Chilling details about how convicted killer Edwin Lara terrorized a kidnapping victim before he was captured by police are detailed in a document the U.S. attorney will use Thursday when Lara is sentenced in federal court.
Lara, 34, who is already serving a life sentence for killing Bend resident Kaylee Anne Sawyer, 23, also kidnapped a Salem woman at gunpoint as he fled from law enforcement officials in July 2016.
While traveling south toward California, Lara threatened to kill the woman and others, handcuffing the woman in a hotel room bed and at one point crawling into bed with her. The woman was with him later when he shot a 73-year-old man in Yreka, California, because the man wouldn’t give Lara his car and then kidnapped and carjacked another family.
“She feared that I was going to kill her, especially after I shot the older guy at the motel,” Lara told authorities. “And I told her I have six bullets in my gun, if you do something stupid, that first bullet is for you.”
Lara will be sentenced Thursday for crimes against that woman, Aundreah Elizabeth Maes, in federal district court in Eugene.
After murdering Sawyer, Lara patiently hunted Maes and, over the next 10 hours, kept her in fear of being sexually assaulted and murdered, according to the U.S. attorney’s sentencing memorandum.
Throughout the ordeal, Lara told Maes he has felt “the urge to kill” throughout his life, according to the memorandum. At one point, Maes said Lara told her “right now I have that urge just to walk out with my gun and just shoot everybody in this motel.”
In July 2016, Lara was working as a campus security guard at Central Oregon Community College.
Just after midnight July 23, 2016, Sawyer was walking by herself near her apartment near campus after having an argument with her boyfriend. She was reported missing the next morning.
According to the memorandum, Lara wanted to drive to California to avoid arrest, but knew police would be looking for him in his parents’ station wagon, which he had stolen. So he decided to carjack and kidnap someone. He waited for seven hours as he looked for a victim to carjack outside the Salem Center mall.
He told investigators how he settled on Maes, who was sitting in her gold Volvo in the parking lot when he spotted her.
“I wasn’t trying to get a man because if I was gonna get a guy that means I was gonna have to either fight with him and I had a gun so he wasn’t gonna win,” he said to detectives. “So I was gonna … you know, I was trying to get a woman so, a weaker sex, you know so she can do whatever I said.”
Just after Maes posted a picture of herself on social media at 9:06 p.m., Lara entered her passenger door and pointed a gun at her.
He told her to act like his wife or girlfriend, and make it convincing. They drove through a McDonald’s and looked for a place to get gas and oil for Maes’ vehicle, which had numerous issues, she told police.
While she drove, Lara looked through Maes’ phone and asked her about her personal life. He told her he was a police officer and showed her pictures of him in uniform. He showed her news reports about Kaylee Sawyer, and told her he was responsible, according to the memorandum.
At 11:39 p.m. they reached the Relax Inn motel in Cottage Grove, where Lara gave a fake name and paid $68 for a room. Once in their room, Lara demanded Maes take a shower, and became angry when she wouldn’t, according to the memorandum.
He placed her in handcuffs in the hotel bed, took off his shirt and crawled in beside her. He stuffed sleeping pills in her mouth, asked her about her virginity and sucked on her earlobe.
“I was really scared,” Maes told investigators. “I thought he was gonna … try to rape me … because I couldn’t breathe and I was just crying so much and I remember he was trying to talk to me and I couldn’t even respond because I was just so scared about what’s gonna happen.”
She made up a story about having a sexually transmitted disease. He told her he just wanted to kiss her.
Less than two hours after checking in, Lara abruptly left the hotel with Maes at 1:26 a.m., intent on getting to California.
At about 5 a.m. July 25, they stopped at a Super 8 motel in Yreka and saw a 73-year-old man near his car. Lara grabbed Maes by the hand and approached the man with his gun out. He told the man he needed the car, but he didn’t comply.
Lara shot the man in the abdomen and ran, still holding Maes’ hand, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
They ran to a nearby gas station, where Lara found two young men and their 76-year-old grandmother seated in a car. He forced Maes into the family’s vehicle and ordered one of them to drive, according t the memorandum.
Tensions boiled over in the car as Lara announced he wanted to tell them his story, and they pleaded with him to not say anything. He eventually dropped off the two men and their grandmother on the side of the highway and took over driving.
As Lara drove at speeds reaching 100 mph, he called several people and told them what he had done, Maes told police. He recorded a video of himself and ordered Maes to post it online.
At around 6:40 a.m. July 26, while driving near Redding, California, he called 911 and told the dispatcher he was wanted for murder and that he had a gun and was wearing body armor.
California Highway Patrol officers caught up with him and pulled him over.
Police interviewed Lara over several hours, getting him to confess to Sawyer’s murder, kidnapping Maes, shooting the man in California and carjacking the family at the gas station, according to the memorandum.
Sawyer’s body was discovered shortly after in a ravine between Redmond and Sisters.
During pretrial hearings, Deschutes County Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler ruled the police interview inadmissible because Lara had requested a lawyer. However, aspects of the confession were included in the government’s sentencing memo.
Three jurisdictions charged Lara for his crime spree. The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office charged him with multiple counts of aggravated murder for the death of Sawyer. The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged him with carjacking, kidnapping and brandishing a firearm. The Siskyou County District Attorney’s Office charged him with attempted murder, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, criminal threats and elder abuse for his crimes against victims in California.
On Jan. 8, 2018, Lara signed a plea deal with the Deschutes County district attorney, agreeing to plead guilty to aggravated murder if prosecutors dropped a bid to pursue a death sentence. Officials at three agencies charging Lara agreed to pursue concurrent life sentences without parole.
Three weeks later, Lara pleaded guilty at an emotional sentencing hearing in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
Thursday in federal court, it’s expected Lara will plead guilty to carjacking and kidnapping. If he does, the government will drop the remaining counts. For the violence and “prolonged terror” Lara subjected Maes to, the U.S. government is asking for another life sentence to be added to the one Lara is serving.
“Although upward variances are appropriately reserved for exceptional cases, Lara’s case is exceptional,” prosecutors write in their sentencing brief. “His crimes are violent and his own words prove that he is a continuing threat to the public.”
A proposed law in Oregon named in Sawyer’s honor would require colleges to ensure their campus security officers can be easily distinguished from law enforcement. Senate Bill 576, or “Kaylee’s Law,” unanimously passed the state Senate this week and awaits a vote in the House.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org