violations, borderline ethics, and possible hearsay. Consider these passages purportedly authored or spoken by Robert’s therapist, Dr. Constance Pederson:
In 2018, Shannon met with Dr. Pederson shortly after Robert’s death. “We talked about my Dad, and she did mention he had been depressed for a long time, which Sarah and I knew, but that she was so saddened to hear of his death. I remember thinking, ‘yeah, you should be sad!’ She mentioned he had been suicidal before, but it wasn’t anything they were currently concerned about. I think he saw her at least once a week. She talked a lot about how much Dad loved us girls. I didn’t get even a whiff of negativity [from Dr. Pederson] towards my Dad.”
None of the three doctors mentioned in Lori’s report responded to questions regarding their methodology in preparing Lori’s evaluation; or whether or not it was professional or ethical for Dr. Pederson to provide Lori with so many details that were clearly obtained through her sessions with Robert.
The report may seem less inexplicable if we remember that Lori was an experienced forger and identity thief.
Little left to say
I asked Robert’s daughters what Lori was like as a step-mother, during the best of times.
“I think this is all so crazy because I did love Lori. She was a second mother, a role model, a mentor, a cheerleader. I was always so proud of how successful she was,” Shannon said. “And so now that’s all been tainted and taken from me. And I feel betrayed. But we certainly did love her growing up. She wasn’t a warm and fuzzy hugs and kisses and chocolate chip cookies after school mom. But she was there and she seemed to care.”
Shannon added, “Lori once said she gets paid big bucks to be really good at sending emails. And reading her [sentencing] memo, yeah, I see it. She can spin a good story. She can manipulate.”
“Lori was not maternal at all, not a caretaker by nature,” Sarah — who is the older sister — said. “She seemed selfish and controlling of Dad’s time. I remember having conversations with Shannon about how Lori was an only child and that kind of made her act a certain way. She was not an easy person to talk to. But I also looked up to her and respected her as a parental figure.”
Both Sarah and Shannon are distraught over their step-mother’s crime spree, and the ordeal that Lori put at least 135 of her former clients through. Sarah said, “I pray that all of her victims are able to heal and recover and move on in peace knowing she is in prison paying for her crimes. And I hope my family can as well.”
She continued, “She stole from us, and stole from our children — which is what really gets me. Family memories, pictures, keepsakes all gone. Yes, the money too, but that’s only part of it.”
Neither daughter holds out much hope that their father’s estate will be (or ever could be) settled properly, or if there is even a lawyer out there who would help them at this point. Ironically, Robert was an estate attorney before he retired. They have no idea where Lori stashed Robert’s will, whether or not they are still the beneficiaries of the life insurance he carried since they were minors, or if Lori has already cashed and blown through that money. “We have walked away to a degree because we don’t really know what to do at this point… And for our own mental health,” Sarah said.
In addition to the photos she took of the Deveny’s house the day of Robert’s death, Shannon shared with me a photo she took of his slippers.
“I was in the house that evening. I took the photo of his slippers because it was just a reminder of him living… just a casual thing he did, kicked off his shoes at the end of the day. And they looked so normal sitting there, when everything was not normal at all.”
Shannon also shared a paragraph Robert had written some years ago, for an alumni magazine, or something like it.
And there it is: his life lessons learned, a note of love to his daughters, a final hug for his grandkids, a bucket list of things yet to come, and thanks to his loving wife… Robert wrote in life the tribute that Lori wouldn’t give him in death.