Bryan Michael Penner, who is believed to have killed his ex-girlfriend, Sara Gomez, committed suicide by hanging Sunday night at the Deschutes County jail.
At about 8:40 p.m., Penner’s body was discovered by a fellow inmate in a shower room connected to the dormitory he shared with other inmates.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Monday he believes Penner is responsible for Gomez’s death.
“I think he killed her,” Hummel said.
Evidence suggests Penner, 31, hanged himself, according to Hummel.
Gomez, 24, was reported missing Feb. 20 after not returning home from work for several days.
Penner was arrested on suspicion of violating a restraining order she’d taken out against him. She’d written Penner had threatened violence against her and she feared for her life.
In the weeks since, supporters have blanketed Central Oregon with missing person flyers and organized searches of the sparsely populated areas near the apartment Gomez and Penner shared for several years.
The search for Gomez will continue, but Hummel said the focus is now on locating her body.
“We don’t believe she is alive,” Hummel said. “But the family still deserves to have Sara home.”
With Penner now dead, Hummel thinks that will be more difficult. He said his office hoped the man would eventually be willing to share information related to her disappearance.
“Now it’s even more incumbent on property owners to report anything unusual on their property that could aid the investigation,” he said.
Penner was being housed in living quarters with 14 other inmates. The shower room is located between the day room and living quarters.
“There is some general privacy. It’s not completely open,” said Deschutes County Sheriff’s office spokesman Sgt. William Bailey.
After Penner’s body was discovered by another inmate, a jail nurse and deputies attempted life-saving measures. The Bend Fire Department transported him to St. Charles Bend.
The last successful suicide attempt at the Deschutes County jail was in April 2015, when inmate Eben Kaneshiro, 35, hanged himself.
In December, Gomez filed a petition for a restraining order, writing that Penner showed up at her workplace several times and had threatened violence against her.
She wrote he’d attempted suicide and had not followed through on mental health treatment.
Elizabeth Fennell, Gomez’s sister, said the family is “devastated.”
“I just don’t understand why the jail didn’t keep him in a special place,” she said, “because we all knew he was capable of this.”
The search for Gomez will continue, Fennell said, but efforts were paused Monday morning.
“This just takes a lot out of us,” she said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org