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

Judge rejects self-defense argument in murder case

A Linn County judge has denied the release of a Mill City man charged with murder, saying the defendant’s claims of self-defense were contradicted by the evidence.

In an opinion signed May 17, Judge Rachel Kittson-MaQatish said “proof is evident” that Benjamin Lyle Harris, 50, wrongfully killed Brian Daniel Rendon, 52, on March 20.

Harris has been held in the Linn County Jail without bail on a charge of second-degree murder since his arrest March 21. On May 1 he submitted a motion for a release hearing, claiming there was more evidence of self-defense than of murder.

The hearing was held May 9 in Linn County Circuit Court, during which Harris claimed he shot Rendon while in fear for his physical safety. The basis for the claim was an alleged physical altercation outside Harris’ home between Rendon and another party just prior to the shooting, said the judge’s opinion.

Kittson-MaQatish took the matter under advisement and on May 17 said other evidence from the hearing contradicted Harris’ claims.

The judge said one witness testified there was no fight outside Harris’ home that night and Rendon was shot “immediately upon entry” into the house, which the two men shared on the 300 block of NW Alder Street. The same witness also said she did not hear any exchange of words between Harris and Rendon before the shooting.

The opinion also said Rendon was found lying face-down in the doorway and had been shot in the back and had “no visible wounds to his front side.”

Additionally Harris testified he did not see a firearm in Rendon’s possession at the time of the shooting, said the opinion, and had never seen Rendon armed with anything more dangerous than a pocketknife. Harris also testified that, despite feeling threatened by the alleged confrontation outside his home, he did not call 911 but instead “continued to clean his rifle,” said the opinion.

“There is no dispute that there is direct evidence that defendant shot and killed Brian Rendon with a rifle in defendant’s home,” said Kittson-MaQatish. “… The court finds the proof is evident and the presumption strong that defendant committed murder in the second degree.”

Harris is due back in court June 21 for a status check hearing. If convicted he faces up to life in prison.

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