Wirkkala trial begins in Bend

By Shelby R. King The Bulletin

The defense said during opening statements Wednesday that a Bend man accused of murder was “forcibly sodomized” by his houseguest and shot him in self-defense.

Attorneys representing Luke Wirkkala argued that David Ryder attempted to force Wirkkala to perform oral sex on him just before Wirkkala shot Ryder once, in the neck, with a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun.

Wirkkala, 33, is charged with murder in the death of 31-year-old Ryder, who was a guest at Wirkkala’s home on Southeast Will Scarlet Lane when he was shot about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 4, 2013.

The two men, along with Wirkkala’s girlfriend, had spent the previous day drinking and watching the Super Bowl at the Hideaway Tavern in Bend, according to testimony in Deschutes County Circuit Court.

“The defendant is going to testify in this case. I promise you he’s going to testify in this case,” said defense attorney Walter Todd in his opening statement. “He is going to tell you he was forcibly sodomized by David Ryder. Mr. Ryder had been sharing some issues with Luke Wirkkala. They were talking as friends do, and as drunken friends do, frankly.”

The defense said Wirkkala was very intoxicated at the time of the shooting and had passed out on the couch while the men were talking. He claims to have awakened to find Ryder removing his pants and alleges Ryder tried to force him into a sex act.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson, in her opening statement, said that when medical examiners swabbed Ryder’s penis they recovered Wirkkala’s DNA and stated the high concentration of DNA was indicative of sexual contact.

Todd said Wirkkala was “panic-stricken and shocked.” Wirkkala ran to the bedroom to retrieve his shotgun.

“Wirkkala racks a live round to try and scare Mr. Ryder out of the house,” Todd said. “That did not work. Mr. Ryder continued to come at him, wouldn’t stop. It was a shot in self-defense.”

Anderson described Ryder as having a “magnetic” personality that became “louder and amplified” when he drank. She said Ryder was a person always willing to help a friend, and said he’d texted his wife, DeAnna Garrett, just before midnight to tell her why he was late. “Sorry, having a talk with Luke,” he texted.

“To her that means he’s doing what he often did,” Anderson said in her opening statement. “When someone had an issue he committed to being there for them.”

Anderson said Ryder was outspoken at times when confronting people displaying homophobic tendencies. He was such an advocate that his wife asked him whether he was homosexual. Ryder told his wife he liked women and that was “his choice,” Anderson said.

She said Wirkkala “knew what he did” and asked the jury to hold Wirkkala accountable for Ryder’s death.

“No one other than the defendant used the word ‘murder,’” Anderson said. “He uses that word more than once. He admits to being the one who shot the victim.”

Anderson said Ryder’s life was on an “upward trajectory” at the time of his death. He’d been working at Bend’s G5 Search Marketing and had recently accepted a job in Atlanta. He was planning to move there with his wife and son, who was 2. She said Ryder and his then-21-year-old wife had been having some marital issues but were working through them.

“Not everyone’s life is all happiness and good things,” Anderson said. “She was concerned about what it was going to be like to be married to one person for the rest of her life.”

Prosecutors called several witnesses Wednesday, and jurors listened to the 911 call placed by Wirkkala’s girlfriend, Rachel Rasmussen, and a recording of one deputy’s 10-minute conversation with Wirkkala just after the shooting.

During the 911 call, the dispatcher asked Rasmussen the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Rasmussen said she didn’t know what had happened and that there were two children, ages 11 and 16, sleeping in the home. She then ended the call abruptly, against the dispatcher’s instructions and didn’t answer either time the dispatcher called back.

The four Bend police officers who first arrived at Wirkkala’s home testified Wednesday.

“The moment I stepped inside (the house) I saw the victim lying on the ground,” said Officer Scot Eliott. “One look was all I needed to say, OK there’s nothing I can do for him.”

Eliott, who drove Wirkkala to the police department for questioning following the shooting, said he appeared intoxicated but lucid.

When Wirkkala’s blood-alcohol content was tested 11 hours after the shooting it registered at .08 percent. Ryder’s BAC at the time of the shooting was .23 percent, according to Todd.

Eliott recorded his conversation with Wirkkala during the drive to the station. The prosecution played the audio in court.

“This is a pretty horrible situation,” Wirkkala can be heard saying. “Whatever comes of this, I feel horrible.”

The trial continues today in Judge Stephen Forte’s courtroom. It’s expected to take two weeks.

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com