BAKER CITY — A Heppner man arrested near Baker City Monday night on charges of stealing two vehicles and attempting to elude police is a suspect in a Walla Walla, Washington, murder investigation, according to a press release issued this afternoon by the Walla Walla Police Department.
Colby James Hedman, 23, is being held at the Baker County Jail on two counts of unlawful use of a motor vehicle, attempting to elude police, reckless driving, two counts of criminal trespassing and one count of hit and run with property damage.
Walla Walla police identified the homicide victim as Kyle Jordan Martz, 35, an employee at Whitman College.
An autopsy will be scheduled by the Walla Walla County Coroner’s office to determine cause of death, the press release said.
The Walla Walla investigation began around 6 p.m. Monday when police responded to a report of a missing roommate from a residence in the 300 block of South Fourth Avenue in Walla Walla. While searching the property, Martz’s body was located and his vehicle was found to be missing.
Approximately five hours later, Oregon State Police notified Walla Walla investigators that the victim’s vehicle had been found in the Baker City area and that Hedman was being held at the Baker County Jail.
Walla Walla Police detectives responded to Baker City and determined that Hedman was a suspect in the homicide. Hedman is believed to be a transient, the press release stated. Police do not believe Hedman and Martz knew each other.
Hedman was arrested in Baker City after Robert Borders, of Baker City, reported the theft of a tan Ford pickup shortly before 11 p.m. Monday from his home, according to state court documents and a news release from Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash. Deputies responded to Borders’ home and found Hedman on the freeway side of Old Trail Road, where he failed to follow commands from the deputies and fled on foot.
Oregon State Police and Baker City Police responded and helped deputies search for Hedman. But he circled around and returned to Borders’ home, according to the sheriff, and took a yellow Jeep Wrangler. One of the deputies noticed the vehicle speeding away and followed it on Old Trail Road.
Hedman drove through a fence separating the freeway and Old Trail Road, then drove to the freeway onramp at Chandler Lane crossing at milepost 298, about 5 miles north of Baker City. Ash reported Hedman tried to turn west onto the eastbound travel lanes, but two state police troopers used their cars to block Hedman’s progress down the highway.
The police cars and the Jeep sustained minor damage in the collision, and Hedman suffered minor injuries from broken glass, according to Ash. The troopers took Hedman into custody without further incident at 11:10 p.m. Authorities rerouted eastbound traffic through a short detour during the investigation.