Wirkkala’s mental state debated

By Tyler Leeds The Bulletin

A defense expert testified Monday in the trial of a Bend man accused of murder, speaking to the man’s mental state during the shooting that left his houseguest dead.

Luke Wirkkala, 33, faces one charge of murder for allegedly 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 in its opening statement that Ryder attempted to force Wirkkala to perform oral sex on him and that the shooting was in self-defense. During the opening statement, the prosecution alleged Wirkkala was not acting in self-defense and “knew what he did,” citing his use of the word murder to describe what happened before he was charged.

Jurors on Monday heard from Ryder’s colleagues, who noted the charisma and kindness of the computer engineer they worked beside.

Ryder worked at G5 Search Marketing in Bend.

They also heard from the medical examiner who inspected Ryder’s body. The defense interrupted the prosecution’s case to accommodate the schedule of their expert witness, Suzanne Best, a clinical psychologist with expertise in trauma.

Best was asked by the defense to evaluate Wirkkala’s mental state before, during and immediately after the shooting. Best said based on her three-hour meeting with Wirkkala and a selection of records from the investigation, his “physiological, emotional and cognitive symptoms were consistent with peritraumatic dissociation.”

Best said this set of symptoms is consistent with someone who has perceived a threat, noting some common symptoms are tunnel vision, a sense of unreality and disorientation.

The prosecution questioned the thoroughness of the evaluation, noting that Best had not conducted a complete diagnostic examination, which could have discovered more about the defendant’s mental profile, and that her analysis was based on materials selected by the defense.

Best said she was able to request more materials if she felt they were needed and noted a complete diagnostic exam wasn’t necessary to address Wirkkala’s mental state surrounding the shooting.

The prosecution also asked if the threat Wirkkala experienced could have been that of being held responsible for his actions, as opposed to the threat of forced sodomy. Best responded by saying her opinion was based on behavior and experiences Wirkkala had in the moments before shooting Ryder.

The prosecution also questioned whether Wirkkala could have been lying. Best said patients do lie, but that based on her work, Wirkkala did not seem to be lying.

“As intelligent as he is, in terms of vocabulary, you would have expected him to use more well-chosen words,” Best said.

During Monday’s testimony, the prosecution also interviewed Deputy State Medical Examiner Christopher Young, focusing on how close Wirkkala’s shotgun was to Ryder when it fired.

“It was between zero and 6 or 7 inches, and on the closer half of that,” Young said.

Young said his analysis was based on how soot had settled on Ryder’s neck near the entrance wound.

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com