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DAs reveal new details after Bend man admits to manslaughter in 2023 fatal shooting of Powell Butte man, gets 18 years

Murder suspect Russell Votruba appeared in March before Crook County Circuit Judge Annette Hillman, with defense attorney David Rich.
Crook County Circuit Court
Murder suspect Russell Votruba appeared in March before Crook County Circuit Judge Annette Hillman, with defense attorney David Rich.

(Update: Prosecutors say Votruba, Hoffmann were friends, using drugs and alcohol together)

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Crook and Deschutes County district attorneys provided more details Saturday after a Bend man facing murder and manslaughter charges in the May 2023 fatal shooting of a Powell Butte man pleaded guilty to manslaughter Thursday and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Russell Votruba, 43, admitted to fatally shooting Christopher Hoffmann, 41, whose car he then stole from Hoffmann's Powell Butte home. He later engaged in a police chase on Highway 97 north of Bend.

After spike strips and a pursuit intervention technique (PIT maneuver) were used to stop the car just into Redmond, Votruba fired three shots from a handgun, one of which hit a nearby patrol car and one that struck Votruba in the upper chest, Crook County DA Kari Hathorn said.

"One bullet was a 'through and through of his pectoral area,'" she said. "At least one bullet went through the car door into the patrol car. He shot at or in the direction of buildings, people, vehicles." 

Among the other new information from Hathorn and Deschutes County DA Steve Gunnels was that the two men were long-time "off-and-on friends" and that Votruba, had a history of mental health and substance abuse issues. He had been released from the hospital just two days before the killing.

The pair spent the weekend taking large amounts of drugs and alcohol, prosecutors said. After the shooting, Votruba called a family member of the victim and said he had been using Hoffmann's phone -- and that he had shot him after Hoffmann made him hang up.

Votruba pleaded not guilty last fall to second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful use of a weapon, unauthorized use of a vehicle and felon in possession of a firearm. Court records show he pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon, after negotiations, to first-degree manslaughter with a firearm and the felon in possession of a firearm charge.

Crook County Circuit Court Judge Annette Hillman’s sentencing order stated that while Votruba could receive credit for time served, he cannot be considered for any reduction in sentence, work release or temporary leave from custody. He will face two years of post-prison supervision.

On the plea petition form, Votruba wrote, “I recklessly caused the death of Chris Hoffmann under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. I used a firearm.”

Votruba also pleaded guilty Thursday to a Deschutes County charge of unlawful use of a weapon; five other charges, including DUII and reckless driving, were dismissed. He was sentenced to five years in prison on that conviction, to be served concurrently with the manslaughter sentence.

Hillman scheduled Thursday’s settlement conference at a March hearing. A confidential settlement conference memorandum was submitted a week before Thursday's settlement conference, according to court records.

On May 7 of last year, Crook County 911 dispatchers got a call from a relative of the victim, saying he got a call from a man later identified as Votruba who said he killed a man at the home Hoffmann rented on SW Red Cloud Road in Powell Butte, sheriff’s deputies said. Hoffmann’s body was found in his home that and deputies learned Votruba had stolen Hoffman’s BMW SUV.

Votruba was spotted a short time later on Highway 97, heading north out of Bend. Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies pursued the vehicle and spike strips were set up, deflating some of the tires.

Hathorn said Votruba and his attorney, David Rich, made statements during sentencing, claiming the shooting was self-defense and that Hoffmann had pointed a gun at Votruba.

The DA said, "That wasn't reasonable, in view of the evidence. But as you probably can imagine what occurred in that residence is murky."

Hathorn said she read a statement from Hoffmann's father at the sentencing, and his ex-girlfriend also spoke. No family members of the defendant were present at sentencing, she added.

"Settlement was a good resolution," Hathorn said. "The victim's family gets closure and avoids the risks and stress of trial, which would have been scheduled next year."

"Of course, none of it is easy - or brings back their loved one."

Gunnels agreed that it was a good outcome to resolve the two cases with an 18-year prison sentence, noting there were some challenges in terms of the evidence to be presented at trial.

Here's a statement provided to us by Hathorn:

"The murder of Christopher Hoffmann is an unfortunate product of the failure of Ballot Measure 110 and the increasing mental health crisis that we are experiencing in our communities. 

"The two men had been long-time off-and-on friends. The defendant had a history of mental health and substance abuse issues. He’d been released from the hospital two days before he murdered Christopher Hoffmann, where he’d been on a mental health hold. The two men then spent the weekend consuming large quantities of drugs and alcohol, including methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. 

"Shortly after killing Hoffmann, the defendant called Hoffmann’s family member and stated Votruba had been using Hoffmann’s phone.  Hoffmann made Votruba hang up so Votruba shot Hoffmann. 

"Hoffmann died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. Votruba then stole Hoffmann’s vehicle and he was hours later involved in a pursuit where he ultimately discharged the same firearm he used to kill Hoffmann in the direction of police officers. One of the bullets lodged in a patrol vehicle. Votruba also shot himself, and had a superficial wound to his chest. He was released from the hospital a few hours later. 

"Votruba’s counsel indicated they would be raising self-defense claims. 

"Following a settlement conference with the Hon. Annette Hillman, Votruba pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree and was sentenced to 18 years with no good time or possibility for early release. He also pleaded guilty to Felon in Possession of a Firearm and was sentenced to 25 months. He was also sentenced to a term of post-prison supervision. In the Deschutes County case, prosecuted by DDA Caleb Staats, Votruba was sentenced to five years on the charge of Unlawful use of a Weapon. 

"There’s no excuse and no reason for Votruba killing Hoffmann. Ultimately, only one person walked out of that house that day who can say exactly what occurred. 

"Votruba expressed remorse at sentencing for killing his friend. The victim’s family participated in the entire proceeding. They expressed their hope that the defendant never hurts anyone else again. They are devastated by the loss of their beloved family member. 

"The Crook County District Attorney would like to thank the investigating agencies: Crook County Sheriffs Office, Prineville Police Department, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, Bend Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriffs Office, Redmond Police Department, Oregon State Crime Lab, and the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office."

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Barney Lerten


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