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Bend murder suspect pleads not guilty to Calif. charges


A Redmond man accused of murder in the killing of Kaylee Sawyer made his first court appearance Friday afternoon in Yreka, Calif., and pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, discharge of a weapon and criminal threats.

Lara’s planned extradition to Bend to face one count of murder was not mentioned in Friday’s hearing. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel has said he will file paperwork with Gov. Kate Brown to seek Lara’s extradition to Deschutes County.

Authorities say Lara shot a man at a hotel in Yreka, California, on Tuesday, then stole a car with a woman and her two sons still inside.

Siskiyou County Deputy DA Joseph Allison said, “Mr. Lara will remain a prisoner here with no bail, and that will allow the authorities in Oregon to collaborate with who they choose to secure his transportation, if they want him there.”

Lara is scheduled to return to court in Yreka for a pre-trial hearing on August 16.

Meanwhile, new Bend police officer Isabel Ponce-Lara, whose statement to police led to her husband’s arrest in a Bend murder case, is shaken by the turn of events that have torn her family asunder, her lawyer said Thursday.

Edwin Enoc Lara, a part-time Central Oregon Community College public safety officer, first was named as a person of interest in the case late Monday, hours after his wife, a Bend police officer recruit, went to Redmond police and told her what she’d learned when she asked her husband about his odd behavior.

Ponce-Lara, a Bend Police Department recruit undergoing training, told police she had asked her husband about his unusual behavior, according to released court documents.

She said Lara told her he’d struck Sawyer, 23, when she walked out in front of his COCC patrol car early Sunday — and that he panicked and disposed of the woman’s body at an undisclosed location. Bend police said she “immediately” went to Redmond police late Monday morning with what she’d learned.

Lara is accused of fleeing the area, abducting a 19-year-old Salem woman and driving her car south into Northern California, where police said he shot a man at a Yreka motel early Tuesday, then carjacked members of a family and led police on a high-speed chase down Interstate 5 until his arrest.

In an exclusive interview Thursday with NewsChannel 21, Ponce-Lara’s defense attorney, Brendon Alexander, said his client, who was placed on paid leave to deal with the difficult family situation, was severely shaken by the turn of events.

“Her life has been turned upside down,” Alexander said. “The person she’s loved for eight years — they were high school sweethearts — and suddenly, she and her whole family have discovered he’s not the person they thought he was.”

Asked about Ponce-Lara’s actions, Alexander said he could not go into details, due to the ongoing investigation and a judge’s order prohibiting discussion of details by those involved in the case.

“All I can state is that the moment she could safely do so — and I do emphasize the word safely,” Ponce-Lara went to Redmond police with her information, Alexander said, adding, “I can’t say more than that.”

However, Alexander said he wanted to share with the public Ponce-Lara’s concern and prayers that she and her family have for the victims of her husband’s alleged crimes. He said she also is concerned about any negative impact on Bend police, where she’s been training as a recruit.

Ponce-Lara’s attorney said she appreciates the support she’s received from many in social media, and is requesting that the news media respect the privacy of her and her family while they go through this very difficult experience.

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