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.

First Court Appearance for Woman Accused of Killing Cyclist

The woman who allegedly struck and killed a cyclist is now on house arrest and banned from consuming any alcohol until her arraignment in February.

Shantel Lynn Witt, 41, of Alfalfa had her first hearing today after she was arrested on Dec. 30 and charged with DUII, three counts of Recklessly Endangering Another, Reckless Driving and Manslaughter in the First Degree.

Witt was allegedly driving under the influence on the evening of Dec. 30 when her car crossed over into the opposite lane and struck 38-year-old Marika Stone who was biking with two other people near the corner of Dodds and Obernolte Road in Deschutes County. Stone was declared dead at the scene.

Roughly 30 local cyclists and community members attended today’s hearing to support Stone’s family.

Witt’s bail was set at $270,000. She posted 10 percent of this amount and, per Oregon law, was released from jail. During her first court appearance on Tuesday, the state attorney asked that Witt’s bail be increased, that she be put on house arrest, that she be given an alcohol monitor and that her driving privileges be revoked.

The judge did not raise Witt’s bail but he did agree to revoke Witt’s driving privileges. The judge also ordered Witt to wear an alcohol monitor, banned from purchasing or consuming alcohol and put on house arrest.

Witt will be back in court for her arraignment on Feb. 6 at 9 a.m. and many of the local cyclists said they’ll be back again to support Stone’s family and represent Bend’s biking community.

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.

9 P.M. Routine

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has unveil its new campaign to prevent theft, and it’s pretty easy.

How often do you get out of your car after a long day at work and simply forget to lock it? It can be easy to get distracted enough to forget that you’ve left your vehicle unlocked, but it can take just one forgetful moment to make your vehicle a target for thieves.

That’s why the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has begun a new online campaign that they’re hoping will lower the number of thefts seen in the Central Oregon area.

Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan sat down with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Oregon to discuss how they’re hoping the online campaign will encourage residents to lock their doors and discourage thieves from taking what’s not there’s out of unlocked vehicles.

Deschutes County Launches Program to Get Residents Prepared for Disaster

Deschutes County Emergency Management officials have launched a new program called “Make-A-Kit Mondays” to help residents prepare for a natural disaster.

Central Oregon Daily’s Lisa Carton looks at what it takes to really be prepared. You can follow Make-A-Kit Mondays on the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Oregon‘s Facebook and Twitter pages every Monday thru October 8th.

Redmond Warming Center

With temperatures in the teens overnight, it could be dangerous if you had no warm place to go or be. Central Oregon Daily’s Austin Reed takes us to Redmond for a tour of the only official ‘warming’ shelter in town.

If you or someone you know needs more information about shelters in any city in Central Oregon, you can go online to homelessshelterdirectory.org.

Redmond Airport handles Holiday Traffic

On Friday, as we headed into the weekend before Christmas, many people planned on driving or flying to their holiday destinations. Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan went to Redmond to report on on how busy the airport expected to be for the holiday weekend.

A Life in Law Enforcement

When you spend your career in law enforcement, you expect to deal with some of the worst elements of society, but there’s another side of that line of work that most people don’t think about and that’s the impact on the family of the law enforcement community.

Central Oregon Daily’s Eric Lindstrom introduces us to Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Cima, who recently served his last shift after nearly four decades of serving and protecting the people of Oregon.