By Shelby R. King
Several experts and friends of both the victim and the suspect took the stand Thursday in the trial of a Bend man charged with killing his houseguest.
Luke Wirkkala, 33, is facing murder charges for shooting 31-year-old David Ryder in his southeast Bend home early Feb. 4, 2013, after the two men spent the previous day drinking and watching the Super Bowl. The defense argued Wednesday that Ryder attempted to sodomize Wirkkala and that the shooting was in self-defense.
First to take the stand Thursday in Deschutes County Circuit Judge Stephen Forte’s courtroom was 18-year-old Cameron Crownover, who was at the home the night of the shooting. Crownover is the nephew of Wirkkala’s girlfriend, Rachel Rasmussen.
Crownover was unable to remember many of the details from that night, despite repeated prompting from prosecuting attorney Mary Anderson. He did remember hearing a loud thud and shattering glass, followed by Wirkkala yelling, “I effing killed him,” according to Crownover’s testimony.
Crownover also testified that he thought Ryder’s plan to move from Bend to Atlanta with his wife and then-2-year-old son made Wirkkala “really, really sad.”
Jurors watched a lengthy video of Wirkkala in an interview room at the Bend Police Department. In the video, Wirkkala borrows officer Michael Hatoor’s phone to call his parents.
“I’m in jail for murder,” Wirkkala says to his father. “I’m sitting in a cop station accused of (redacted) murder right now.”
The prosecution, in Wednesday’s opening statements, claimed that because Wirkkala is the first to mention murder, before he’s been charged or arrested, he is admitting he “knew what he did,” Anderson said.
Hatoor, during testimony, said Wirkkala seemed relaxed when he was in the interview room.
“He was sitting in a more open pose,” Hatoor said. “He seemed to enjoy conversation in general.”
Hatoor testified that Wirkkala did not inquire about Ryder’s condition or ask about Ryder’s family while he was in the interview room. He also testified that at no time did Wirkkala appear tired or ask to sleep.
The prosecution also called Dustin Driver to testify. Driver said he was a former co-worker of Ryder’s at G5 Search Marketing in Bend and that he and Ryder also spent time together outside of work about once a week.
Driver testified that he’d seen Ryder intoxicated, stating that he could be “obnoxious” when drinking.
“David would become more flirtatious when drinking,” Driver said. “People would just roll their eyes, push him away, and he would go do something else.”
Driver said he hadn’t seen Ryder be flirtatious with men, just women. Driver also testified that he did not know Ryder to be physically aggressive.
“I wouldn’t imagine him physically aggressive unless it was to protect himself or someone he loved,” Driver said.
Experts called by the prosecution included several forensic scientists employed by the Oregon State Police who analyzed evidence from the crime scene. They testified that Wirkkala’s DNA was found on Ryder’s penis and that there was not a conclusive sample taken from under Ryder’s fingernails, but that they couldn’t rule out the possibility it was Wirkkala’s DNA.
The prosecution submitted several photos Wednesday into evidence illustrating fresh fingernail scratches on the back of Wirkkala’s neck that were taken just after the shooting.
Experts also testified they estimate the muzzle of the 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun that killed Ryder was within 3 feet of the neck wound that killed him.
The trial is scheduled to continue today.
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