Beating suspect indicted on murder charge
At the request of Deputy District Attorney Alicia Eagan, Easterday ordered Brewer held without bail. Court-appointed defense attorney Michael Finch of McMinnville told the court he anticipated the no-bail stipulation, based on the nature of the case.
McKenzie, 51, succumbed to his injuries on May 16 at Salem Hospital. A physician said he sustained severe blows to the head and face, consistent with an attack with a hammer.
Brewer, also 51, was originally charged with one count of first-degree assault, with bail set at $150,000. That was upgraded to murder after McKenzie’s death.
Finch asked the court to allow him at least 60 days to study the case before scheduling any proceedings. He said it will take him a while to review all of the prosecution evidence and get a “full grasp” of all the details.
Easterday complied, scheduling Brewer’s next appearance for 3 p.m. Monday, July 28.
When Sheridan Fire District medical personnel arrived at the facility about 3:45 the morning of May 14, they found McKenzie lying on the bloody floor of his room, near a bloodstained claw hammer. They transported him to Salem Hospital by ambulance.
Sheriff’s detective Kevin Gardner detailed the incident this way in a probable cause affidavit:
About 4:30 a.m., Gardner and another detective went to Brewer’s room to interview him.
He was highly intoxicated, to the point where he had difficulty maintaining his balance and speaking coherently. He admitted, “I’m drunk as a skunk.”
Gardner said Brewer had bruises and abrasions on his abdomen and right foot, and a cut on the foot. He said Brewer was either unable or unwilling to provide a logical explanation for the injuries.
At one point, he said he had caused them himself. Then, he said he had sustained them during consensual sexual activity with his boyfriend.
He also said he might have been struck with a broom. And he could have sustained the cut on his foot walking on gravel.
Without prompting, Brewer asked the detectives what had happened to “Ronnie.” Gardner told him that’s what they were trying to determine.
Brewer blurted out, “He’s dead.” Asked for clarification, he responded, “Nothing.”
However, he went on to describe an interaction he’d had with the victim the evening of Tuesday, May 13.
He told detectives he went to McKenzie’s room about 7:15 p.m. to smoke marijuana. He said he wanted to get high because he was upset, and he knew McKenzie had some marijuana.
He said he wasn’t mad at McKenzie, insisting, “I love him.” He went on to inquire about McKenzie’s condition, asking, “Is he dead?”
He told Gardner not to bother asking him what happened to McKenzie, because he didn’t know.
However, he admitted being involved in a verbal altercation Tuesday night, after McKenzie had been “rude” to him. He told detectives he had responded by getting down on his knees in front of McKenzie, who was seated in a wheelchair, and challenging him to engage in sex.
During the interview, Gardner said, he also made some “disjointed statements” about holding a black belt in martial arts.
Asked if McKenzie owned a hammer, Brewer said he did. He said McKenzie had gotten one from a “church lady” about two weeks earlier.
The resident Brewer described as his boyfriend said he saw Brewer and McKenzie in the hallway near their rooms when he went to get his medications about 1 a.m.
He said he returned about 15 minutes later, and Brewer joined him shortly afterward. But he denied Brewer’s assertion that they had engaged in sex that evening.
The boyfriend said he noticed cuts on Brewer’s right foot and toes. And the boyfriend said that while he was cleaning Brewer’s wounds, Brewer blurted out, “I think I killed him.”
The boyfriend said he didn’t take the comment seriously, given his friend’s level of intoxication. He said he just wanted to get some sleep, so let it go.
Detectives later placed Brewer under arrest and transported him to the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office.
He was secured in an interview room while awaiting transfer to the jail. Even though he was not being interviewed, he talked and sang to himself extensively, mentioning having beaten McKenzie, but not meaning to hurt him that badly.