Wirkkala murder trial delayed again

Luke Anton Wirkkala sits with his attorneys in Deschutes County Circuit Court in April 2019. Wirkkala is originally from Chinook.

BEND — Lawyers for accused murderer and former Chinook resident Luke Anton Wirkkala, who is back in Deschutes County to be retried following a successful appeal of his 2014 conviction, hope to show jurors the alleged victim was sexually aggressive toward passed-out males.

Evidence of “prior bad acts” by the victim, David Ryder, was excluded from Wirkkala’s first jury trial, but his lawyers are trying again with his second trial, which has been delayed several times and is now scheduled for August.

“Since 2014, there has been a plethora of new Oregon appellate cases that upend this court’s prior rulings regarding the exclusion of Mr. Ryder’s past behavior,” defense attorney Joel Wirtz wrote in a recent court filing. “A full and fair trial requires that this evidence be presented to the jury.”

Specifically, the defense hopes to show jurors that Ryder had a reputation as an aggressive drunk who was kicked out of the Navy for drinking.

Coworkers reportedly claimed Ryder was “hyper-sexual” and “pushed guy’s buttons” when he was drunk. One employee said Ryder would “dry hump” male coworkers without their consent.

According to filings by the defense, he maintained a profile on the website IMGUR:

“I used to get in a lot of fights from the ages of 17-26,” Ryder reportedly wrote. “Like … probably more than 20. I was dubbed ‘one hit wonder’ when I was in the Navy. It seemed like I couldn’t go on liberty without coming back with broken fingers, nose, black eye… lol good times.”

Defense attorneys say it matters because during the first trial, Ryder was portrayed by the state as a “Teddy bear” who was “soft” and “peaceful.”

Jurors ultimately agreed with the state.

Lead-up to the shooting

On Feb. 4. 2013, Wirkkala shot Ryder in the neck with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun after a day of drinking. Wirkkala’s blood-alcohol level was found to be between 0.18% and 0.38% at the time of the shooting. Ryder’s was estimated at 0.23%. Wirkkala has always contended he shot in self-defense as Ryder tried to rape him.

Ryder and Wirkkala moved to Bend around the same time in 2012 and met at a campground as both were looking for more permanent housing.

Wirkkala and his girlfriend invited Ryder to watch the Super Bowl with them at the Hideaway Tavern.

After the game they went to Wirkkala’s condo nearby, where the two men continued drinking into the early morning.

Wirkkala’s account is that at around 2:30 a.m. he was awoken while being strangled and sexually assaulted by Ryder. He broke free, ran to his room, retrieved his shotgun and fired a round to show Ryder he was serious. Ryder persisted with his attack and Wirkkala fired a round into Ryder’s neck, killing him instantly.

Police arrived to find Wirkkala on the floor of his kitchen crying several feet from Ryder’s body. He had fingernail scratches on his neck and abrasions on his hand.

DNA evidence indicated that Wirkkala and Ryder had sexual contact with each other that night.

Wirkkala is straight. Ryder was married to a woman, though coworkers and former shipmates would testify he was bisexual, according to the defense.

Evidence struck out on appeal

One thing will certainly not be included in the second trial: anything Wirkkala told police after he invoked his constitutional right to an attorney. Wirkkala spent 14 hours with police after the shooting but before he was formally arrested. He spoke expansively with officers, about all manner of things, but at one point he said, “I appreciate the hospitality here, fellas, but I think I’m going to get a lawyer.” They kept talking, and Wirkkala discussed aspects of the incident.

In April 2018, the Oregon Court of Appeals struck down his conviction and sent his case back to Deschutes County, ruling the officers should have ceased questioning Wirkkala after requested an attorney.

Wirkkala is the second longest-serving inmate in the Deschutes County jail. His lawyers attempted several times to have him freed on bond ahead of trial, most recently out of consideration to the covid-19 pandemic.

Reporter: 541-383-0325,


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