Edwin Lara
Greg Barnette/The Record Searchlight/AP
Christine Pelisek
July 12, 2017 07:46 PM

A former Oregon college security guard accused of murdering a 23-year-old woman allegedly confessed to his role in the slaying, stating he had an “urge to kill.”

Edwin Lara, 32, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder in the death of Kaylee Sawyer, whose body was reportedly found in a canyon on July 26, 2016, two days after she was killed. An autopsy determined she died from blunt force trauma.

Investigators claim that Lara, rattled by what he’d done, fled from Oregon to California on a crime spree soon after he killed Sawyer.

His alleged statements, in which he admitted his role, are in part the focus of a five-day hearing in Deschutes County Circuit Court in Oregon.

His defense is seeking to suppress his confession to police, arguing he was not read his Miranda rights beforehand or granted an attorney after asking for one.

The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty if Lara is convicted.

His trial is scheduled for October 2018. (Prosecutors declined to comment to PEOPLE, citing a longstanding gag order in the case. The defense did not return messages seeking comment.)

Sawyer, who also worked as a dental assistant, vanished near her apartment early on July 24, 2016, after she got into an argument with her boyfriend, authorities have said, according to the Bend Bulletin.

Her apartment was located near Central Oregon Community College, where Lara worked as a security guard and where he was on shift when Sawyer disappeared.

A picture of Kaylee Sawyer is displayed during a news conference in July 2016.
Joe Kline/The Bulletin/AP

At a hearing on Monday that detailed Lara’s alleged spree following Sawyer’s death, Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Gunnels said police found drag marks and blood in a nearby campus parking lot after Sawyer disappeared.

More blood was discovered up a hill in some brush, Gunnels said.

Sawyer’s body was later found in a canyon off a state highway.

Lara’s wife, a police officer, told police her husband was acting strangely when he came home from work the night of Sawyer’s death and she confronted him. Lara allegedly told her that while he was working, he’d hit Sawyer with his car — killing her — and then hid her body, according to statements she made to police in Redmond, Oregon.

He then allegedly armed himself with a 9mm handgun and fled, she said.

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Police went to their home and discovered a bag with Sawyer’s high-heel shoes, her wallet, a blood-stained rock and a clump of hair. Police also discovered blood on Lara’s work boots.

In an apparent confession played in court, Lara allegedly said that after he left his home he drove to a clothing store in Salem, Oregon, about 130 miles away and forced a woman at gunpoint to drive him to California in her car, the Bulletin reports.

The scheme didn’t go off as planned, according to authorities: The car broke down in Yreka, California, where Lara then allegedly broke into a Super 8 motel room and shot a man in the stomach before carjacking a woman and her two teenage grandsons at a gas station.

One of the kidnapped teens later claimed to authorities that Lara confessed some of what he’d done to them, saying that he ran over a girl in Oregon, shot a man in Yreka and had an “urge to kill.”

At one point, Lara — his initial hostage still in tow — dropped off the family of three and then called 911 after he spotted police cars and a helicopter following him, authorities allege. He eventually pulled over and was taken into custody.

A Yreka police spokesman tells PEOPLE Lara was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, kidnapping, carjacking, assault with a firearm on a person and making threats to terrorize in connection with allegedly shooting the man at the Super 8 and abducting the woman and her grandsons.

California prosecutors plan to charge him in those incidents once his murder trial is resolved in Oregon, the police spokesman says.

The Deschutes district attorney’s office says there is also a kidnapping case pending against Lara in Salem, in connection with his alleged abduction of the woman at the clothing store. It is on hold until the outcome of his murder trial.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Adam Battle, who helped take Lara into custody, testified that Lara allegedly told him at the time that he was wanted for the killing in Oregon and the murder of a man in Yreka. (The male gunshot victim had actually survived.)

Lara also allegedly informed Battle that he had on body armor.

When Battled asked him why, he alleged that Lara responded, “I came to throw down.”

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