By Elon Glucklich
The courtroom was packed and silent as Deschutes County Circuit Judge Stephen Forte took his seat. He asked the 12-person jury if their verdict was unanimous. A juror said yes.
Forte unfolded a slip of paper and began to read, taking just seconds to make Luke Anton Wirkkala’s fate official.
Guilty of first-degree murder.
Forte read the verdict just before 11:30 a.m. Monday, capping a case that started with Wirkkala’s arrest in February 2013 for the shooting death of David Ryder.
Wirkkala, 33, showed no reaction as Forte read the verdict. Several people in the courtroom gasped, but the atmosphere was mostly subdued.
Wirkkala was on trial for shooting and killing then-31-year-old Ryder at Wirkkala’s Bend home in the early hours of Feb. 4, 2013, following a day of drinking at a local bar on Super Bowl Sunday.
Jurors deliberated about two hours before reaching a verdict Monday, following five hours of deliberation with no verdict on Friday.
Deschutes County Sheriff’s deputies led Wirkkala out of the courtroom at 11:28 a.m., less than five minutes after escorting him in. Forte didn’t say anything other than to read the verdict and set sentencing for 2 p.m. July 14.
Bend Police officers arrested Wirkkala at about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 4, 2013, in the southeast Bend home he was renting. Wirkkala’s girlfriend was in the home with her son and nephew at the time of the shooting.
The police officers who arrived at Wirkkala’s home said Ryder appeared to be dead by the time they got there.
DNA evidence indicated Wirkkala and Ryder had sexual contact with each other the night of the shooting.
In the trial that began June 4, prosecutors argued Wirkkala was drunk and grew belligerent, punching a wall as he grabbed a shotgun, then shot Ryder once in the neck. During the trial, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson said Wirkkala’s anger may have been the result of Ryder rejecting sexual advances from Wirkkala, or because Ryder was considering moving out of the area.
Defense attorneys countered that Ryder forced Wirkkala to perform oral sex, and Wirkkala loudly racked two rounds while shouting at Ryder to leave.
Defense attorney Walter Todd told jurors that Wirkkala fired only after Ryder ignored his warnings and started coming toward him. Todd also noted that Ryder was taller than Wirkkala and weighed nearly 50 pounds more and suggested Wirkkala had been physically and sexually assaulted.
Wirkkala took the stand June 11 and argued he acted in self-defense while fearing for his life. “It was like (Ryder) went into a rage,” Wirkkala testified June 11 of the moments before the shooting. “He had, like, this twisted, sadistic grin on his face.”
Ryder worked at Bend-based G5 Search Marketing as a software engineer. He was married, with a 2-year-old son at the time of the shooting.
Several co-workers testified they believed Ryder was sexually aggressive, especially when drinking.
Members of Wirkkala’s family quickly left the courtroom after the verdict Monday, and friends said they did not want to speak with media.
An official with the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office’s victims’ assistance program said Ryder’s family was not ready to comment.
In a brief statement emailed to The Bulletin, the DA’s office wrote, “The jury applied the facts to the law and the defendant was convicted. … Our hearts go out to the family and friends of David Ryder.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, email@example.com