BEND, Ore. — Almost three years after he murdered Kaylee Sawyer, Edwin Lara was back in court in Eugene, Oregon in April 2019. This time, he was facing charges connected to the kidnapping of Aundreah Maes.
The Urge to Kill podcast team attended the hearing. We couldn't bring in cameras or recording equipment, but we met Kaylee's family and saw Edwin in person for the very first time.
Aundreah said she considered not coming to the sentencing but quickly changed her mind.
"I wasn’t even going to be there that day, I didn’t want to see him or waste more of my time to give him," she said. "[But then] I was like, I’m just gonna go just so I don't look back and say, 'I wish I would've gone and gotten that closure.' I didn’t want regrets so I went. I was just like, you know what, I want him to see my face one last time before he’s locked away forever so he has this image of me in his head of who I am and I’m a strong person."
Aundreah told Edwin, and the court, she didn't want to be seen as a victim for the rest of her life.
"I said, you tried to paint me as this victim and this weak person and that’s not who I am," she said. "I am a survivor, I did conquer you and I defeated you. I am moving past this and moving on with my life. My mom raised me to be this beautiful, strong, confident person and I feel a part of that was taken from me when all of this happened. Now I am starting to re-find myself and regain that person again."
Once Aundreah finished, the judge handed Edwin another life sentence, to be served concurrently with his sentence for Kaylee’s murder. The prosecutor referred to Edwin as “one of the most dangerous men to even walk through that courthouse.”
Edwin’s attorney claimed the crime spree was an enigma and gave a possible explanation for why Edwin did what he did. The attorney cited Edwin’s alleged Myotonic Dystrophy, a genetic degenerative cognitive brain condition.
The lawyer didn’t elaborate much in court, other than to say Edwin had undergone a recent evaluation that showed the brain condition, and that his mother also has it.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, DM is a form of Muscular Dystrophy and can affect muscles and other organs. The term “Myotonic” refers to the inability to relax muscles at will, according to the MDA. The organization goes on to say that DM can cause learning disabilities, apathetic demeanor and impairments in cognitive functioning.
We called Edwin's defense attorney a couple of months after this court date. He declined to speak on the record and said he couldn't release Edwin's medical evaluation because of HIPPA laws.
Next, we called Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, where Edwin has been jailed for the past few months. We requested to speak with him and were told to fill out a formal request.
A couple of weeks later, we were told our request was denied. An administrator said they met with several people who see Edwin on a regular basis and decided an interview wouldn't be in his best interest. Edwin was never directly asked whether or not he wanted to participate.
The only reporter we know of who has spoken with Edwin was Keith Morrison of Dateline NBC. We talked to Keith about how the interview went.
"Edwin had led us to believe he might actually reveal something or tell the truth finally, as if he wanted to come clean. That of course, wasn’t the case," Keith explained. "If he ever had any inclination in the first place, I rather doubt he did, frankly. He wanted to make himself look less guilty. He wanted to try to blame others, and he wanted to throw shade on Aundreah Maes, which was among the most disgusting things I had heard in a long time. At that point I realized, I’m not even sure why we’re doing this. He’s just baiting you or using you for whatever reason. He was trying to use us, and this is not uncommon, people go to prison and stew about things and fret about, think they have somehow think they have been unfairly treated. They then, after refusing to speak to people like me, say I want my say now."
In fact, Edwin had used a similar lie during his court hearing in April 2019 -- alleging he knew Aundreah prior to the crimes. Aundreah denies this, and police say there's no evidence to back up Edwin's claim.
Edwin's charges related to the crimes committed in California are still "pending" and it's unlikely he'll ever face those charges. He's in prison serving two concurrent life sentences.
For Kaylee's family and friends, the void from her loss is still immense. Jamie and Crystal Sawyer went to trauma therapy.
"You can’t have pride. You can't just be tough and think you're gonna get through this and you're just going to bury it and go back to your daily grind. Not going to happen. It's going to catch up with, even if you can pull it off for a little while, it'll bury you or it's gonna hit you like a freight train," they said.
As a way to keep Kaylee's legacy alive, her mom started KK's Readers, after Kaylee's childhood nickname. The program donates the Dr. Seuss book Oh the Places You'll Go! to children in Head Start pre-school classrooms across central Oregon.
Kaylee's family also advocated for change on a state level with Kaylee's Law, which was approved unanimously by the state House and Senate.
It mandates stricter vetting of private security officers, like the ones at Central Oregon Community College. Campuses are now required to conduct nationwide background checks on officers, and their uniforms must look different than those of police officers. The law also requires their vehicles have GPS devices and video systems, and prohibits them from having a red and blue light bar on the top, and a cage inside, like the ones in police cars.
Her family continues to push for Kaylee's Law on a nationwide level.
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.