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KTVZ News Channel 21
Bend man arraigned on murder, manslaughter charges in fatal shooting of Powell Butte man
By Barney Lerten,
(Update: Votruba arraigned)
Remains held without bail, asked to speak at first court appearance, advised not to
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) – A Bend man accused of fatally shooting a Powell Butte man at the victim’s home on Sunday, stealing his car and later engaging in a police chase north of Bend and shooting himself several times was arraigned on murder, manslaughter and other charges Tuesday afternoon.
Crook County Circuit Judge Wade Whiting ordered that Russell Votruba, 42, continue to be held without bail at the county jail, from which he appeared by video link, in the shooting death of Cristopher Hoffman, 41. A formal arraignment was scheduled for Thursday, May 18, after an expected grand jury indictment.
The arraignment was delayed from Monday, when a jail deputy said Votruba was “acting out” and “throwing juice around.”
When the subject of any possible request for release on bail arose Tuesday, Chief Deputy District Attorney Laura Moszer said prosecutors would oppose that, noting that Votruba had 32 previous criminal convictions, including for trespass in Deschutes County and a 1999 felony sex abuse case.
His court-appointed attorney, David Rich, did not waive his right to eventually seek a release hearing.
After the next arraignment was scheduled, and before the hearing concluded, Votruba said, “I’d like to add something, if possible, your honor.”
But Whiting quickly advised: “I recommend you speak with your attorney before any statements in open court.”
“Thank you, your honor,” Votruba responded.
Votruba was transferred from St. Charles Bend to the Crook County Jail early Monday, accused of murder in the shooting death of the Powell Butte man whose car he allegedly stole.
"Inside this residence when our deputies arrived, they went inside and found a deceased subject identified as Christopher Hoffman," 41, of Powell Butte, Lt. Bill Elliott told us at the scene Monday.
Crook County sheriff’s 911 dispatchers got a call shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday saying a man, later identified as Votruba, had called the reporting party and said he had killed at the home Hoffman rented in the 12000 block of Southwest Red Cloud Road in Powell Butte, Elliott said.
The call to 911 came from a family member of the victim, Elliott said. Deputies went to the scene and found the doors to the home were open and located the victim, identified as Hoffman. Elliott said no one else was at the home, where he apparently lived alone.
Investigators quickly determined that the suspect, Votruba, had left the home in the victim's black 2021 BMW SUV.
"The subject was gone when deputies arrived," Elliott said. "A short time later, the Deschutes County Sheriffs Office located a vehicle on (Highway) 97, headed northbound out of Bend."
In an update Monday, sergeant Jason Wall said the sheriff’s office began the pursuit around 5 p.m. after the Powell Butte homicide suspect’s SUV first was spotted on Hunnell Road. He headed north on Highway 97 and sped off when a deputy approached, prompting the pursuit.
Southbound traffic on the highway was stopped as a precaution as the suspect and police headed north.
Wall said deputies set up spike strips near Highway 97 and SW Tomahawk Avenue in an attempt to stop the SUV, deflating some of the tires. But he avoided the spikes near the Yew Avenue exit, when deputies used the Pursuit Immobilization Technique, also known as the PIT maneuver, to stop the SUV.
In that maneuver, a pursuing vehicle forces a fleeing vehicle to turn sideways, causing the driver to lose control and stop.
Skyler Peterman, a Redmond resident, was with his pregnant girlfriend when the chase stopped traffic on Highway 97.
"I went to take the (Redmond) Airport exit and cars were stopped in the highway, north and southbound," he said. "We just didn't feel safe in that moment."
"I mean, I was a little bit scared, honestly," Peterman said. "Just sitting in the right lane. Nobody has come up to tell me what to do (in traffic). I just found out my baby is going to be a girl -- we were super-excited about that."
Wall described the violent end to the chase this way: "As deputies attempted to apprehend the suspect, they heard numerous gunshots from within the vehicle. Votruba had intentionally shot himself numerous times. Deputies preformed emergency lifesaving measures prior to medical personnel arriving."
Medics upon arrival attended to Votruba and took him to St. Charles Bend.
Numerous police and investigators converged in the spot where the pursuit ended west of the Yew Avenue interchange, where crime scene tape encircled the SUV and deputy's patrol vehicle off SW 25th Place and Greens Boulevard.
Votruba was released from the Bend hospital overnight and lodged in the Crook County Jail in Prineville, charged in an initial court filing by District Attorney Kari Hathorn with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful use of a weapon, unauthorized use of a vehicle and felon in possession of a firearm.
The motive and circumstances surrounding the killing are still under investigation.
"With the help of the Major Incident Team, we will get this investigation completed as soon as we can," Elliott told NewsChannel 21.
Peterman added: "I mean, I've lived in Bend my whole life -- I'm second-generation -- and there really isn't police chases around here. That doesn't happen very often."
Votruba was to appear in Whiting’s court Monday afternoon for his initial arraignment, but a deputy told the judge it would need to be delayed a day. Whiting asked if the defendant was refusing to appear, and a jail deputy said “not verbally” -- but that Votruba was “acting out, throwing juice around.”
Elliott said any members of the public who had contact with Votruba or Hoffman between Friday and Sunday is asked to contact the sheriff’s office. The lieutenant said there is a "time window" in which Votruba is unaccounted for, adding, "We may never know."
While Elliott indicated Votruba was from originally from Newport and had ties to the coastal community, the court filing in the murder case listed a Bend address on Northeast Fourth Street.
The Tri-County Major Crime Team was called out to assist in the investigation. Elliott thanked Oregon State Police, the Redmond, Prineville and Bend police departments, Crook County and Redmond Fore and Rescue and the Crook County District Attorney’s Office “for assistance on this complex case.”