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Hummel: ‘Multiple suspects’ under investigation in NE Bend double-homicide

(Update: Adding video)

DA updates several recent high-profile cases, ongoing investigations

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) –A very active investigation, including serving of 40 search warrants, has identified “multiple suspects” in a mid-August double-homicide in northeast Bend, but Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Wednesday his office is not ready to file charges in the case.

The bodies of Raymond Atkinson Jr., 34, and his fiancée, Natasha “Tasha” Newby, 29, were found on Aug. 15 in the basement of their home on Northeast 12th Street by a concerned friend and relative checking on their welfare.

Hummel provided new details at a news conference in which he updated reporters on a half-dozen recent high-profile cases, including two fatal crash investigations, a shooting, a brutal assault and possible prostitution and human trafficking at three raided Bend-area spas.

Hummel said his office and Bend police “have been working this case extremely intensely,” with numerous items of evidence sent to the Oregon State Police Crime Lab for analysis. One reason for the delay, he said, is that the crime lab is “woefully understaffed,” so they have had to submit evidence for analysis “piecemeal, a few at a time.”

“I’m not prepared to say charges are forthcoming,” the DA said, but “it’s very active.”

Asked later why authorities were able to tell the public soon after the crime there was “no threat to the community,” Hummel explained, “We have suspects in that case. We are actively investigating those suspects. We don’t believe there’s anyone in the neighborhood picking random members of the Bend community to break into their house and kill them.”

Still, he said, “We don’t have evidence at this point to file charges. I have a different level of confidence if I need to tell the public something, a different level than to be able to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“Potentially, more than one person” could be charged in the case, he said. “We are looking at multiple people. I’m not going to say where those people are. I’m not going to be saying anything about how we believe the crime was committed or their relationship” to the victims.

Hummel also updated other investigations, stressing that they were not in order of importance, as all are important:

Fatal Bend Parkway crash

Christopher Rodea, 37, of Bend, was killed and another driver seriously injured in a six-vehicle crash Nov. 19 on the Bend Parkway, a “terrible collision” as two cars came up the Colorado Avenue onramp that Hummel said killed the father of four as he drove home from work.

The DA said investigators did an extensive walk and drive within a few miles of the crash area to find surveillance videos that could help show what happened. “We hit paydirt on two” businesses’ videos that have been “extremely helpful,” along with downloading from the computers in the involved cars.

Hummel urged anyone who hasn’t talked to police and might have information to help to call the non-emergency dispatch number, 541-693-6911.

Fatal Redmond pedestrian hit-and-run

Leroy Hall, a 90-year-old Redmond resident, was struck and killed the night of Nov. 20 as he crossed Northwest Sixth Street. Anthony Vasquez, 19, also of Redmond, allegedly fled the scene and was arrested that evening on criminally negligent homicide, felony hit-and-run and drugged driving charges.

Hummel noted there was no marked crosswalk where Hall was crossing the street, but added that Hall’s son said “his father crossed the street always in that area because there’s a street light in the area. And thought it would be safe.”

The DA said they are waiting toxicology results on the driver and analyzing his vehicle’s computer. “I expect a charging decision soon,” he said.

Northwest Bend assault

Geovanni Ortega, 30, was found by a passer-by on the shoulder of Northwest Portland Avenue the night of Oct. 2, having been badly beaten, and was rushed to the hospital. Police have been talking with him and his friends and family.

Hummel said Ortega remembers being at the Seven Nightclub downtown and walking home on Newport Avenue. “The next thing he remembers is waking up at the hospital.”

Ortega’s girlfriend dropped him off at the D&D bar downtown earlier that evening. He didn’t remember at first, but video from the bar showed he arrived and left alone, sat in a booth and watching a basketball playoff game. “Nothing remarkable happened” there, Hummel said, and he interacted with no one but the server.

Two workers at Seven remembered Ortega and said at the end of the night, he asked them to call him a cab, presumably due to having some drinks, but apparently got tired of waiting on a busy night and decided to walk home.

Detectives canvassed his route, looking for home surveillance videos, but the ones they found weren’t active or hooked up yet.

“Right now, we’re at a dead end,” he said. “There’s nothing more we can think of to do, so we’re relying on the public.” Anyone who has any information – “if you think it may be nothing, but there’s something in your head – call us.”

Hummel quoted medical experts who said sometimes, as the brain heals, memories can return.

“We are ready and eager to solve that case,” he said.

Shooting at NW Bend home

Jordan Thorn, 27, of Bend was shot and seriously wounded the afternoon of Nov. 19 at the front door of another man’s home on Northwest Riverfront Street. He got in a car and drove a short distance before he got out and received help from another driver.

Thorn “has been released from the hospital, thankfully, making an excellent recovery,” Hummel said.

The victim and alleged shooter knew each other, and investigators “know about their relationship.” The man who shot Thorn has been cooperative and five search warrants have been executed.

“I expect a charging decision relatively soon,” Hummel said. “This isn’t a whodunit – the shooter is acknowledging that he was the shooter. We’re trying to determine the exact particulars.”

Bend PD, FBI raid on three massage businesses

Bend police, assisted by the FBI, raided three massage businesses -- the Lotus, Green and Jade spas -- on Oct. 5 and a southeast Bend home the following afternoon, investigating community complaints that sex acts were taking places at the businesses, authorities said.

Hummel said his office has been working with police and the FBI in the case.

“The question is whether there was prostitution-related activities in one or more of those spas,” he said, and “whether this was isolated prostitution activity or whether it involved human trafficking.”

The investigation remains active and there’s “more work to do, analyzing the evidence gained from those warrants.”

Along with determining if crimes were committed, the involved agencies will decide where such crimes would be prosecuted, locally on state charges or federally through the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Hummel said.

Other issues

Hummel told a reporter that Jake Strayer, accused of pulling a gun during a Pilot Butte melee in early October, has not bee in touch with his office since failing to appear in court, prompting the issuance of an arrest warrant.

The DA said his office has 8,000 cases, so while the volume of cases is not unusual, “the number of serious cases that are in active investigation pre-charging, that’s unusual – a lot of tech work, forensic toxicology.”

While COVID-19 issues haven’t directly impacted these outstanding cases, Hummel is worried about the resulting court delays, as trials held two or three year after an alleged crime are “less likely to have a good result, could result in a bad verdict,” as memories fade. It also “adds to the tremendous stress for victims of crime.”

“I do expect we’re going to see motions filed by suspects to dismiss cases for violating their rights to a speedy trial,” Hummel said.

But he noted that already has been happening due to the county’s inability so far to get legislative approval of an additional judge. “Then CCOVID – that’s a perfect storm.”

Hummel said he will be in Salem again to lobby for the added judge the Oregon Supreme Court chief justice has included in her proposed budget, as has Gov. Brown. He noted that current deputy DA and newly elected lawmaker Jason Kropf will be able to speak in personal detail to the need as well.

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