BEND, Ore. — Urge to Kill is a KGW podcast following the rape and murder of Kaylee Sawyer. After celebrating a bachelorette party in downtown Bend, Oregon in July of 2016, Kaylee disappeared in the middle of the night. The horrific details of her brutal rape and killing shook the residents of the quiet town in the Pacific Northwest. Her murderer would go on to terrorize several other families in a multi-state crime spree. He said he had the “urge to kill.” Our team sat down with all of his victims who were lucky to get out alive.
Kaylee Sawyer had grown up in the quiet town of Bend, Oregon. It's a town for skiing and beautiful views. She knew it like the back of her hand.
When she went barhopping with friends for a bachelorette party in July of 2016 no one was worried because Bend is a peaceful town.
But her friends and family didn’t expect that Kaylee would be snatched into the darkness by a stranger. They didn’t know he was lurking, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, with an urge to kill.
Kaylee grew up in a blended family; her parents separated when she was young, remarried, and had several new additions to the family. At just 23 years old, Kaylee was the oldest, the only girl, and a shining light during any family gathering.
“When she was little, she couldn’t say Kaylee Sawyer, so when you would ask her what her name was, she would say, ‘KK Fawyer,’” recalled her mom, Juli Van Cleave.
Kaylee worked as a dental assistant at Aubrey Dental but had recently re-enrolled at Central Oregon Community College. She lived near campus with her longtime boyfriend, Camron Reimhofer. The two had been together for two years.
Her parents said they could see her having a future with Camron.
On the night of Saturday, July 24, 2016, Kaylee went out in downtown Bend with several girlfriends for a bachelorette party. She wore a black dress, brown boots and carried a green purse.
After a few hours of drinking, Kaylee’s friends noticed she was dancing with a guy at a bar who was not her boyfriend. She eventually sent Camron a text around midnight, asking him to pick her up from the bar.
The couple got into a spat on the way home. When they arrived at their apartment, the fight continued. Camron went upstairs. He told Kaylee to meet him up there when she had cooled off.
“Kaylee did go for walks when she would get mad, that was kind of her way of working things out, so I wasn't alarmed about that,” said Van Cleave
After several minutes of waiting for Kaylee to come upstairs, Camron became worried and texted her around 12:30 a.m.:
Camron: Where are you? Please come home and talk to me. At least you're being unfair.
Kaylee: Are you kidding? What a joke. I'm sorry I'm not good enough for you.
Camron: I don't get how you can say that.
Kaylee: If you wanted me, you could have, but you don't care if you cared it even a little bit, you’d know where I am. Sorry, I'm not as important as your phone.
Camron: Kaylee, please just come home to be with me. I don't want to play this game. I'll start searching, but please help me out.
Kaylee: My phone's about to die.
Camron: Please don't do this to me. I apologize for being upset when I picked you up. I just drove up and down College Way really slow. I didn't see you and I don't know where else to go. Just come back.
Kaylee: Are you kidding? Because that's bull****. Goodbye. Phone off.
Camron: Kaylee please.
Camron drove up and down College Way looking for Kaylee before returning to their apartment for the night. He was confident that she would come home and so he went to sleep.
Come morning, Kaylee was nowhere to be found. Camron tried to call her and he went to her friend’s house to ask if Kaylee had come over in the night.
It was then that Camron decided he needed to call someone else: Kaylee’s dad.
Her dad, Jamie Sawyer, and his wife, Crystal Sawyer, were in church at the time.
“We were sitting in church and I kept feeling [Jamie’s] phone, buzz and buzz and I'm like, ‘Who is calling you? Who is going on?’” said Crystal.
Jamie said, “Cam can’t find Kaylee.”
By Sunday afternoon, there was still nothing. No texts, no calls, and no sightings of Kaylee.
“Her phone would just go straight to voicemail over and over and over...and then it just... stopped,” said Crystal.
By that time, Kaylee’s mom had been called. She and Kaylee were close, and it was entirely out of character for her to have not heard from Kaylee.
Camron called 911 to report that she was missing.
Juli talked with a friend from high school who helped create a missing poster for Kaylee that was widely shared on social media. Word started to get out.
But as time ticked by, Juli’s concern became palpable. She worried Camron’s initial 911 call wasn’t enough, so she called police herself and said Kaylee had a history of seizures.
It was a white lie – Kaylee had suffered from a seizure before, but it had been a long time since her health scare and it was a well-managed issue.
“I really never believed it was a medical issue. I just said that to the police to take it seriously and not have to wait 48 hours,” said Van Cleave.
Reporting an adult missing can be tricky because they don’t owe anyone an explanation if they decide to take off. Adults can go off the grid if they want but Juli knew this was long-past any ‘blowing off steam’ period.
Kaylee’s parents and Camron met up with a police officer at Camron and Kaylee’s apartment while various family and friends searched the area nearby for any sign of Kaylee.
Police were pinging Kaylee’s phone and reaching out to her friends to see if she had just gone somewhere else.
And of course, they were investigating their first logical lead: Kaylee’s boyfriend Camron. He had been the last person to see her before she went missing. But there was also that boy she was dancing with at the club. Had she called him? Police investigated but time continued ticking by.
Camron answered all the police’s questions. He was worried sick about Kaylee.
"He was forthright with us the entire time,” said Lieutenant Devin Lewis with the Redmond Police Department. “It's hard to put into words, but you do this long enough and sometimes you can just tell when, like the fear or the sadness is genuine. He truly had no idea where she was... he appeared truthfully scared and frightened and completely upset about what was happening.”
Next, detectives looked for the man Kaylee was briefly dancing with at the bar. When they located him, it was another dead end. He admitted to dancing and flirting with Kaylee, but that’s as far as it went.
So police were left with nothing. They thought Kaylee maybe just went off the grid for a couple of days.
“Adults have the freedom to do what they want. They can fall off the face of the earth,” said Lewis.
But Lewis knew if someone had a job they cared about, it was likely they would show up for it. Kaylee was due at work as a dental assistant at Aubrey Dental the following morning. Police were hoping they would find Kaylee there.
That Monday, Lewis remembered getting a call that put a lump in his throat.
“I remember the lieutenant of our detective unit at the time called me early on and just said, ‘[Kaylee] didn't show up for work this morning’ and I was, like, ‘Damn it,’” Lewis said. “Based on what I heard at that point, that seemed like it would be very out of character. She was very proud of that job. She really liked the people she worked with. It definitely wasn’t a good sign.”
Detectives started looking for pings from Kaylee’s phone, which were shown moving in and around different parts of Bend and nearby towns.
Unbeknownst to detectives, Kaylee has been dead for more than 24 hours.
Officers raced out to one of the pings only to be disappointed. They were seeing movement from an old phone that was registered to Kaylee. It was being used by a friend as a tablet.
They were no closer to finding her.
Police say she left the parking lot of the apartment she shared with Camron. It’s unknown how long she walked, but she came upon a stranger in a marked SUV. The car had a light bar on the top and a push bumper, the kind you would see on a police car.
It also had reflective writing on the side.
A Central Oregon Community College public safety officer named Edwin Lara was behind the wheel.
To this day, it’s unknown exactly how or why Kaylee got into that car.
But once Kaylee was inside, Lara propositioned her for sex and offered her money in exchange. When she declined, he began to comment on how she was dressed and began insulting her.
Kaylee knew she was in trouble. Then Lara took her phone and her purse and put them up in the front with him.
Kaylee tried to get out of the car and yelled for help, but it was to no avail. This particular COCC vehicle was the only car in the fleet equipped with a cage that separated the front and back seats much like a police car, and doors that locked from the inside to keep the occupant from opening them.
She was trapped.
As she screamed Lara got scared someone on campus would hear her. He got out of the car and choked her until she was unconscious.
Lara drove them up a dark and winding road to an isolated parking lot. During the day, lot B12 was seldom used but at night it was completely vacant. It was so far from campus that no one would hear Kaylee screaming.
She regained consciousness and began panicking again.
Lara tried his best to silence her.
But she fought. She reached up through the cage reaching desperately for the switches that controlled the lights and sirens. She was trying to get someone to see them, to know that something was wrong.
Lara pulled over again and opened the back door and choked her until she was unconscious for a second time. He dragged her out of the backseat and into lot B12 where he grabbed a boulder and smashed it into her head.
When he thought she was dead, he raped her.
But Kaylee was still alive, so Edwin dragged her body behind a tree, grabbed a larger rock bludgeoned Kaylee to death.
He left Kaylee’s body in that parking lot to go back to the main campus to shower and clean up his campus car.
He even checked in with a co-worker, who would later tell police he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
After Lara cleaned up, he got into his personal car, a Nissan Altima, and drove back up to B12. He wrapped Kaylee’s head into a plastic bag, because it was bleeding so profusely, and loaded her lifeless body into the trunk of his car.
He dropped her body in a ditch in Redmond and went home to get into bed with his wife Isabel Ponce-Lara, a Bend police officer.
Next time on Urge to Kill:
Episode 2 introduces Edwin’s wife and details her confession to police. All while they are getting information from Isabel, police find damning evidence at the Lara home. A second victim becomes involved as Edwin evades the authorities.
Listen to it starting Nov. 12.
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