▶️ One freeze ends and another begins; restaurants look for ways to survive winter

The governor’s two-week ‘freeze’ to slow the spread of COVID ends on Thursday, but restrictions remain in place for many Oregon businesses.

Bars and restaurants head into the holiday season forced to offer either take-out or outdoor dining.

It’s a tough ask as winter temperatures make for a less-than-cozy dining experience outdoors.

But as Central Oregon Daily photojournalist Steve Kaufmann shows us, food cart courts and other restaurants are turning to the tried and true and getting creative to survive the end of 2020.

2 indicted in separate Bend child abuse cases; suspected of injuring infants

Two Bend residents have been indicted on separate child abuse charges, suspected of causing injuries to their infant children.

In March, Bend Police officers and detectives were called to a local pediatrics office regarding injuries – including a broken bone – to a 9-month-old girl.

Lt. Adam Juhnke said the injuries were classified as “non-accidental trauma” by medical staff and reported to law enforcement.

After a lengthy investigation, which included a search of the family’s home on NE Watt Way in Bend, detectives determined the father, Nicholas Jeremy Flores, caused the injuries, Juhnke said.

The investigation was conducted in collaboration with The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office, community partners in the medical field, The Kids Center and the Department of Human Services.

On Nov. 3, a Deschutes County Grand Jury indicted Flores on one count of first-degree criminal mistreatment and one count of third-degree assault.

In a separate case, 33-year-old Kristine Anne Bellinger of Bend was indicted on Oct. 30th on the same charges for allegedly injuring her 6-month-old son, police said.

On April 24th last year Bend Police officers and investigators were called to St. Charles regarding injuries to a 6-month-old infant which included suspicious fractures.

The injuries were classified as non-accidental trauma and required to be reported to law enforcement, Juhnke said.

After a lengthy investigation, including serving search warrants at Bellinger’s home and vehicle on NE Forum Drive, it was determined that Bellinger caused the injuries to her son, Juhnke said.

“The Bend Police Department conducted a top-notch investigation and were aided as always by our dedicated partners at the Kids Center and DHS,” said Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel. “Investigating and prosecuting crimes against children will always be the top priority of my office; it’s comforting to know that the Bend Police Department is staffed with officers who care as much as I do about holding accountable people who abuse kids.”


Crime Lab staffing issues slow murder investigation; DA gives updates on recent cases

Detectives have served 40 search warrants and have multiple suspects in a Bend double murder that’s gone unsolved since August, Deschutes County DA John Hummel said Wednesday.

Hummel said slim staffing at the Oregon State Crime Lab has slowed the progress into the death investigation of Raymond Atkinson Jr. and Natasha Newby.

Police performing a welfare check on August 15th discovered Newby, 29, and Atkinson, 34, dead inside their home at the corner of 12th and Greenwood Avenue.

Later that week, police announced they were investigating leads outside of Central Oregon, but no other information had been provided on the case until Wednesday.

Hummel said he believed the couple was targeted so there was no threat to the community.

But he had no comment on where the suspects might be or their relationship to the victims.

The murder investigation was part of an update Wednesday from Hummel on several recent high-profile cases being handled by the district attorney’s office.

Other cases Hummel discussed Wednesday include a shooting in Drake Park in November.

He said the victim, Jordan Thorn, was recovering well in the hospital, and charges are expected against a suspect soon.

The investigation continues in a fatal multi-vehicle crash on the Bend Parkway near the Colorado Avenue on ramp last month.

The crash, which started after a a BMW, driven by 39-year-old Jonathan Short of Bend, had merged onto the highway and into the left lane, where he struck a Chevrolet pickup driven by 47-year-old Kevin Schultz of Bend.

Schultz’s car crossed the center median into the southbound lane, where it hit a van driven by 37-year-old Christopher Rodea.

Rodea sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Two more southbound vehicles and one more northbound vehicle were also involved in the crash, although none of those drivers or passengers were seriously injured.

Hummel said they have found two surveillance videos he calls “key” to the investigation.

They’re also downloading the computer systems from the cars involved to evaluate.


A charging decision is expected soon in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run in Redmond Nov. 23rd.

Leroy Hall, 90, was hit first by a maroon 2018 GMC Yukon and hit again by a second vehicle, according to police.

The driver of the Yukon, 19-year-old Anthony Vasquez, left the scene while the driver of the second vehicle remained on the scene, police said.

Police found the Yukon nearby a short time later.

Vasquez was arrested and taken to the Deschutes County Jail on multiple charges including first-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, felony hit-and-run and DUII.


Additionally, the investigation continues into an alleged assault on Bend’s west side in early August.

Giovanni Ortego was found bloodied on the side of the road, but he doesn’t remember the assault.

Hummel said Ortego’s last known location was the D&D Bar downtown, but there’s no helpful surveillance on the route to where he was found.

He said the case was a dead end unless the public was able to provide new, helpful information.

OSP looking for info on bull, cow and spike elk poaching west of Bend

Poachers killed a bull, a cow, and a spike elk west of Bend on or about Oct. 28 and Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife troopers are looking for information leading to the culprits.

The animals were discovered separately, but all three were in the same area and appear to have been killed at the same time.

Two were left to waste in a blatant demonstration of a thrill-kill, according to OSP.

The third, a large bull, had its head and shoulders removed as a trophy.

OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers discovered the first carcass, a cow elk, on Oct. 30 after a call to the Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line from a hunter who came across the carcass while scouting the Dry Canyon area East of Sisters near Hwy 126 and Quail Tree Drive.

Troopers investigating the area around the cow subsequently discovered a large bull elk carcass.

Although bull elk were in season at the time, the poacher had taken only the head, antlers and some shoulder meat. It is a crime to leave carcasses to waste even if it is legal to kill the animal.

Two days later, on Nov. 1, another call came through on the TIP Line from a hunter who reported finding a spike elk carcass.

A spike elk is a one-year-old male.

Troopers located the spike elk about 40 yards from where the cow had been. Based on decomposition, all three animals were shot at or near the same time, and certainly the same day according to OSP F&W Sergeant Lowell Lea.

“They were all killed at the same time-or close to it- on opening day of the season,” Lea said, “Even if someone makes a mistake and kills the wrong animal, at least if they report it they aren’t committing the additional crime of leave to waste.”

Senior Trooper Creed Cummings, who processed the scene, agrees.

“Sometimes people are reckless in shooting and they get the wrong species or gender. We were hoping that at least the cow (meat) would be salvageable, but it wasn’t,” he said, “It’s disappointing that they were just left. And it adds another charge to the initial crime.”

All three elk were most likely shot on opening day of the East Central Cascade elk season which runs Oct. 28 through Nov. 1.

OSP Troopers would like anyone in the area who heard shots at night or noticed anything unusual on opening day of the season to call the TIP Line and report it.

The Stop Poaching Campaign educates the public on how to recognize and report poaching.

This campaign is a collaboration among hunters, conservationists, land owners and recreationists.

Our goal is to increase reporting of wildlife crimes through the TIP Line, increase detection by increasing the number of OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers and increase prosecution.

The Oregon Hunters Association manages TIP Line reward funds. This campaign helps to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitat for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Contact campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw for more information. Yvonne.l.Shaw@state.or.us.

▶️ Bend phenom earns scholarship to play D1 tennis at Univ. of Florida

A 17-year-old Bend tennis star is going to be a Gator – a Florida Gator to be exact.

Nate Bonetto has accepted a scholarship offer to play for the SEC school’s tennis team in the fall of 2021.

To put it in perspective, playing tennis at Florida is a little like playing basketball at Kentucky or college football at Alabama.

He’s going to be part of the best of the best.

Central Oregon Daily’s Eric Lindstrom has more on the small-town kid with big-time game.


▶️ Sending or receiving, local businesses dealing with strain on shipping services

With COVID looming over the holiday shopping season, more people than ever are doing their gift buying online.

Whether they’re shipping out your presents to grandma or receiving that special order gift, local businesses are dealing with the holiday strain on shipping carriers.

Central Oregon Daily’s Eric Lindstrom has more.

▶️ Deschutes Co. DA tossing low-level drug crimes ahead of Measure 110 implementation


Earlier this month, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 110 to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs such as cocaine, oxycodone, and methamphetamine.

Anyone found with the illegal drugs will receive violations instead of criminal charges and be directed to drug treatment programs.

The changes aren’t scheduled to begin until February 1st next year, but here in Deschutes County, the District Attorney is treating low-level drug offenses as though the law is already in effect.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel says there’s no meaningful distinction between people who commit low-level drug possession offenses the next two months and when the law takes effect in February, so he won’t treat them differently.

“Why should I punish someone more harshly who commits their offense in January then they would be punished if they committed their offense in February? If I can’t determine a valid basis for treating them differently, I’m not going to,” Hummel said.

Hummel says the manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs will remain “big-time” felonies.

What’s changing is how individuals who are arrested in possession of small amounts of drugs for their personal use, will be issued violations–the equivalent of a traffic ticket–instead of misdemeanors which sends them into the criminal justice system.

“By lowering the penalty from a misdemeanor to a violation and referring somebody to a drug treatment; by having more treatment available and more affordable and having that treatment more evidence-based on effective methods, I’m confident people are going to get help for their addictions,” Hummel said. “That’s going to help them and their family and that’s going to result in less crime being committed in our community.”

But the heat’s not off yet.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is operating by the letter of the law and will continue citing individuals for misdemeanor drug offenses through January.

“Right now, these amounts of illegal substances are still a crime in Oregon,” aid Sgt. Jayson Janes, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office public information officer. “We will continue to treat them as a crime in Oregon until they no longer are.”

Hummel said for the past three years, the DA’s office, in partnership with the medical community, has been running a model for how to handle drug cases in the criminal justice system.

“I’ve diverted cases out of criminal justice into La Pine Health Center and Mosaic Medical. In essence, I’ve been doing what measure 110 is going to do statewide for 3 years. It’s not much new here,” he said.

Hummel says about 500 drug cases are presented annually to the District Attorney’s office.

He expects the number of drug cases to decrease as more offenders are directed to drug treatment instead of treated as criminals.

▶️ Hundreds of surgeries delayed as COVID hospitalizations spike at St. Charles


COVID-19 cases keep rising in Deschutes County and St. Charles hospital in Bend has limited beds.

“We are filling up and we are in the process of reducing surgeries in an effort to create capacity to take care of patients that are sick,” said St. Charles Chief Physician Executive, Dr. Jeff Absalon.

There are 29 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 

It’s the highest number they’ve had so far, roughly twice as many as the previous week.

“We’ve seen the numbers in our area increase significantly in the last several weeks,” Absalon said. “It takes a few weeks after we see the community numbers go up for us to see the numbers go up in the hospital and that is exactly what has happened here.”

Deschutes County last week reported 459 new COVID cases – nearly 200 more than the week before.

Lisa Goodman, a spokeswoman for St. Charles said 20 of the hospital’s 30 ICU beds were full.

And across the region’s four hospital campuses, 82% of the beds were occupied as of Monday.

Hundreds of elective surgeries are being delayed, that’s 25 to 40% of all surgeries performed at the hospital.

“Elective surgeries include things such as heart surgery, including such things as cancer surgery. So there are a lot of very important surgeries included in that bucket,” Absalon said.

He adds, everyone is feeling the pressure and stress on the health system at this time.

“We just don’t know if this is the peak or not,” he said. “What we do know is, the measures that have been used previously are effective. If people wear a mask, if they keep their physical distance, if they stay home when they are ill if they wash their hands. We know we can bend the curve and that is exactly what needs to happen.”

Absalon also added, there is a risk the hospital reaches capacity, given the variety of other patients typically admitted this time of year.

Forest Service seeks public’s help in rock art vandalism west of Bend

Forest Service law enforcement officials are seeking help from the public as they investigate vandalism to historic pictographs on a rock west of Bend.

The vandalism to the pictographs was recently discovered and appears to have happened within the last month, said Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Jean Nelson-Dean

“The Forest Service doesn’t know the exact age of the rock art and because it is culturally important for local tribes we haven’t sought that information out of respect,” Nelson-Dean said. “There is not much rock art on the Deschutes National Forest or in this area so what we have is significant.”

The public is asked to call the Forest Service tip line at 541-383-5717 and leave a message with any information that could help identify a potential suspect.

▶️ Sno-parks expected to be busy this winter; parking along Century Dr. is a no-no


We’ve had a beautiful string of fall days here in Central Oregon and lots of people are wanting to be outside.

“We’re just up here skiing, sledding and having fun,” Bend Resident Jay Dicharry said while enjoying Mt. Bachelor before the season opens.

Local sno-parks have been busy, meaning parking lots are packed.

“Playing in the snow,” young Maddox said at Wanoga Sno-Park. “Playing in the snow,” echoed Malia, a recent Oregon resident.

“Alaskan Huskies,” Bend resident Dave Bush said at Wanoga. “We are going to run 16 dogs in two, eight dog teams. We’re training for a couple hundred mile races this morning.”

More people enjoying the snow means more cars, which means fewer parking spots at some of the areas most popular sno-parks.

Kevin Larkin, the Bend Fort Rock District Manager at Deschutes National Forest expects winter recreation to carry over from what they saw in the spring.

“We had excessive use of sno-parks,” Larkin said. “We had folks parking out on highways and just a lot of traffic and we expect that it will be the case again this winter as opportunities for other forms of recreation have been fairly limited.” 

The Oregon Department of Transportation recently issued a warning to not park along Century Drive near Mt. Bachelor.

It could result in a citation.

“Last weekend like half a mile of cars, which probably is treacherous and not smart, so I understand why ODOT is doing that,” Bend resident Kathy Woodford said.

To park in a sno-park, you’ll need a permit.

“Enforcement is a real consideration with sno-parks, but really I would appeal to our better nature,” Larkin said. “That permit expense goes directly to those folks who take care of those sno-parks.” 

He suggests if areas are full, find another place.

“Kapka Butte Sno-park is nearby, Edison Sno-park is nearby,” Larkin said. “Those are much larger parking lots.”