No verdict yet in Wirkkala trial

By Scott Hammers The Bulletin

After five hours of deliberation Friday, jurors in Luke Wirkkala’s murder trial had not reached a verdict.

Deliberations will resume Monday.

Wirkkala, 33, is accused of shooting and killing then-31-year-old David Ryder at Wirkkala’s home in Bend on Feb. 4, 2013, after a long day of drinking together on Super Bowl Sunday, the previous day.

Over the last two weeks, a jury of seven men and five women heard from a variety of police, expert witnesses, Wirkkala’s girlfriend and others who were in the home at the time of the shooting, as well as Wirkkala himself.

In their closing arguments Friday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, prosecuting attorneys and defense attorney Walter Todd framed the circumstances leading to the fatal shooting differently. Prosecutors described Wirkkala as angry and belligerent, while Todd suggested his client had been physically and sexually assaulted by Ryder that night and had produced his shotgun in an attempt to get Ryder to leave his home.

Deschutes County Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson told the jurors the account of the events leading up to the shooting told by Wirkkala didn’t match the physical evidence or the testimony provided by others who were in the house at the time.

While Wirkkala claimed Ryder grabbed him by the neck and attempted to force him to perform oral sex on him, the quantity of Wirkkala’s DNA found on Ryder’s penis did not suggest “incidental contact” as described by Wirkkala, Anderson said, and the scratches on his neck were too minor to suggest a fierce physical struggle. She said Wirkkala may have become upset after Ryder rejected his sexual advances or because Ryder was considering a move to Atlanta.

Anderson referenced testimony from Wirkkala’s girlfriend, Rachel Rasmussen, who told the court that after getting his shotgun from their bedroom, he paused to put on his pajamas, punched a wall, then headed for the kitchen, where he shot Ryder.

“If you’re in that moment, you’re thinking about fighting for your life, not stopping to put on pajamas because you’re in your boxers,” she said.

Anderson said such deliberate actions, while Ryder made no effort to pursue Wirkkala, suggest the shooting was not in self-defense.

“It wasn’t for self-defense,” Anderson said. “He was mad. He was angry. ‘I’m going to kill you.’”

Defense attorney Todd said the prosecution’s contention that Wirkkala intended to kill Ryder doesn’t add up.

Wirkkala loudly racked two rounds in his shotgun, Todd said, first in the bedroom after retrieving the gun and again in the kitchen prior to shooting Ryder, and shouted at him to leave the house. Such actions, along with the placement of the shot fired — Ryder was struck on the far left side of his neck, rather than in the torso — suggest efforts to intimidate Ryder followed by an instantaneous decision to pull the trigger, Todd said, not an intent to kill him.

“Because Luke Wirkkala’s telling the truth about that,” Todd said. “He’s trying to make David Ryder afraid.”

Ryder was bigger and stronger than Wirkkala, Todd said, describing his client as 5 feet 10 inches tall and around 170 pounds, a “pudgy” man who “drinks like crazy.” Ryder, on the other hand, was 6 feet tall, Todd said, 218 pounds and “buffed,” and was coming at him when Wirkkala fired.

“If Luke Wirkkala had been a woman in this situation … would this case have even been charged, would we be here today?” Todd said.

Anderson said neither Rasmussen nor two minors who were in the home at the time backed up Wirkkala’s claim that he loudly ordered Ryder to leave the house while confronting him with the shotgun, but did testify they heard Wirkkala threaten to kill his houseguest.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

Luke Wirkkala