An Oregon State Police forensic scientist described a violent crime scene in which the victim was bludgeoned multiple times. Although the victim was never named, the beating took place in the same location where accused murderer Edwin Lara said he killed Kaylee Sawyer by backing over her with his car last summer.
The description by Victoria Dickerson on Wednesday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, part of testimony during a seventh day of hearings in the case against Lara, was five days shy of the one-year anniversary of Sawyer’s murder. Dickerson investigated three scenes believed to be connected with Sawyer’s murder July 24.
Dickerson testified she investigated bloody drag marks from the edge of Central Oregon Community College parking lot B12. She testified the trail went out of the parking lot, up a hill and behind a boulder.
The bushes behind the boulder showed signs of being “disturbed,” Dickerson testified, and there was a location that showed blood had soaked into the ground.
She testified that blood splattered on the boulder indicated someone low to the ground had been struck with an object at least twice.
“That blood was in flight and was the result of a force other than gravity,” Dickerson said.
Sawyer’s loved ones — who have been present in the courtroom each day of hearings — cried as they listened to Dickerson describing the crime scene.
Lara, 32, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the death of Sawyer, 23, and faces the death penalty, if convicted.
The former COCC security officer is accused of killing Sawyer after encountering her on the college campus while on duty.
Lara is also accused of fleeing to Salem and kidnapping Aundreah Elizabeth Maes at gunpoint then taking her to California, where he allegedly shot a man in the chest, carjacked and kidnapped a family and evaded police during a high-speed chase on July 26, when he was arrested.
The hearings are being held to determine what evidence will be admissible during Lara’s trial, scheduled for October 2018. Testimony is expected to finish Thursday, however Deschutes County Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler won’t issue a ruling until after one or two days of additional hearings in September.
Following Lara’s arrest, he was interrogated for six hours by Central Oregon investigators, during which he first said he backed over Sawyer with his car, killing her. Then, at some point during his statement to police, he gave a different version of the events, though the second version has not been described in court.
Parts of Lara’s statement were played in court Wednesday, though the prosecution was careful to skip over parts where Lara described his alleged encounter with Sawyer.
Previous testimony outlined how Lara told several people he killed Sawyer accidentally by hitting her with his car. But Lara also said he hit Sawyer with his car, and then killed her in a separate act because she was screaming, according to additional testimony.
Dickerson testified Wednesday that she inspected the outside of Lara’s campus safety vehicle and found no significant body damage or blood consistent with having hit someone.
Dickerson said chemical tests on the vehicle found blood on the trunk and in the back seat, which had a partition to separate the front and back like a police car. Dickerson also said she found five fingerprints on the inside of the back windows.
Dickerson also stated that a later inspection of Lara’s car turned up smears on the rear windows from a cleaning solution and a clump of hair on the rear floorboard.
Dickerson never stated if the blood or fingerprints were from Sawyer, and never specifically said the scene at lot B12 was the scene of Sawyer’s murder.
Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson made mention of Dickerson’s report on the investigation, which included more detailed information than what was discussed in court.
Anderson at one point mentioned how Dickerson’s findings were consistent with statements Lara has made to police.
And while Dickerson was not asked about a possible murder weapon — or what was used to cause the blood splatter pattern — Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Detective James McLaughlin did describe something that could cause blunt-force trauma, which was the cause of Sawyer’s death.
While searching Lara’s home, McLaughlin testified he saw evidence of Sawyer’s murder in a shed behind Lara’s house.
McLaughlin described finding a black trash bag with a green purse and black high-heeled shoes in it. Previous testimony has stated these items had blood on them, and that Sawyer’s wallet with her ID were in the purse.
McLaughlin testified that he found a “grapefruit-sized” rock in the purse, and that the rock had hair stuck on it. Previous testimony about the rock has also said that it was stained with blood.
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