DA Mike Schmidt announces life sentences for 2017 murders

PORTLAND, Ore. – Today Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Michael Greenlick sentenced Ryan Thomas Monaco to life in prison with 38 years minimum confinement for the 2017 murders of 24-year-old Taher Alhaji and 42-year-old Jason Miller. The court entered convictions for two counts of Murder in the Second Degree, two counts of Manslaughter in the First Degree, four counts of Aggravated Animal Abuse in the First Degree, and Assault in the Fourth Degree Constituting Domestic Violence. Three counts of Arson in the First Degree merged into the convictions for Murder in the Second Degree. The total sentence reflects the imposition of two life sentences with partially consecutive minimum confinement time between the two convictions for Murder in the Second Degree.

Following a one-week trial that began August 25, 2021, the court found Mr. Monaco guilty for intentionally starting a fire at 9811 NE Glisan Street on July 23, 2017. The fire, accelerated by gasoline, caused the death of Mr. Alhaji and Mr. Miller, as well as multiple household pets. According to evidence and testimony received at trial, Mr. Monaco had been in a relationship with a woman who also resided at the apartment.

She was not home when Mr. Monaco set the fire. The two had argued previously that night, leading the woman to leave Mr. Monaco at the apartment. Mr. Monaco then began calling and messaging her in an effort to get her to come home. He eventually threatened to drench her couch in gasoline and burn down the apartment. By 3:15 a.m., Mr. Monaco had ignited a large fire. A neighbor’s video surveillance showed Mr. Monaco walking out the front door of the apartment and driving away as the apartment went up in flames.

First responders were on scene within minutes, but both Mr. Alhaji and Mr. Miller were found deceased, as well as one dog and three pet snakes. Subsequent investigation by the Portland Fire & Rescue Fire Investigations Unit determined that the fire originated in the apartment’s bottom floor living room, and it was intentionally set using ignitable liquids. The Oregon State Police Forensic Laboratory later confirmed the presence of gasoline in two locations within the living room.

Many victims attended the trial and shared impact statements with the court. 
“Before the crime, I used to put my phone close to me before I went to bed. I used to wait for Taher’s call. I waited to hear him saying “Hi Mum”. Then, we talked about his collage, hopes and his dreams.” Victim Taher Ahaji’s mother said. “Mr. Monaco When you killed my son…you burnt my heart. You took the joy out of my life,” she went on.

“My brother was my constant. He was there for my graduations, my wedding, my daughters’ birthdays, holidays, the death of my mother and then one day he just wasn’t… Jason is now a memory. He is a collection of pictures, stories, and feelings by the people who are left to live this life without him.” Victim Jason Miller’s sister said.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office would like to thank the Portland Police Bureau Homicide and Arson details, the Portland Fire & Rescue Fire Investigations Unit and the prosecuting attorneys in this case, Deputy District Attorney Anna Fuller and Senior Deputy District Attorney Amity Girt.