Charges added for men in Umapine woman's death

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PENDLETON — Three defendants face multiple murder charges related to the death of Joyce Key, 80, of Umapine.

Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus brought new cases Monday and Tuesday against Matthew Raymond Hermann, 20, Caleb Leon John Scott, 21, and Jacob Lee White, 19, all from the Walla Walla area.

Hermann was charged in court Tuesday with:

  • Five counts of aggravated murder.
  • Five of murder.
  • Three of first-degree robbery.
  • Two of second-degree robbery.
  • One of first-degree kidnapping.
  • One of first-degree burglary.
  • One count of second-degree theft.

The five different murder counts stem from accusations Hermann committed murder while committing other crimes, such as robbery, kidnapping, burglary and theft.

The state accused the trio of concocting a plan around Jan. 29 to rob the home of Key, who lived alone in the unincorporated community near Milton-Freewater. The three left Key bloodied and unconscious in her kitchen, according to court documents. She died Aug. 3. Her son, Douglas Key, recently testified his mother never regained her faculties after the assault.

Hermann was the leader of the criminal plan, according to statements from Scott and White. They each face three counts of murder and one count each of first- and second-degree robbery, second-degree kidnapping and first-degree burglary.

Hermann’s attorney, Christopher Burris, sought to delay entering a plea for his client because of the 1,753 pages of information Primus provided about the case. Circuit Court Judge Brauer of the 6th Judicial District entered a not guilty plea on Hermann’s behalf.

Brauer also entered a not guilty plea Tuesday on behalf of Scott after his attorney, Kara Davis, asked for more time to review case documents. She also said medical issues could play a role in the defense.

The district attorney brought the new charges Monday against White, who arrived in the county jail from from Boise. He also entered pleas of not guilty to each count.

His attorney, Brendon Alexander of Bend, told the court Tuesday over the phone that he wants to hand the case to a lawyer who contracts with the state to handle murder charges. Brauer rescheduled the matter for Wednesday afternoon.

White also appeared via video from the jail.

Hermann and Scott also will have hearings for the court to consider the evidence against them. Scott’s hearing is Oct. 11 and Hermann’s is Nov. 12.

Burris’ co-counsel, Mark Rader of Ontario, also filed a motion Tuesday to seek a new judge. Hermann believes “he cannot have a fair and impartial trial” with Brauer, according to the document.

Oregon law requires the court allow the action unless Brauer or Judge Ron Pahl, the district’s presiding judge, challenges the motion. Such challenges are uncommon. Defendants in Oregon can seek new judges no more than two times.

Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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