Details emerge after arrest in death of Bend woman
SALEM — Kaylee Sawyer was walking alone in the middle of the night on the edge of the picturesque town of Bend after getting into an argument with her boyfriend.
Police believe she encountered Edwin Lara, a 31-year-old with an associate degree in criminal justice who was working as a security guard at a community college.
A body that resembles the 23-year-old Sawyer was found later but has not yet been positively identified. Lara was in the Tahama County Jail in California on Wednesday, a day after authorities say he shot a man at a motel in Yreka, Calif., and stole a car with a woman and her two sons inside.
Lara's wife, Isabel Ponce-Lara, went to police in their hometown of Redmond on Monday, crying uncontrollably and saying Lara had told her that he hit Sawyer with his patrol vehicle, killing her, then panicked and hid her body, according to documents filed in court.
After tearfully telling his story to her, Lara drove off, said his wife, a new Bend police officer who was worried that he was suicidal.
Police went to their home and found Sawyer's blood-soaked purse, bloody women's and men's clothing and other belongings in a shed, according to 62 pages of affidavits filed with the Deschutes County Circuit Court in Bend.
The officers said evidence showed Lara had committed crimes of vehicular homicide, assault and hit-and-run.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel isn't buying the story about Lara having accidentally run over Sawyer.
Lara "did unlawfully and intentionally cause the death of Kaylee Anne Sawyer," the murder charge filed against him Tuesday reads.
Circuit Court Judge Alta Brady has prohibited all parties in the case, including attorneys and the district attorney's office, from publicly commenting on it.
Hummel told The Associated Press in an email that consequently he could not say what evidence led his office to charge Lara with murder instead of vehicular homicide.
But he added: "I can tell you that I would not file charges alleging a person intentionally killed a person if I did not have evidence to support the assertion."
In California, Lara is accused of shooting a man at a motel before stealing a car and forcing one of the sons to drive at gunpoint. Lara let the family members go along Interstate 5. The gunshot victim at the Super 8 was last listed in critical condition on Tuesday.
A mug shot showed Lara with medium-length black hair and beard stubble staring sullenly into the camera.
A motive was unclear in the case against Lara, whose judicial record consists of 10 traffic citations and a fish and game violation.
His court-appointed attorney, Benjamin Kim, did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment.
Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for Sawyer in a Bend park on Tuesday evening. TV news reports showed mourners remembering her as a caring person with a radiant smile.
A 19-year-old woman from Salem, Oregon, was arrested with Lara when he pulled over after being chased by California Highway Patrol at speeds over 100 mph. She was initially taken into custody on suspicion of attempted murder and kidnapping in relation to the mayhem in Yreka but was later released and all charges were dropped.
Family members told reporters that the woman had been kidnapped. The Yreka Police Department called her another victim of Lara instead of a suspect.