Culver woman sentenced to 22 years for 2020 shooting; body found in fridge

A Culver woman was sentenced Monday to 22 years in prison for shooting to death a Madras man and putting his body in a fridge where it was discovered by authorities several weeks later.

Charina Owen, 37, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, first-degree burglary, and felon in possession of a firearm on Friday, according to Jefferson County District Attorney Steven Leriche.

Judge Michael Mclane sentenced Owen to 240 months for the manslaughter charge, with a concurrent 36 months for the burglary charge.

She’ll serve an additional 24 months for the firearm possession charge.

Owen, who was also initially identified as Charina Mathews, was arrested on June 4th last year, a few weeks after the body of 34-year-old Byron Hilands was found in a refrigerator on the corner of Bear Drive and Highway 61.

According to a statement from Leriche, the case against Owen began on March 13, 2020, when her brother, 35-year-old Jacob Own of Bend, reported to law enforcement that she told him she got into a fight with Hilands and needed help moving a fridge full of “spoiled meat” to property owned by Hilands in Brothers.

Jacob Owen also told authorities he believed his sister had done something to Hilands and was going to turn herself in to her probation officer, Leriche said.

Former Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Shea Dulley responded to Hilands’ property at 2350 SW Bear Drive in Madras and tried to contact him, with no success.

On May 7, 2020, former Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Barros responded to a report that an individual on the property believed he had found a human body in a freezer at the Bear Drive property.

Barros and Deputy Melody Zistel responded and confirmed that there was, in fact, a significantly decomposed human body in a refrigerator on-site, Leriche said.

Investigators learned that Owen, who had multiple prior convictions including convictions for first-degree burglary, unlawful use of a weapon, and fourth-degree assault against Hilands, told several people that she had rotten meat she needed to get rid of.

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▶️ Culver woman arraigned on murder charges; body in fridge for ‘many weeks’

Autopsy results revealed Hilands was wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a t-shirt when he was shot in the head and chest with a .22 caliber firearm, Leriche said.

Hilands was inside a sleeping bag with a pillow, which strongly suggested he was sleeping at the time he was shot.

A search warrant executed at the Bear Drive address on May 8, 2020, led to the discovery of a .22 caliber revolver along with a white latex glove, Leriche said.

Owen’s fingerprint was discovered on the glove, and the glove appeared to match a glove Deputy Jason Pollock found in Owen’s possession on March 18, 2020, when he arrested her on a warrant for violating her probation, Leriche said.

When the gun and glove were discovered during the May 8 warrant, Pollock remembered the glove he found two months earlier and brought it to the attention of other investigators assisting with the case.

Owen was sentenced under Oregon’s “Denny Smith Act” which says that anyone previously convicted of certain crimes – first-degree burglary in this case – who commits another major crime, is not eligible for a reduction in sentence.

Leriche said that means Owen will serve the full length of her sentence.

Owen will be eligible to participate in programs and earn good time when she serves her sentence for firearm possession sentence at the end of her 20-year term.

In sentencing Owen, Mclane noted she had taken responsibility for her crimes and found that she was forthright during the settlement conference, Leriche said.

Bend man killed after crashing motorcycle near Suttle Lake

A Bend man was killed Saturday night after crashing his motorcycle near Suttle Lake, according to Oregon State Police.

Troopers responded to the crash just after 9 p.m.

Preliminary investigation revealed 65-year-old Richard Cissna was westbound on his Harley Davidson motorcycle when he tried to avoid traffic that had slowed, lost control and crashed.

Cissna was pronounced dead at the scene.

OSP was assisted by Black Butte Police Department, Black Butte Fire Department, and ODOT.

▶️ Pearl Harbor survivor turns 100; community turns out to celebrate

A lot has happened in the last 100 years, and Dick Higgins has lived through it all. 

He’s a local navy veteran that survived the Pearl Harbor Attack in 1941. He also beat COIVD-19 at 99-years-old. 

For his birthday, he was celebrated by family, friends, and complete strangers wishing him a happy 100 years. Higgins, or “gramps,” was surprised by a drive-by parade that rolled through Northwest Crossing in Bend.

The patriotic procession was full of smiles and salutes from people of all ages. 

Central Oregon Daily’s Samantha O’Connor and Steve Kaufmann were there to capture the moment. 

St. Charles CEO ‘worried’ about delta variant in Central Oregon; expects spike

St. Charles Health System President and CEO Joe Sluka, wary of the new delta variant of COVID-19, issued another urgent plea Friday for Central Oregonians to get vaccinated.

“As much as I hate to say it, the delta variant of COVID-19 is increasing in our communities,” he said in an e-mail to the community. “Honestly, I’m worried.”

He cited wastewater samples throughout the state showing an increase from 5% to 40% of the more transmissible variant of COVID.

The vaccination rate in Central Oregon isn’t high enough to provide herd immunity, he said, because it spreads more easily than earlier versions of the virus.

“Keeping all of this in mind, we expect to experience a new spike in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated individuals in the near future,” he said. “And although our counties have worked so hard to make vaccines available, we still have large numbers of people who have not received the vaccine. Children under the age of 12 remain ineligible for any of the vaccines and are at a high risk of contracting the new variant and spreading it to others.”

Currently, about 71% of eligible Deschutes County residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine; 50% in Crook County and 55% in Jefferson County.

“We expect to experience a new spike in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated individuals in the near future.”
– Joe Sluka, President/CEO St. Charles Health System

Local COVID cases are up this week.

Deschutes County has reported 74 cases just in the last three days – that’s more than all of last week.

St. Charles on Friday reported it had 15 COVID patients; four were in the ICU and on ventilators.

The hospital had nine patients earlier in the week.

Sluka said he still chooses to wear a mask inside some public spaces and that it’s prudent to “avoid large gatherings where you don’t know the vaccination status of those in attendance.”

But the best thing for the public right now is to get vaccinated, he said.

“The vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19, but we have had a handful of cases in vaccinated individuals where hospitalization was necessary,” he said.

You can find information on vaccine availability at www.CentralOregonCOVIDVaccine.com.

“Also, consider talking with your friends and family members who have been vaccinated about their experiences,” Sluka said. “These videos show familiar faces from Crook and Jefferson counties sharing their thoughts on why the COVID-19 vaccine is important. Give them a watch and share them with others.”

▶️ Birdseye view of Bootleg Fire reveals enormity of the challenge ahead

We get an early morning start, meeting pilot Bruce Mclellan at the Bend Airport.

He needs to check out the airplane, a Cessna P-210, after a yearly maintenance session and we want to get a look at the Bootleg Fire.

Our needs converge nicely and we lift off into a clear blue sky, heading south toward Klamath Falls.

Along the route to Lakeview we pay close attention to the TFRs, the “Temporary Flight Restrictions” put in place by the FAA to keep stray air traffic out of the fire zone.

McLellan watches his digital map and explains that as long as we stay above 11,500 feet on this leg of the flight we can overfly the fire; below that we have to stay away.

“You’re not allowed to fly within this region which is north of Lakeview, northeast of Klamath Falls and roughly across the top of Summer Lake,” he tells us.

The Summer Lake area northeast of the Bootleg Fire is just one of many concerns for fire bosses.

We fly over homes and ranches along Highway 31. They are inside the level 3 (“Get out Now”) evacuation area.

One of the tactical goals in the coming days will be keeping the fire on the flats above Winter Rim, the massive scarp that sweeps down to the Summer Lake basin.

As we fly I realize it’s an eerie feeling, floating along at 11,500 feet with everything very peaceful and smooth and at the same time knowing the scene on the ground below us is so different, so dangerous.

Fire crews have battled the Bootleg Fire since a lightning strike on July 6th. It has blown up on them, now spreading to more than 400,000 acres and forcing thousands from their homes.

As of Friday morning, the fire was 40% contained.

On this early morning flight at altitude, we see little evidence of all that and the smoke has laid down, settling into the valleys and basins of the Fremont-Winema National Forest. But we know the aerial attack, so important in fighting wildland fires, will pick up again if visibility allows.

“I don’t know exactly where the planes are coming from.” Mclellan says, “My guess is probably out of Lakeview so we’ll also have to be careful when we approach. If there are aircraft en route to the fire we’ll stay well clear of them.”

We touch down at the Lakeview Airport and meet Lake County Commissioner James Williams.

He is all too familiar with the challenges and dangers of a red-hot fire season.

The town of Paisley was seriously threatened just 10 months ago. When the call went out for volunteers in that area earlier in the week dozens turned out from all over Lake County.

Williams shakes his head and smiles.

“Incredible. Incredible to see crews from Christmas Valley, Silver Lake, Lakeview even, driving all the way up there an hour or more,” he said. “It was a great feeling of unity for the county I would say just to see that response happen so quickly and have that looming threat right over our heads. We weren’t sure what was going to be coming down the mountain that night.

“We’re getting used to this. And I’m not sure this is a good thing. This is happening every single year now.”

But he does see some hope in the battle against the massive Bootleg Fire.

“We had a break. We had some rain. I think it really helped lay those flames down a little bit,” he said. “Hopefully it was the break that we needed. And we’re crossing our fingers and just hoping that we’re able to get ahead of this thing.”

The Lakeview Airport is one of the command centers for the air attack on this sector of the fire.

We count 12 helicopters, most of them private contractors, and a few National Guard choppers.

There’s also a squad of 4 “SEAT” planes, single-engine air tankers converted from agricultural use, basically, crop-dusters turned into firefighting machines.

I talk with some of the pilots at the airport air-tanker base. It’s mid-morning and they haven’t flown the fire yet. They tell me the SEATs can be filled with retardant in minutes and can haul up to 800 gallons at a time.

We make a few phone calls and Marcus Kauffman meets us for an interview.

He’s one of the information officers for Incident Management Team One, working the southern zone of the fire.

He says fire managers and crews on the ground and in the air are feeling slightly more confident.

“We’re not quite ready to say we’ve turned the corner yet but we’ve had a couple of productive days and things are looking good,” he said. “The day before yesterday the fire put on 40,000 acres; yesterday the fire put on a thousand acres. So that’s an indication fire behavior has moderated a little bit.”

Back in the plane, we get bumped around a bit after takeoff, proof that the ground and air are heating up. And we start seeing more puffs of smoke from the fire zone.

Some of the smoke from this and other fires burning in the West has spread across the country to the Atlantic, affecting air quality in major East Coast cities.

We get a sense of the huge area this fire covers, the many different hot spots the firefighters have to keep an eye on and the challenges posed by the winds and drifting smoke.

It’s clear this fight is not over. Any significant wind or lightning event could cause huge problems.

And as we fly home and leave the Bootleg Fire behind it’s also clear this fire season, which has started bad, could easily get worse.

ODE, OHA ‘strongly advise’ unvaccinated students, staff wear masks this fall

The Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority on Thursday said they “still strongly advise” unvaccinated students and staff wear masks indoors this fall when school resumes across the state.

But the education department maintains that it will empower districts to make their own decisions regarding COVID-19 protocols for the coming school year.

The language was among several updates to the “Resiliency Framework” the education department revealed in late June.

Bend-La Pine Schools still hasn’t announced whether it will require masks when students return this fall.

Officials have said they were looking for guidance from local and state health leaders and expected to make a decision on August 10th.

The Redmond School District, however, announced earlier this month that it will not require masks.

And Thursday’s announcement from the ODE won’t change that, said Superintendent Charan Cline.

“While the Redmond School District is not requiring masks, in accordance with the Oregon Health Authority we strongly encourage anyone who would like to wear one to do so, and recommend them for those not yet vaccinated,” he said.

Coming Soon
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?

In Jefferson County, district spokesman Joseph Prechtl said they expected to make a decision next week.

“The district is going over the latest guidance from ODE just released today,” he said in an email. “At this time, no decision has been made if masks will be required or not.”

The Crook County School District on Thursday issued its plan for the 2021-22 school year and will not require masks for students or staff.

Masks still will be required on school buses statewide, per guidelines from the CDC.

The ODE also announced relaxed guidance on quarantining in line with the CDC.

Those who are fully vaccinated and don’t have COVID symptoms won’t need to quarantine or get tested after exposure to someone diagnosed with COVID.

This will allow more kids to remain in class or continue with sports and extracurricular activities after potential exposure.

But since children under 12 can’t yet get vaccinated, the guidance really only applies to middle and high schoolers who have been vaccinated.

COVID exposures at the elementary school level could still force class quarantines and a temporary return to online learning.

This is a developing story.


The updates to the Resiliency Framework as of July 22, 2021 are identified by green text in the document itself and include:

  • Acknowledgement that K-12 schools will vary when it comes to the number of students and staff fully vaccinated. Elementary schools primarily serve children under 12 years of age who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. Some schools may have a low percentage of students and staff fully vaccinated despite vaccine eligibility. These variations necessitate that K-12 administrators make decisions about the use of COVID-19 prevention strategies in their schools to protect people who are not fully vaccinated (Page 4).
  • Alignment to CDC guidance which states that people who are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine or get tested after exposure to someone with COVID-19. This protects the student’s access to in-person learning, sports, and extracurricular activities. People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or 2 weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (Page 12).
  • The CDC’s order for mandatory use of face coverings for passengers and drivers on public transit applies to school buses. This order remains in effect until lifted by the federal government and cannot be waived by state or local authorities (Page 6).
  • Clarification that maintaining physical distancing should not prevent return to full-time, in-person instruction for all students. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet between students, school leaders are reminded of the importance of layering multiple other prevention strategies, such as face coverings, indoors (Page 14).
  • In grades kindergarten and up, OHA and ODE still strongly advise face coverings for all staff and students who are unvaccinated while indoors. Certain accommodations for medical needs or disability may be necessary (Page 13).
  • Information about how school districts submit an Operational Plan/Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan via Smartsheet. These plans must be submitted to ODE by Monday, August 23, 2021 to fulfill the requirements of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) State plan and the State Board of Education. The Smartsheet link, tools and directions will be shared later today. Information for public charter schools will be shared next week (Page 7).
  • Details about COVID-19 Testing in Schools, a program sponsored by OHA. OHA continues to offer a diagnostic testing program for schools, and has added a screening program for schools that may be interested (Pages 18-19).
  • communications toolkit with resources to help school and district leaders communicate to students, staff and families (Page 19).

▶️ Delta variant, unvaccinated people likely sources in rising COVID cases

COVID-19 cases are increasing steadily in Deschutes County with 18 new cases being reported Wednesday.

While things have improved, health officials say the pandemic is far from over.

“With numbers in terms of percentages,” Nahad Sadr-Azodi, Deschutes County director of public health said. “Around 10 to 40% increase since a couple of weeks ago where we saw a drop in cases.”

Sadr-Azodi says this has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

“97% of the hospitalized cases are those who are unvaccinated,” Sadr-Azodi said. “99 point-some percentage of the deaths are amongst the unvaccinated as well.”

The Oregon Health Authority reported four new Deschutes County COVID deaths this week.

Nine COVID patients are also being treated at St. Charles as of Wednesday, three of whom are on ventilators in the ICU.

Chief physician executive Dr. Jeff Absalon says the Delta variant is especially concerning.

“This variant is emerging in our community,” Absalon said. “It is more easily transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus.” 

Absalon adds the Delta variant can cause more severe disease and getting vaccinated can reduce that risk.

“Getting vaccinated is still very protective against getting severe illness from the Delta variant,” Absalon said. “As well as all of the variants that are out there at this time.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta variant now makes up eight out of 10 COVID cases.

Sadr-Azodi does not believe the virus will ever completely go away, but it can be controlled and reduced.

“The only way to interrupt the transmission is to build a wall,” Sadr-Azodi said. “We do that through tools that we have like vaccination.”

St. Charles would not disclose the vaccination status of its current COVID-19 patients.

Deschutes Co. SAR helps 2 injured hikers at Smith Rock State Park

In a case of being in the right place at the right time, Deschutes County Search and Rescue helped two injured hikers at Smith Rock State Park Monday.

Dep. Aaron Myers, Assistant Search and Rescue Coordinator, said crews were initially sent to the park around 2:40 p.m. to help a woman who was injured near the top of the Misery Ridge Trail.

Redmond Fire & Rescue responded and determined the injured woman, 25-year-old Amanda Zazueta of Simi Valley, Calif. would not be able to make it down the trail without a wheeled litter, so they called SAR.

A dozen SAR volunteers responded to help.

At 4:20 p.m., dispatch received another call that a second hiker, 43-year-old Prerna Jaiswal of San Jose, had been injured on the Mesa Verde trail.

The SAR volunteers were still on the scene helping Zazueta and two of them were able to walk to Jaiswal and assess her condition.

Six of the 12 SAR volunteers on site continued up the trail to Zazueta’s location while the rest of the team helped Jaiswal.

The crews determined Jaiswal would also need help down the trail in a wheeled litter so they used Redmond Fire’s litter to bring her down where she was taken across the river by awaiting medics.

Jaiswal was evaluated and released to family. 

The six SAR Volunteers who continued up to Zazueta’s location were able to get her into the wheeled litter and brought her down the Mesa Verde Trail with the help of Redmond Fire.

The six volunteers then walked up and also helped bring Zazueta down the trail.

SAR brought her down about a half-mile in the wheeled litter to the river crossing where she crossed to waiting Redmond Fire Personnel.

Zazueta was evaluated and released to friends.

Campfires banned in Oregon State Parks, forests east of I-5 beginning July 22

Due to fire danger and limited firefighting resources across the western U.S., no campfires will be allowed in state parks and in state-managed forests east of Interstate 5, even in designated campfire areas beginning Thursday.

This includes charcoal fires, cooking fires, warming fires, charcoal briquettes, pellet grills, candles, tiki torches and other devices that emit flames or embers.

Portable cooking stoves or propane lanterns using liquefied or bottle fuels are allowed, though propane fire pits are not.

“Every park visitor can do their part to protect the landscapes we all love,” said Lisa Sumption, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Director. “Help reduce fire risk by bringing meals that don’t require heating or cooking.”

This ban covers all state-managed parks and forestlands east of Interstate 5, and includes prohibitions on fires in designated fire rings.

The public can also anticipate restrictions in other areas based on fire danger.

Restrictions may increase as fire danger rises in other parts of Oregon and will remain in place until conditions moderate.

State agencies strongly encourage checking fire danger levels and associated restrictions in a given area before traveling and daily during a visit.

With hot, dry weather expected to continue and no relief forecasted in the foreseeable future – and several large fires on Oregon’s landscape – the step of banning campfires east of Interstate 5 was deemed a necessary measure to protect life and property in what is already a very challenging and dangerous fire season.

Particularly in times of elevated fire danger, maintaining capacity to respond quickly to new fire starts is critical.

Humans cause on average 70% or more of fires in Oregon, and these additional restrictions are intended to help reduce the number of human-caused fire starts. This will allow firefighters to focus on the existing large fires as well as new blazes that may emerge.

“We are seeing record-low humidity in much of the state, and as forest fuels dry out there is tremendous potential for fire to establish and spread quickly,” said Oregon State Forester Nancy Hirsch “With months of fire season left, this measure will help us prevent one of the most common types of human-caused fires, which reduces the risk to our communities and natural resources.”

 

▶️ Bend-La Pine Schools to announce fall mask requirements on August 10th

Bend-La Pine Schools will announce mask requirements for the upcoming school year on August 10th.

The announcement will be made during the next school board meeting.

“There’s not a pandemic playbook,” Superintendent Steven Cook said. “Knowing that when we make whatever final recommendations that I and my team will be making to the board, there will be people that completely disagree with whatever those points are.”

The district is seeking guidance from state and local health officials.

Cook says he had a great initial conversation with Deschutes County Public Health last week, but masks are not the only COVID-related issues that need sorting out.

“We’ve got to figure out the path forward on things like quarantining,” Cook said. “What happens if our county transmission rates go up?”

Coming Soon
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?
Should students be required to wear masks this fall?

While an official decision has not been made yet, masks are recommended for Bend-La Pine summer school students in grades 6-12 and required for grades K-5.

“It varies between masking everybody, masking only unvaccinated, and masking just our younger students who haven’t had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet,” Melissa Barnes Dholakia, school board member said. “So we are weighing that guidance from a variety of different health professionals.”

Cook would not say which way he or the school board is leaning based on the guidance they have been given so far.

Barnes Dholakia says she will agree with what health officials think is best.

“You’re going to have to stay tuned,” Cook said. “We’ll make that decision once we get more dialogue with our partners.”

The Redmond School District recently announced masks will not be required this fall, but Bend-La Pine officials say that will not factor into their decision.

Board members are looking towards other large districts, similar to Bend-La Pine, as an example.

The next school board meeting will be August 10th at 5:30 p.m. in the Bend High School auditorium.