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Bend man faces DUII, other charges in fatal 2022 incident at NW Bend roundabout — but police find no evidence of crash

Police had released this photo as they sought SUV, driver after apparent crash at NW Bend roundabout
Bend Police Dept.
Police had released this photo as they sought SUV, driver after apparent crash at NW Bend roundabout

Authorities say driver had been to two bars with father-in-law, who died of 'impact with roadway'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A nearly year-long investigation of the death of a 76-year-old Bend man after an incident at a northwest Bend roundabout that police had called a likely hit-and-run crash led to Thursday’s arrest of his son-in-law on misdemeanor DUII and other charges. But authorities now say there’s no evidence a crash occurred.

Bend Police arrested the 56-year-old son-in-law of Walter James Lane for his actions related to the October 27, 2022 incident at the Newport Avenue and 14th Street roundabout. Police had released a photo of a large dark SUV as they sought the driver in the days after the crash.

Lane was the father-in-law of the driver and lived with his son-in-law and his wife in an apartment on NW Regency Street, Bend Police Communications Manager Sheila Miller said in a news release Friday.

Around 9:30 that night, police responded to a report of a man injured in the roundabout at Newport and 14th Street, Miller said. The initial investigation indicated the man, later identified as 76-year-old Lane, "was likely the victim of a hit-and-run motor vehicle crash," Miller said. He was rushed to St. Charles Bend, where he later died of his injuries. 

Witnesses reported seeing a clean and shiny dark-colored large SUV, possibly a Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade or Chevy Suburban, flee the scene after the apparent crash, Miller said.

The driver was described as a white male adult, 40 to 60 years old and with a medium build, scruffy brown beard and brown hair. According to witnesses, the driver pulled Lane out of the roadway and was yelling at and slapping Lane in an attempt to bring him back to consciousness. He then left the scene.

Miller said a months-long investigation revealed that Lane and his son-in-law "went to two bars together before leaving the second location at around 9:20 p.m." Miller said police have video, bar tabs and other evidence showing the two men were out drinking together, first at the Westside Tavern and then at Stars Cabaret.

They learned that the son-in-law "became intoxicated during his time out with Lane" and was driving a 2004 black Cadillac Escalade registered to his wife, Miller said. Lane was the passenger in the vehicle in the moments leading up to when Lane suffered the injuries that led to his death.

The son-in-law has no Oregon driver’s license, Miller said, and his California license is criminally revoked. Oregon court records show no serious charges, only single speeding and parking tickets in Multnomah County several years ago. 

"How Lane suffered the injuries that led to his death remains unclear," Miller said. "Bend Police were unable to find any physical evidence that identified beyond a reasonable doubt how Lane ended up outside the vehicle."

She also said the son-in-law "did not cooperate with the investigation and took steps to conceal his involvement in Lane’s death." He and his wife "were not cooperative with the investigation in a variety of ways," she said, and he flew to California shortly after Lane’s death. 

Bend Police served a search warrant on the man's 2004 black Cadillac Escalade, as well as on phones and other devices. 

The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office made charging decisions based on information gathered during the Bend Police investigation, and on Thursday, Bend Police arrested the son-in-law on four misdemeanor charges – two counts of DUII and one count each of reckless driving and reckless endangering.

He was lodged at the Deschutes County Jail Thursday evening and released less than two hours later to a responsible third party, pending an initial court appearance scheduled for Nov. 1, a jail representative said. 

District Attorney Steve Gunnels told NewsChannel 21 his office expects to file formal charges next week.

"The charges are based on the evidence and what we believe we can prove at this time," Gunnels said. "The potential hit-and-run charge (recommended by police) would have been a felony, but there is not any evidence that the driver impacted the victim with the vehicle, which is a required element of the hit-and-run statute."

As for what authorities determined to be the cause of death, Gunnels said it was found to be "traumatic injury from impact with the roadway." Based on the evidence, he said it's likely that Lane fell out of the vehicle and hit the road.

Miller added, "Bend Police wish to thank the many members of the public who assisted on this case, as well as the DA’s Office for its assistance." 

Article Topic Follows: Accidents and Crashes

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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