News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Murder suspect claims self-defense, requests release

A Mill City man arrested in March for allegedly killing his roommate is claiming self-defense and has asked the court to release him from jail pending the outcome of the case.

On May 1 attorney Bryan Orrio submitted a motion for the release of defendant Benjamin Lyle Harris, 50, who has been charged with second-degree murder in Linn County Circuit Court.

Harris was arrested March 21 for allegedly killing Brian Rendon, 52, of Mill City, the night before at a home where the two men resided on the 300 block of NW Alder Street.

Orrio’s motion said there was a “reasonable basis for self defense” and that the evidence against his client does not clearly support allegations of murder.

A hearing to argue the matter was set for May 9 before Judge Rachel Kittson-MaQatish, after The Canyon Weekly print deadline. Coverage of the hearing can be found at canyonweekly.com and in the May 17 paper.

Harris is also expected to be arraigned during the hearing on an updated charge filed April 2 to reflect that the crime technically occurred in Marion County. Linn County has assumed jurisdiction as the Linn County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) was the first on scene and the crime was within a mile of the county line, according to court records.

According to a news release published March 21 by LCSO, deputies received reports around 11 p.m. March 20 of a shooting at the residence in question. Upon arrival they found Reardon deceased.

Following an investigation they arrested Harris for the shooting. He has remained in the Linn County Jail without bail since his arrest.

A funeral for Rendon was held April 13 in Stayton. Family remembered him as a lover of art and nature who enjoyed fishing and exploring the outdoors with his dogs.

A possible motive for the shooting was not detailed in the news release. Under Oregon law, second-degree murder is charged when a death results from recklessness, during the commission of a separate serious felony, or due to “extreme emotional disturbance.”

In Oregon, murder suspects must be held without bail unless the evidence does not clearly support guilt or a strong presumption of guilt. Defendants may request a release hearing to challenge the evidence, and if the burden of clear or strongly-presumed guilt is not met the court may allow release.

In the May 1 motion, Orrio said not only should his client be released for lack of evidence of a crime but also because Harris is wheelchair-bound and dependent on disability services from the Veterans Administration. 

Orrio said, if Harris remains in jail longer than 60 days, he could lose access to these benefits, and may also lose his home and personal property. Orrio said Harris is not a flight risk and does not pose a danger to the public, and urged the court to grant his release.

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