REDMOND — A Central Oregon Community College security guard allegedly fatally struck a 23-year-old Bend woman with his patrol vehicle early Sunday, disposed of her body, and more than 24 hours later fled the area, going on to embark on a spate of violence in California, authorities said Tuesday.
Edwin Lara, 31, was charged Tuesday with the murder of Kaylee Sawyer, 23, who was reported missing Sunday evening.
Lara, of Redmond, who is also married to a Bend Police officer, was taken into custody Tuesday after allegedly shooting a man and kidnapping three people in Northern California, according to the California Highway Patrol and the Yreka (California) Police.
Late Monday morning, a recently hired Bend Police Officer, Isabel Ponce-Lara, went to the Redmond Police station, where she told Sgt. Bob Duff that her husband, Lara, had come home from work Sunday and was acting oddly, according to police reports.
Ponce-Lara made the report “immediately” after learning of Lara’s possible link to Sawyer’s disappearance and is not suspected to be involved, according to Bend Police Lt. Clint Burleigh.
She is in the midst of field training, Burleigh said. She was on administrative leave Tuesday, Bend Police Chief Jim Porter said during a press conference Tuesday at the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office.
She had questioned Lara about his behavior Monday morning and he told her Sawyer walked in front of his campus security vehicle in the dark. After he hit her, he did away with her body.
“Edwin also told Isabel that after he ran over... Sawyer, he panicked and then disposed of the body,” police reports state. “Edwin did not tell Isabel where he placed the body, only that he disposed of it.”
By Tuesday afternoon, police said they had located remains matching Sawyer’s age and description somewhere in Deschutes County, though they did not specify where. Porter said local authorities were awaiting official identification of the remains by a medical examiner.
More than 150 volunteers had canvassed the west side of Bend Tuesday in a separate search organized by Sawyer’s family. Dylan Breslan, who helped coordinate the search, said at about 4 p.m. Tuesday that the search was wrapping up and volunteers had focused on the area within a one-mile radius of where Sawyer was last seen — near the apartments on NW Regency Street at about 1 a.m. Sunday.
According to the college, which sent out an alert Monday, Sawyer was last seen walking from the apartments toward the college.
Lara told his wife that after disposing of Sawyer’s body, he put some of Sawyer’s things in the shed at their home in Redmond, according to police reports. Ponce-Lara went out to the shed and found a bag containing a purse and shoes.
After telling his wife about what had happened, Lara grabbed his 9 mm pistol and left the house in a Blue 2008 Nissan Altima at approximately 11:30 a.m. Monday, according to the police reports.
Ponce-Lara told police Lara had family in Los Angeles and that he might be headed that way. He also “made statements that led Isabel to believe he may be suicidal,” according to the police report.
Nearly one day later, at 6:42 a.m. Tuesday, police spotted Lara driving south on Interstate 5 near Corning, California, according to a release from the California Highway Patrol. Red Bluff Area CHP units were advised to be looking for a vehicle that was possibly involved in a suspected attempted murder in Yreka.
CHP chased Lara at speeds of more than 100 mph for about 10 miles, and Lara was ultimately taken into custody without incident and booked into the Tehama County Jail.
Two hours earlier, around 5 a.m., Lara allegedly committed a string of crimes in Yreka.
Yreka Police responded to the Super 8 Motel in Yreka and found a person with a gunshot wound to the stomach. The victim, whose name has not been released, was initially transported to the Fairchild Medical Center and then was transferred to the Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. That victim was in stable condition as of about 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to Yreka Police.
Five minutes later after the person with the gunshot wound was located, police received a call from a man at a gas station who reported his car had been stolen with three family members inside.
“The man had come out of the gas station to see his dog running around and his car gone,” Yreka Police Chief Brian Bowles told The Associated Press. He said Lara allegedly forced, at gunpoint, one of the man’s sons to drive. The mother and two sons were later dropped off at a rest stop along the northbound Interstate 5 interstate about 30 miles south of Yreka, near the town of Weed.
Police “pinged” Lara’s cellphone and found he was possibly on I-5 north of Redding. When Lara was pulled over south of Corning, California, he was arrested along with 19-year-old Aundreah Elizabeth Maes of Salem. The pair were booked at the jail on suspicion of attempted murder, kidnapping, burglary and other charges, according to the Yreka Police Department.
But Maes was in the process of being released from the Tehama County jail Tuesday evening, according to the Yreka Police.
“As officers from YPD and Oregon authorities finished up interviewing suspects and victims on this case it is evident that one of the suspects is a victim,” the department wrote in a statement on Facebook.
According to Bend Police, the investigation into Sawyer’s disappearance led to multiple addresses in the Redmond area.
Police filed a search warrant affidavit seeking permission to search Lara’s home in Redmond, another home about a block away and the car that Ponce-Lara said Lara fled in, court records show.
Deschutes County Circuit Presiding Judge Alta Brady signed an order preventing prosecutors and defense attorneys from discussing the details of the case Tuesday.
Lara was not yet scheduled to appear in Deschutes County Circuit Court as of Tuesday evening, according to electronic court records.
Nobody answered the door at Lara’s home in Redmond midday Tuesday, and neighbors throughout the block either did not answer the door or declined to comment.
Lara, a part-time security guard at COCC, started working at the college in December 2014, first as cadet and then as part-time guard with regular shifts, according to COCC Director of College Relations Ron Paradis. Paradis said Lara attended classes at the college between fall 2012 and fall 2014, and received an associate’s degree in criminal justice in 2015.
According to state court records, Lara has no criminal history.
According to his application for employment as a COCC security guard, Lara consented to a criminal background check and was not a U.S. military veteran. He earned either a high school diploma or a GED, and worked at the Brightwood Corp., a Madras mill, between 2004 and 2014, his resume, also released Tuesday, states.
He then worked for a private security firm in Bend, Security Pros Inc., starting in May 2014. His supervisor at that post, Don Trueblood, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Juli Vancleave, Sawyer’s mother, first reported her missing to police, according to the reports released Tuesday. Bend Police Officer Kyle Denney wrote in a report that he spoke with Sawyer’s boyfriend, Cameron Riemhofer, 23, earlier Sunday. Riemhofer told Denney that he had not seen Sawyer but did not wish to report her as a missing person at the time.
Riemhofer, in a statement to police later on Sunday, said Sawyer went downtown Saturday night for a friend’s bachelorette party. Sawyer left her car at a friend’s apartment complex. She had recently lost her wallet, so she took Riemhofer’s debit card with her downtown. Riemhofer said he looked up any charges on the card but the last charges were from the nights before at bars in downtown Bend.
Late Saturday, one of Sawyer’s friends contacted Riemhofer, saying Sawyer need to go home because she was flirting with other men at the bar. Then Sawyer called Riemhofer at about 12:04 a.m. Sunday and asked him to pick her up. Riemhofer took her home, and brought up the flirting. They got into an argument that continued in the car once they arrived at their apartment near the college, according to Riemhofer’s statement to police.
Riemhofer told Sawyer she could meet him inside. He went out to check on her 10 minutes later and she was no longer in the car. He called her and sent text messages.
A pattern began: they would talk briefly and then she would hang up. She turned her phone off at about 1 a.m., Riemhofer said.
Riemhofer walked around the apartment and drove around the area that night but did not see her. He tried to contact her again at 9 a.m. Sunday but could not reach her. He noticed Sawyer’s car was still parked at her friend’s house, where she’d left it the night before.
Vancleave, Sawyer’s mother, told police it was unusual for Sawyer to go missing and not contact anyone. Vancleave said Sawyer was scheduled to work Monday at Awbrey Dental Group, where she was a dental assistant, according to police reports.
Officers continued to “ping” Sawyer’s cellphone Sunday in an attempt to locate her.
Police also interviewed one of Sawyer’s friends, at whose apartment Sawyer had left her car Saturday. The friend, Clara McCabe, 21, said the group had visited Maverick’s Bar and Grill, the Astro Lounge and the Summit.
The investigation, which drew on multiple law enforcement agencies led by the Redmond Police Department, continued in earnest into Tuesday, when Lara was charged.
Sawyer attended Mountain View High School as well as the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council’s alternative education program, according to Bend-La Pine Schools Communications Director Julianne Repman.
Crystal Sawyer said her stepdaughter has four younger brothers and earned a GED during her sophomore year of high school.
“Eventually, she wanted to be a dentist,” Sawyer said, standing outside the home northeast of Bend where friends and family and community members gathered Tuesday morning to search for Kaylee Sawyer.
Crystal Sawyer described her stepdaughter as “bubbly,” “social,” “intelligent” and “spontaneous.”
Terri Sawyer, Kaylee Sawyer’s aunt, agreed. “She was always so happy,” Terri Sawyer said.