A Bend man accused of murder testified in his own defense Wednesday, stating he feared for his life the night he alleges he was sexually and physically assaulted by the man he killed.
“I considered him a friend and he tried to rape and strangle me,” Luke Wirkkala said. “All I did was try to defend myself.”
Wirkkala, 33, shot and killed his houseguest, David Ryder, 31, of Bend, early Feb. 4, 2014. They had spent the prior day — Super Bowl Sunday — drinking at the Hideaway Tavern. They then purchased more alcohol and continued drinking at Wirkkala’s southeast Bend home.
According to Wirkkala’s testimony in Deschutes County Circuit Court, Ryder attempted to force Wirkkala to perform oral sex on him and used both hands to try to strangle him when he resisted.
“He grabbed me by the back of the neck and forced my head down into his lap,” he said. “It was like he went into a rage. … He had, like, this twisted, sadistic grin on his face.”
Wirkkala’s girlfriend, Rachel Rasmussen, and her then-11-year-old son and then-16-year-old nephew were also in the home on Will Scarlet Lane that night.
Defense attorney Walter Todd asked Wirkkala whether he considered leaving rather than confronting Ryder.
“I’m not going to just leave my family there based on what just happened to me,” Wirkkala said.
Wirkkala testified he went “in a state of panic” to his bedroom to get his loaded, 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun to intimidate Ryder so he’d leave. Despite getting the gun and yelling at Ryder to leave, Wirkkala said, Ryder came toward him after the alleged assault. Wirkkala ejected a live round from the gun and chambered another one in a second attempt to scare Ryder out of his house, he said.
“What it did do is make him come at me faster,” he said. “He was coming at me fast and I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, here I am holding this gun.”
It was then that Wirkkala pulled the trigger, killing Ryder nearly instantly with a single shot.
He said he believed Ryder was stronger and that he would have been unsuccessful at fighting him off without a weapon. Ryder “suddenly wasn’t there,” Wirkkala said, choking back tears, as he did several times during testimony.
“I felt an overwhelming sense of relief,” he said. “Then I saw the wound and that sense of relief turned to being horrified. I dropped the gun and started saying, ‘Oh my God; I killed him.’ I was in tears.”
Rasmussen testified last week that when Wirkkala came into their bedroom and got the gun he was crying and he punched the bedroom wall. Defense attorney Walter Todd asked Wirkkala why he cried .
“I think because I was ashamed of what just happened,” Wirkkala said “Because he had just overpowered me and violated me.”
Rasmussen had told the jurors last week that before she dialed 911 she asked Wirkkala if he wanted to run. He refused and Todd asked why.
“I didn’t feel like there was any reason for me to run,” he answered.
Prosecuting attorney Mary Anderson asked Wirkkala about the events of the day prior to the shooting. She quizzed him on the reliability of his memory due to his “highly intoxicated” state during the shooting. She pointed out that Wirkkala had made three calls to his parents near the time of the shooting, which Wirkkala acknowledged not recalling.
She asked Wirkkala whether it would be difficult for him to admit to his family and his girlfriend having consensual sexual contact with another male. He said it would, if it had happened, but again stated it did not.
She then asked whether he could look at her and say that.
“There was no consensual contact between me and David Ryder,” he said.
She accused him of not being able to look at her the first time she’d asked.
“I’m looking at you now,” he said.
The defense then called three character witnesses — an ex-girlfriend, a longtime friend and a former co-worker — who each testified they know Wirkkala as a “peaceful” man who isn’t quick to anger and isn’t aggressive. His former co-worker, Chad Hardley, also testified that he himself is gay and doesn’t think Wirkkala was interested in men.
Three of Ryder’s former co-workers then testified. Prior to his death, Ryder was a software programmer for Bend-based G-5 Search Marketing. All three co-workers said they believed Ryder was bisexual, but none said he’d been aggressive with them.
Chris Sterry testified that Ryder had offered him and several other co-workers oral sex when he was intoxicated, but said he thought he was just doing it to “push buttons.” Sterry testified that he chose not to spend time with Ryder when Ryder had been drinking because he was “hypersexual.”
David White Jr. said he learned Ryder was bisexual after hearing a conversation at G-5.
“(I’m) not gay; (I’m) dominant,” Ryder said, according to White.
White said Ryder was “passionate” about explaining his sexual preferences to co-workers.
Carrie Percich, who works in human resources at G-5, said no G-5 employee complained to her about Ryder’s alleged aggressiveness. She did say she had an opinion about Ryder’s sexual preferences.
“After a conversation that I was part of, I had a feeling he might have other feelings for men as well as his wife,” she said.
Percich was the defense’s last witness.
The trial will resume today.