Mother of woman, 23, killed by campus security guard cries as she recalls wanting to ask his colleagues why they didn’t report ‘red flags’ such as his fascination with corpses – but then saw the ‘hurt and guilt in their eyes’
- Kaylee Anne Sawyer, 23, was killed as she walked home from a bachelorette party in Bend, Oregon, in 2016
- Edwin Lara, 35, a security guard for Central Oregon Community College, pleaded guilty to kidnapping murder in 2018 and was sentenced to life
- Family was awarded $2million from Central Oregon Community College in July
- Her mother Julie tells Dateline that she wanted to ask Lara’s colleagues why they didn’t report his ‘red flags’ noted in their ‘disturbing depositions’
- This included Lara’s fascination with dead bodies and that he once pinned a woman to a wall
- Julie didn’t ask the question because she could see the ‘guilt in their eyes’
- After Sawyer’s murder Lara went on a two day crime spree in Yreka, California, where he ‘shot a man in a motel and kidnapped people’
- He was finally arrested after a high speed chase along with second kidnap victim Aundrea Elizabeth Maes, 19, also in the vehicle
- Oregan has since passed Kaylee’s Law, legislation protecting students and citizens by clearing defining the role of campus public safety employees
- Dateline will air on Friday at 9pm ET, 8pm CT
Kaylee Anne Sawyer, 23, was a student at Central Oregon Community College when she was abducted and murdered by Edwin Lara, a campus security guard, in 2016
The mother of a college student who was murdered by a campus security guard four years ago cried as she revealed she wanted to ask his colleagues why they didn’t report ‘red flags’ in the killer’s behavior.
Kaylee Anne Sawyer, 23, was walking home from a bachelorette party in Bend, Oregon, in July, 2016, after an argument with her boyfriend, when she came across campus security guard Edwin Lara.
Lara, now 35, who was wearing a security uniform from Central Oregon Community College (COCC) resembling an official police outfit and driving a campus security SUV with plexiglass separating the front and back seats and auto-locking doors, offered her a ride.
Sawyer, a COCC student and dental assistant, was held in the back of his vehicle, unable to escape, and driven to a secluded parking lot, where she was raped and killed.
Her body was found in a ravine between Sisters and Redmond.
Her mother Julie told Dateline how she cried hearing the ‘disturbing depositions’ given by Lara’s colleagues, who were aware of his fascination with dead bodies, as well as showing nude and pornographic photos and videos of himself to people and that he had once pinned a female cadet to a wall, but did nothing.
Kaylee Sawyer’s mother Julie told Dateline Friday that the killer’s colleagues had ‘tears in their eyes’ during their depositions and kept apologizing to her
Julie said she wanted to ask them why they didn’t report Lara’s ‘disturbing’ behavior but that she didn’t want to add to their guilt and pain
The Sawyer family’s attorney, Tim Williams, said that Lara’s colleagues described ‘red flag’ behavior including pinning a female cadet to a wall, that should have been reported
Edwin Lara, 35, of Bend, Oregon, initially claimed he had hit Sawyer ‘accidentally’ but later pleaded guilty to kidnap and murder in 2018 and was sentenced to life
The bereaved mother added that she wanted to question them over their failure to report him before she saw the ‘guilt in their eyes’.
‘It was really hard because at the end of these depositions they all asked to come and say something to me,’ she said.
Julie continued: ‘They would have tears in their eyes and a lot of them just kept apologizing and I could have asked them at that point: “why didn’t you say something?” But when saw the hurt and guilt in their eyes… I didn’t want to add to that.’
The family’s attorney, Tim Williams, told Dateline in one example: ‘He had physically pinned a female cadet within the building of CPS and forced her to reveal her religious beliefs in great detail.’
COCC college, which declined an interview for Dateline, admitted no wrong doing but awarded the family $2million in compensation in July this year; the maximum allowed by the state.
The college later released a statement in which they sent their ‘deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Kaylee Sawyer’ and noted changes to their security teams including altering vehicles and uniforms so they look dissimilar to actual law enforcement, discontinuing the use of handcuffs and implementing background checks and criminal history checks.
Kaylee Sawyer was walking alone in the middle of the night on the edge of the town of Bend, Oregon, after getting into an argument with her boyfriend, Cameron Riemhofer. The pair are pictured above
Sawyer’s hobbies included photography, drawing, poetry and snowboarding
Sawyer’s boyfriend of two years, Cameron Riemhofer, told police she had gone out for a friend’s bachelorette party on Sunday night, according to a report in Koin 6.
Riemhofer said he got a call just after midnight July 23, 2016, from Sawyer to pick her up.
He said she was drunk and they stood in the parking lot of their apartment complex arguing before Riemhofer went inside. He told investigators Sawyer was gone when he returned.
Riemhofer said he called and texted her and around 1am saying ‘Good bye’ before turning her cellphone off, according to court documents.
Police believe Sawyer had encountered Lara, who has an associate degree in criminal justice and was wearing a security guard uniform that the family claim was ‘strikingly similar’ to law enforcement, leading Sawyer to believe she was ‘safe’ to accept a ride.
Lara’s wife, Isabel Ponce-Lara, who had recently become a police officer in Bend, told cops that Lara had told her that he ‘accidentally’ hit Sawyer with his patrol vehicle, killing her, then panicked and hid her body, according to documents filed in court.
After tearfully telling his story to her, Lara drove off, said his wife, who was worried that he was suicidal.
Police went to their home and found Sawyer’s blood-soaked purse, bloody women’s and men’s clothing and other belongings in a shed.
He later drove to California, car-jacked a vehicle, kidnapped a second woman, Aundrea Elizabeth Maes, 19, from Salem, Oregon, and went on a crime spree for two days until his capture.
He later shot a man at a Super 8 motel in Yreka, California, who was critically injured but recovered, before being arrested.
Maes was initially taken into custody on suspicion of attempted murder and kidnapping in relation to the mayhem in Yreka but was later released and all charges were dropped.
An officer pictured at the scene of a Super 8 Motel in Yreka, California. The mayhem erupted near dawn on Tuesday in Yreka when a man was shot in the stomach at the motel at around 5am
Lara was working as a security guard at Central Oregon Community College where uniforms were said by the family’s attorney to be ‘strikingly similar’ to law enforcement
COCC college admitted no wrong-doing but paid a $2million settlement to the Sawyer family inJuly this year
The family of Sawyer filed a federal lawsuit against COCC in July 2017 arguing that Sawyer accepted a ride from Lara, believing he was a police officer she could trust. Instead, she became trapped in a patrol car equipped with a cage and doors that wouldn’t open from the inside.
The attorneys said COCC officers were instead given uniforms that were strikingly similar to the Bend Police. They were armed with pepper spray, ballistic vests, body cameras, handcuffs, and a vehicle with a cage.
The attorneys said they uncovered serious red flags from Edwin Lara that COCC could have acted upon. They argued that the college’s campus safety department knew about Lara’s fascination with dead bodies and that he showed nude photographs and pornographic videos of himself and the woman he was having an affair with to his coworkers.
They said Lara’s mannerisms were so alarming that one female cadet refused to ride in the same car as him.
‘COCC had the opportunity to discover that Lara once plotted a murder and struggled with an urge to kill most of his life. This tragedy will forever resonate in the heart of our community,’ attorney Williams said.