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Mount St. Helens murder trial to begin Monday

Mount St. Helens murder trial to begin Monday

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A man accused of killing a Newberg, Ore., man near Mount St. Helens a year ago is set to go on trial on murder charges in Skamania County on Monday.

Prosecutors allege Damian Belander, 22, of Dayton, Ore., killed Brian Bodle sometime between Jan. 23 and 24 last year.

The Skamania County sheriff’s office began investigating the case when a driver near the intersection of Forest Service Roads 83 and 90 south of Mount St. Helens called 911 on Jan. 24, 2019. The driver said he came across a body lying near the passenger side of a burnt minivan on the side of the road. The area is about two miles south of Ape Cave and six miles east of Cougar, Wash.

A detective determined that the body appeared to have been dragged about 25 to 30 feet from the vehicle. On the ground near the vehicle was a license plate returning to a 2002 Plymouth Voyager registered to a man from Lafayette, Oregon.

An autopsy determined that Bodle appeared to have been killed by blunt force trauma from three blows to his head. And the investigation concluded he likely died at or very close to where his body was found.

The detective also learned the minivan had been involved in a reported robbery and shooting in Yamhill County involving Belander.

Additionally, Belander had reportedly been stopped by Grand Ronde tribal police on Jan. 20 while driving the minivan. He later allegedly assaulted the registered owner of the minivan — his mother’s boyfriend — sometime in Yamhill County the night or early morning after Bodle’s killing, according to a detective report.

The detective spoke with a Mount Angel, Ore., woman who said Bodle came to her home the night of Jan. 22-23, 2019, asking for a ride. She called a friend, Belander, to give him a ride. Belander arrived in a red minivan, she told detectives, and Belander and Bodle drove away at about 3 a.m., according to the report.

In the afternoon of Jan. 23, Belander messaged her that Bodle stole the van and took off while Belander was using a bathroom in Portland, the woman said.

A witness and Facebook messenger records indicated Bodle had intended to purchase heroin in Portland, and Belander allegedly said over Facebook that he had “some black (heroin)” in his possession the afternoon of Jan. 24. Yamhill County detectives told the Skamania County investigator that Bodle was “well known in the narcotics community as a dealer and had recently made some transactions which aggravated the buyers.”

Belander was arrested on a robbery warrant later that month, and detectives interviewed him in Yamhill County. He said he didn’t know Bodle, had never driven a minivan and didn’t even know where Skamania County is.

Belander now faces four murder charges related to the killing: Premeditated first-degree murder, first-degree murder in the course of another crime, second-degree murder and second-degree murder in the course of another crime.

Those charges represent “four different theories of how (the alleged murder) could have gone down,” Skamania prosecuting attorney Adam Kick said Friday. Prosecutors will aim to convince a jury to convict Belander on any of those charges.

Belander also faces a single second-degree arson charge over allegedly burning the 2002 Plymouth Voyager.

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