BAKER CITY — Pendleton police officers had no idea who Colby James Hedman was when they arrested him June 5 for misdemeanors.
Maybe no one did.
Now Hedman, 23, suspected of killing and dismembering a Whitman College employee on Monday, has been charged with first-degree murder.
Court documents released Tuesday state Hedman admitted to police he struck Kyle J. Martz, 35, with an ax multiple times before stealing his car and fleeing to Baker City, where he was arrested Monday night.
No motive for the killing was provided in the report. Police also reported Hedman and Martz did not know each other.
Police said they found two coolers Monday in a locked garage. The lock had not been on the garage earlier, according to reports. A square shovel, hammer and ax with blood on them were found nearby. Blood and dismembered human remains were found in one of the coolers, records stated.
The incident began around 6 p.m. Monday night when Martz’s roommate called police about suspicious circumstances at their Walla Walla home. The roommate found blood in different parts of the house and noticed a strong smell of bleach, according to documents.
Two people living next door told police they last saw Martz around 10 p.m. Sunday on the back porch, records said. The neighbors also told police they loaned an ax and shovel on Monday to a man in a red shirt, later identified as Hedman, records stated. He allegedly told them he needed the tools for work, records stated. The two then smoked marijuana with Hedman in the afternoon.
Detectives “pinged” Martz’s cell phone near North Powder. Oregon State Police later found and arrested a man matching Hedman’s description Monday night for allegedly stealing at least one vehicle — including the victim’s — and attempting to elude law enforcement in Baker City. The court documents state Hedman confessed to police that he killed Martz “with an ax, hitting him multiple times.” He also told investigators that Martz was “still on the property.”
Hedman ran into police trouble this year when Pendleton officers the morning of June 5 responded to 916 S.W. Court Ave. for a male looking in cars and acting suspicious. Minutes later, a patrol sergeant spotted a person matching the description of the prowler just a block to the west.
Pendleton police later confirmed the suspect was Hedman.
The sergeant tried to stop Hedman, but he took off running north. Officers had no probable cause for an arrest, so they monitored him while the sergeant viewed surveillance video at the reporting business. The police observed Hedman cross private properties, vaulting fences between, according to the police report, and one property owner wanted the cops to arrest him for trespass.
A pursuit ensued, and Hedman ducked into a property on the 300 block of Southwest Third Street. Police found him hiding there in a basement stairwell. He also had four warrants for his arrest — three out of Hermiston and one from the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.
Not one of the six officers at the scene recognized Hedman, according to the report, and police information listed him as a transient from the Heppner area.
Police reported Hedman admitted to being high on heroin and had a syringe filled with a liquid. Medical staff at St. Anthony Hospital cleared Hedman before officers booked him into county jail in Pendleton for trespassing, interfering with police, third-degree escape and second-degree disorderly conduct, all misdemeanors.
The jail gave Hedman the boot on June 25 due to overpopulation. The release agreement noted his charges and a July 8 court proceeding.
Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan said data showed the jail population that day was between 228 to 230. When the population reaches those levels, he said, the jail starts running out of mattresses, space and other resources.
Several elements play a role in who the jail selects for release, from how quickly an inmate can get in front of a judge for an arraignment to the severity of their offenses.
After working through the inmates that have court proceedings, jail staff rely on a matrix to whittle the remaining population. Rowan explained that system takes into account an inmate’s criminal history. The more serious the offense and the greater the number of offenses, the higher the score. Rowan said he has seen scores as high as 2,025 for someone with serious felonies, but an inmate with many misdemeanors might top out at 1,500.
Misdemeanors often produce scores as low as 100 or 200, Rowan said, and the lower an inmate’s score, the more likely the jail considers them for release. Hedman’s history consists of trespass and the like, Rowan said, and before now lacks assaults or other violent crimes.
State court records show Hedman also has local convictions for misdemeanors and low-level felonies going back to 2015.
He completed two years probation in Morrow County for a 2015 menacing charge. That June, he pleaded guilty to attempting to commit a Class A felony and received 30 days in jail and three years probation under community corrections.
He pleaded no contest in 2016 in Wasco County for driving while suspended, which stemmed from ignoring a speeding ticket, according to the Oregon State Police citation. And Hedman pleaded guilty in February 2019 in Morrow County Circuit Court to giving false information to an officer and in a separate case pleaded no contest to driving uninsured.
Martz worked at Whitman for seven years and graduated with a gender and German studies degree in 2007, according to an email to staff from Whitman College President Kathy Murray.
“I am at a loss for words for how to begin to understand this and I am sure many of you feel the same way,” part of Murray’s email said.
Hedman faces Baker County charges of vehicle theft, trespass, reckless driving, criminal mischief and hit-and-run involving property. State court records show he has a hearing July 31 to enter a plea. He has no court proceedings in Walla Walla Superior Court until he leaves Oregon.
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Reporter Emily Thornton contributed to this story.