Edwin Lara Sentenced to Life in Prison

Today, Edwin Lara was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of 23-year-old Kaylee Sawyer.

Lara submitted a guilty plea this morning for aggravated murder and robbery. The sentence was handed down by Judge Micheal Adler after hours of impact statements, both written and in-person, were presented to the court by Sawyer’s friends and family.

Adler said the brutality of the murder, along with Lara’s position as a COCC public safety officer, made the case stand out to him.

“You are fortunate a jury is not deciding whether to sentence you to death,” said Adler. Adler added that a true life sentence is the most serious sentence anyone actually receives in Oregon and called it “appropriate for this case.”

After Edwin Lara plead guilty to aggravated murder and robbery in the first-degree, Lara also waived his right to 48-hour sentencing.

With that Judge Adler allowed impact statements from Sawyer’s friends and family. Sawyer’s mother Juli Walden VanCleave said to Lara during her statement, “You have failed to silence her.” Talking about how Sawyer’s death united the community and there is now a foundation and a scholarship in her honor.

“I’ll always be the mother of a murder victim, but your mother will always be the mother of a murderer and a rapist,” said VanCleave.

One of Sawyer’s friends who testified said she regularly reaches for her phone to text or call Sawyer before she remembers that she can’t. She also said she still struggles to sleep or to be alone at night.

“I don’t even want to have children anymore because I know that monsters exist,” said Sawyer’s friend.

Sawyer’s maternal grandparents, Jim and Sharon Walden, and family friend Doug Gray all expressed frustration at Lara’s plea deal, which allowed him to avoid the death penalty that was being sought by District Attorney John Hummel, by pleading guilty.

The court took a break after testimony from Sawyer’s mother, maternal grandparents and friend. Sawyer’s father, paternal grandparents and co-workers from Awbrey Dental Group read their impact statements this afternoon.

Sawyer’s coworkers both delivered tearful testimony about how her murder has affect their lives and work and Sawyer’s father, the only person who addressed the court from the witness stand, held back tears before echoing that his daughter’s voice was not silenced by her murder.

After a brief recess Lara was able to address the court. Much of Sawyer’s family, including her friends, coworkers, mother and paternal grandparents all chose to leave the courtroom and returned after Lara’s statement.

“Today, I’ve seen your pain,” said Lara, who turned around to address those gathered in the courtroom, rather than the judge. “Today, I’ve seen your hate. I don’t have much to say to you at this moment. I can only pray. Someday, I would like to speak to whoever will listen. God Almighty, who art in Heaven, I’ll ask you please, heal the hearts of this community. I ask you to please heal the hearts of this family, of everyone who is in this place today, and that Kaylee Sawyer rest in peace Amen.”

Sawyer’s grandfather Jim Walden walked out during Lara’s statement and returned with the rest of Sawyer’s family.

Lara, a 32-year-old former COCC campus safety officer, is accused of abducting 23-year-old Sawyer as she was walking home, killing her on the college campus and dumping her body in a canyon west of Redmond in July 2016.

Lara was also accused of sexually assaulting Sawyer but, according to Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, once Lara’s initial confession was thrown out, sexual assault became harder to prove. He also noted that Lara refused to plead guilty to sexual assault as part of his plea deal. Hummel said they’re main goal was to get a life sentence so they decided with the family to not pursue a sexual assault conviction in order to avoid a less harsh sentence.

Lara will carry out his entire sentence in Oregon, regardless of what is decided in the case against him in California.

Stay with Central Oregon Daily on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates, and we will have report a report from Anyssa Bohanan at 6 p.m. on KOHD-ABC and 7 p.m. on KBNZ-CBS.

A New Direction for Deschutes County Jail

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has made changes to the jail and introduced its newest corrections captain, all as part of efforts to better the conditions of the jail after the death of an inmate in 2014.

It’s been more than three years since Edwin Mays was arrested and placed in detention at the Deschutes County Jail where he died of a methamphetamine overdose hours later.

Since then, the Deschutes County Service’s office has made changes to both the facility and their procedures to prevent that kind of tragedy from happening again.

Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan went inside the jail for an exclusive look at the changes they’re making both with the structure, and the culture.

Wolves Spotted in Wasco County

Two wolves were spotted by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife cameras in Mt. Hood National Forest earlier this month, marking the first time multiple wolves have been confirmed in the northern portion of the Cascades in Oregon since they were reintroduced to the state in the 2000s.

The two wolves have been documented by ODFW in southern Wasco County in the White River Wildlife Area, Mt. Hood National Forest and Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

This isn’t the first time wolves have been seen in Wasco County. In 2013 a single wolf was spotted near White River and a single wolf was spotted twice in 2015. However, this is the first time multiple wolves have been spotted this far north in Oregon.

Wolves in Wasco County and anywhere west of Hwys 395-78-95 are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, so U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead management agency.

Additional information about Oregon’s wolf population will be available in March, after ODFW completes its annual winter surveys and minimum population count.

Don’t Feed the Deer

Feeding local wildlife could be leading to their domestication and can attract predators like coyotes and cougars into more residential areas. Central Oregon Daily’s Brian Jennings sits down with local wildlife experts to discuss the issues that arise when humans start feeing local deer.

Buehler’s Run for Governor: Part 2

In part two of our interview with gubernatorial candidate Dr. Knute Buehler, Central Oregon Daily’s Curtis Vogel delves into Buehler’s positions on the issues that will likely define this election season including health care and the Oregon Health Authority, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent with little to show for it.

Buehler, who is currently Bend’s State Representative, is trying to become the first Republican to win an Oregon governor’s race in 30 years.

Buehler announced he was running for Governor last August and sat down for his first extensive broadcast interview since announcing his run with Central Oregon Daily.

 

Buehler’s Run for Governor: Part 1

Bend State Representative Dr. Knute Buehler is trying to become the first Republican to win an Oregon governor’s race in 30 years.
He announced his intention to run for the office last August, and since then, he has been traveling around the state meeting voters.

Buehler sat down for his first extensive broadcast interview since announcing his run with Central Oregon Daily’s Curtis Vogel and in part one they discuss how difficult this race could be for Buehler, a republican from the east side of the Cascades, who is taking on the incumbent democrat, current governor Kate Brown

Stay tuned for part two of Central Oregon Daily’s extensive interview with Buehler.

Potential Plea Deal for Lara

A potential plea deal for Edwin Lara, the accused killer of Bend resident Kaylee Sawyer, is in the works but far from finalized.

Under the proposed deal Lara would plead guilty to aggravated murder and would receive life without the possibility of parole, but possibility to seek the death penalty would be dropped. This is according to a Facebook posts from Kaylee’s mother, Juli Walden Van Cleave, posted today on her public Facebook page.

The information from Van Cleave was confirmed by a second source that was at the settlement hearing and spoke with Central Oregon Daily reporters today.

The deal is not finalized and attorneys in the Lara case are under a court order not to speak publicly about the case.

Lara is due to go on trial in the fall of 2018 on four counts of aggravated murder in the July 2016 killing of COCC student Sawyer.

Lara, a 32-year-old former COCC campus safety officer, is accused of abducting 23-year-old Sawyer as she was walking home, killing her on the college campus and dumping her body in a canyon west of Redmond.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel announced earlier that he would seek the death penalty in the case.

Lara is expected to be in court for a two-day hearing on January 22 and 23.

Tune in to Central Oregon Daily at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Oregon Ethics Commission Says Hayes Violated Ethics Laws

In a meeting Friday morning the Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted 7-0-1 to accept 22 preliminary findings that Cylvia Hayes violated state ethics laws. One commissioner abstained from a potential conflict of interest for having worked for the state.eals

The commission found that Hayes, fiancee of former Governor John Kitzhaber, used her position as first lady to obtain jobs as a consultant, accept gifts worth more than the limit for a public official and did not handle potential and actual conflicts of interest.

The commission can’t fine Hayes yet. That decision will be held for a later meeting, however each violation comes with up to $5,000 in penalties and commissioners indicated they favor high fines against Hayes as this goes forward.

The Kitzhaber ethics case returns to the commission next week, and the commissioners indicated that both cases deserved significant fines instead of a slap on the wrist.  Both Hayes and Kitzhaber can ask for a hearing before the commission, appeal to administrative judges in state government and then appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals if they disagree with the eventual outcome.

Neither Hayes nor any representative/lawyer on her behalf attended the meeting. Their absence bothered commissioners who had hoped to question Hayes.

Hayes is expected to issue a statement later today and this post will be updated as more information is released. This story will also be covered today on Central Oregon Daily at 3 p.m. and updated again 6 p.m.

*This story was updated at 4:02 p.m. to express the 7-0-1 vote of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. The original post wrongly stated that there were 8 votes for the preliminary findings. 

Sunriver Police Chief Charged

Deschutes District Attorney John Hummel completed his review today of the Oregon Department of Justice investigation into a incident involving Sunriver Police Chief Marc Mills.

Hummel charged Mills with misdemeanor harassment based off accounts of a Dec. 1 incident in which Mills struck Sgt. Joseph Patnode in the chest while on duty at the Sunriver Police Station, according to a press release from Hummel’s office.

The incident was reported to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office by another Sunriver police officer.

Mills will have the opportunity to contest the charge at his first court appearance on Jan. 25.