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‘We want answers’: Family, friends mark one year since unsolved NE Bend double-homicide

'It's a pain the heart.'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- It's been a year without answers or justice for Ray Atkinson Jr. and his fiancé, Natasha Newby. The couple were found dead a year ago Sunday in their northeast Bend home near Pilot Butte.

A year has passed, while friends and family still wait for answers, and an arrest.

Authorities have not charged anyone in the crime, citing a lack of enough evidence to do so.

But frustrated family and friends feel differently.

Kara Taylor, Natasha Newby's aunt,  and Joshua Pardee, a lifelong friend of both victims, talked with NewsChannel 21 on Saturday.

They say police didn't handle the investigation properly.

"I'm sick of the excuses." Taylor said.

They say police missed important evidence -- evidence that friends and family feel would be sufficient enough to convict the killer. However, Taylor says the family hasn't been told why that evidence was missed, ultimately leaving them in the dark.

"We want answers," she said.

Taylor said she thinks Bend law enforcement is not experienced enough to handle a case of this magnitude and is struggling to keep up with the growing population and crime rates. She feels investigators from outside jurisdictions need to be brought in to help solve the case.

"If you can't get to the bottom of it, then bring in the investigators that can." Taylor said.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel told NewsChannel 21 in February that there is not enough evidence to arrest someone. Hummel expressed concern that if they went to court with the current evidence, it wouldn't be enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that person is guilty.

"I'll also assume they don't want us to arrest the right person -- and have that person be acquitted by a jury because there is insufficient evidence." Hummel said.

Pardee feels differently, even though he knows someone cannot be tried twice for the same crime. He believes there is sufficient evidence for a jury to convict someone. He says that after a year of waiting, the DA should at least try and take it to court.

"Even if that person didn't get convicted, at least you and I could look each other and agree that you tried," he said.

While family and friends are angry there's still not justice, they say the most painful thing is not having Ray or Natasha in their lives any more.

"A year has gone by. Ray and Natasha have not been forgotten, and we don't want them to be forgotten." Taylor said.

Both Taylor and Pardee say they avoid driving on Greenwood Avenue in Bend, which is right past Ray and Natasha's house. They don't hike Pilot Butte any more, and every holiday and birthday is a reminder they're gone.

"You know, it's just a hole -- it's a hole in the heart." Pardee said.

But they still hold onto Ray and Natasha through their memories.

When asked how they want the couple to be remembered, they answered with the first thing that comes to mind.

"Ridiculously funny -- the first thing I think of is how funny they were," Taylor said, adding, "They would give you the shirt off their back."

Even though a year has gone by, the fight for justice continues.

"We're not going to be silenced until there is justice for Ray and Natasha." Taylor said.

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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.


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