CORVALLIS — A murder case against an Oregon judge’s daughter has fallen apart, partly because prosecutors were unable to use the woman’s developmentally disabled young adult son as a key witness.
Prosecutors filed a motion Nov. 29 to dismiss the charges against Lorrain Sarich, according to the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Sarich was released from the Linn County jail the next day, after serving more than two years in custody.
“We have no case without the kid. We can’t go forward,” Jeff Manning, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice, said.
Sarich, 46, was accused of killing William Mills — a caretaker for Sarich’s son — in order to conceal the commission of identity theft. Mills’ remains were found near Lyons in 2007.
Prosecutors, defense attorneys and a judge were recruited from outside the area to handle the case because Sarich is the daughter of Linn County Circuit Court Judge Carol Bispham.
Prosecutors sought dismissal of the charges the same day the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Sarich’s son was incompetent to testify.
According to prosecutors, Sarich’s son was present during the killing and he gave investigators directions to the killing site and where the victim’s abandoned vehicle was located.
Court documents say Sarich’s son also drew pictures of the crime and how it was committed, and also talked about it.
Portland defense attorney Christopher Clayhold argued that much of the police interaction with Sarich’s son was suggestive and leading.
Clayhold also argued that prosecutors did not pursue other suspects.
“There was a lot about their case we were going to attack,” he said.
The Oregon Department of Justice, filling in for the Linn County District Attorney’s Office, had appealed a 2011 ruling that Sarich’s son was incompetent to testify. Also, an earlier conviction and other actions by Sarich were ruled inadmissable by Judge Dennis Graves.
Prosecutors appealed, but the state Supreme Court upheld the rulings Nov. 29.
Sarich was charged with three counts of aggravated murder in the death of Mills. Authorities said Sarich was involved in an identity theft and fraud scheme to protect her assets from bankruptcy. Mills’ identity was used in the scheme, and Sarich learned he discovered the fraud.