BEND — The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office has handed over the prosecution of accused murderer Luke Anton Wirkkala — formerly of Chinook — to the Oregon Department of Justice due to a conflict of interest, according to a motion filed Aug. 3 in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
Starting in June, Seattle man Elwin Wirkala (spelled with one K) sent poems and other communications to parties involved in the case claiming to be on behalf of the defendant Wirkkala, his first cousin once removed. The letters escalate from making requests to making demands about the case, the DA’s motion states.
One of Wirkala’s sonnets, “Switcheroo,” describes the rape of a “Ms. Anderson,” believed to be Mary Anderson, chief deputy district attorney for the DA’s office.
“The victim raped is you, Ms. Anderson,
you’re the one passed out, a Mickey Finn
surreptitiously slipped in your gin,
now you’re the victim, the stripped naked one”
The sonnet was sent to District Attorney John Hummel and Deschutes County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Wells Ashby, and was included with poems sent to The [Bend] Bulletin.
Another conflict cited in the DA’s motion is that on July 20, Wirkkala filed a bar complaint against Anderson and the other prosecutor in his case, Kandy Gies.
“We question our ability to sustain our role as independent administrators of justice given the nature of the correspondence directed toward us and the bar complaint,” Anderson wrote in a court document. “We are concerned that we will second-guess our decision making approach to the case and how others interpret our work and motives.”
Though they weren’t close prior to the trial, Elwin Wirkala, 76, has taken an avid interest in his younger cousin’s case, and with the jury trial scheduled to take place this summer, his output had increased over the past two months.
In June, he sent out a 200-page manifesto, heavy on poetry and allusions to classic literature, titled, “Vicarious Sonnets from Deschutes County Jail and Other Poems and Translations Various and Inspired from Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and Mandarin Chinese.”
In it, he often refers to Gies, Anderson, Hummel, former Deschutes District Attorney Patrick Flaherty and retired Judge Stephen Forte.
“I mention them by name because the perpetrators of evil, especially of the innocent, do not merit anonymity,” he wrote.
He reserves a lot of blame for the “Fourth Estate,” aka the media, as well.
“the fourth estate fulfills its watchdog function,
but media, in bed with Deschutes Court,
reports their doings with a cloying unction,
but then refuses mine with no compunction
and that is why I write you this report.”
Wirkkala’s case stretches to Super Bowl Sunday 2013. He and acquaintance David Ryder spent the day drinking at a local bar before returning to Wirkkala’s home. Around 2:30 a.m., Wirkkala shot Ryder once in the neck with a shotgun, killing him. DNA evidence showed the two had had sexual contact that night, but the prosecution and defense had different explanations for why.
Ryder was believed to have been bisexual. Wirkkala says he’s heterosexual.
Prosecutors said Wirkkala may have grown enraged as a result of Ryder rejecting his sexual advances, or because Ryder was considering moving out of the area.
Defense attorneys said Ryder forced Wirkkala to perform oral sex, and that Ryder ignored warnings to back off after Wirkkala retrieved his shotgun.
A jury found Wirkkala guilty but the conviction was vacated by the Oregon Supreme Court, which held that Bend Police officers should have stopped questioning Wirkkala after he requested a lawyer.
On July 31, lawyers walked through buildings at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center to gauge its suitability for hosting the Wirkkala trial. Officials have considered holding jury trials at the fairgrounds to allow for better social distancing than the Deschutes County Courthouse.
If the motion is approved, the case will likely still take place in Deschutes County. A status hearing in the case was scheduled for Aug. 4.
Wirkkala is a 1999 graduate of Ilwaco High School. In June 2004, he graduated from Washington State University magna cum laude, indicating an outstanding academic record.
He worked as a freelance writer for the EO Media Group for a while, writing a feature on charter fishing that appeared in the Active Lives supplement in December 2009. He also contributed articles to Coast Weekend magazine.