In the early hours of July 24, 2016, a Central Oregon Community College campus security guard, Edwin Lara, kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered 23-year-old student Kaylee Sawyer. Sawyer was missing for a couple of days before her body was found beside a highway north of Bend, Oregon.
A couple of days after her murder, Lara was arrested in northern California after going on a crime spree in the state, KATU reported. Lara told his wife, Isabel Ponce-Lara, that he killed Sawyer but that it was an accident. Ponce-Lara was a new police officer in Bend and went to the station to report his crime. When officers searched their home, they found Sawyer’s purse and shoes, a blood-stained rock and a clump of hair as well as blood on his work boots, Chilling Crimes wrote.
Lara was charged with Sawyer’s murder and prosecutors sought the death penalty. Where is he today?
Lara Pleaded Guilty to Avoid the Death Penalty & Was Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole
Although Lara originally pleaded not guilty, he later changed his plea to guilty in Sawyer’s murder in order to avoid the death penalty, KATU reported. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
He did not plead guilty to the sexual assault as part of his plea deal and prosecutors did not push for it because their goal was to get a life sentence without parole, Chilling Crimes wrote. At the sentencing, Sawyer’s father said, “To this day, I have never gotten closure of seeing or touching my daughter one last time.”
According to the outlet, Sawyer’s mother said at the hearing, “You have failed to silence her. I’ll always be the mother of a murder victim, but your mother will always be the mother of a murderer and a rapist.”
Lara Was Also Found Guilty in Federal Court of Kidnapping & Carjacking During His Crime Spree
In addition to his sentence, Lara was also given a federal life sentence for his kidnapping and carjacking crimes after murdering Sawyer. Although the standard sentence for those crimes is up to 20 years in prison, U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane increased that to give him a life sentence and calling Lara an “extreme danger to the community,” Oregon Live reported.
The federal and state sentences are both being carried out concurrently. The prosecutor for the federal case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan J. Lichvarcik, said the man was “one of the most dangerous men who has walked through this courthouse” and the federal sentence will be in place should his state sentence ever be overturned.
Lara was born in Honduras and moved to the U.S. as a child. Although he was legally residing in the U.S. at the time of his crimes, he isn’t an American citizen and if he is ever released, he would likely be deported to Honduras, Oregon Live wrote.
A few weeks after Sawyer’s murder, Lara’s wife Isabel Ponce-Lara divorced him, according to KGW8. She had been the one to turn him in after he confessed to her that he’d killed Sawyer. Ponce-Lara also quit her position as a Bend police officer after only 13 months in law enforcement. In her resignation letter, she said, “This decision has not been easy, but I have decided that it will be in the best interest for my career advancement and future development.”
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