For now, former professional mixed-martial arts fighter Gerald Strebendt is being held in the Lane County Jail without bail.
That's the way many murder suspects are treated by judges in Oregon's circuit courts.
But an attorney for Strebendt -- who shot and killed a man in Springfield after a January traffic crash -- has asked a judge to schedule a bail hearing that could force Lane County prosecutors to publicly present evidence prior to trial that clearly demonstrates Strebendt committed a crime.
If prosecutors can't meet that burden, the judge should consider setting bail, attorney Mike Arnold argues in documents filed this week in Lane County Circuit Court.
Arnold suggested in the filing that a reasonable bail amount could be between $425,000 and $750,000. Strebendt would need to pay 10 percent of a set amount to be freed from jail prior to trial.
Lane County Chief Deputy District Attorney Patty Perlow could not be reached for comment Wednesday on Arnold's request for the bail hearing.
Springfield police arrested Strebendt last Thursday, hours after a grand jury handed up an indictment that charges him with murdering David Crofut on Jan. 29.
The shooting happened shortly after a minor traffic collision on Bob Straub Parkway involving Strebendt's pickup and Crofut's sport utility vehicle.
Strebendt called 911 before he used a semiautomatic rifle to shoot Crofut, and a dispatcher remained on the line as the incident unfolded, police said. Authorities have declined to release a copy of the 911 recording.
Arnold said Strebendt fired his weapon in self-defense, after Crofut told him during a roadside confrontation that he was armed and threatened to kill him.
It's a claim that Strebendt wants to make at his trial, Arnold wrote in the filing that requests the bail hearing.
Strebendt "has maintained his innocence and his right and duty of self-defense since (the shooting), and he expressly wishes to have his name cleared by a Lane County jury," Arnold wrote.
Aside from limited situations involving violent felonies, Oregon law allows bail to be set for suspects accused of any crime -- except murder and treason. Suspects in murder and treason cases may be held without bail "when the proof is evident or the presumption strong that the person is guilty," according to state law.
Generally, the primary purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant appears in court. Arnold said in his written request for a bail hearing that Strebendt -- who remained in contact with his attorneys during the five-week period between the shooting and his arrest -- would not flee the area to avoid going on trial.
Police took Strebendt into custody on the night of the shooting but released him later that night. He immediately claimed self-defense, authorities said.
Along with the formal motion for a bail hearing, Arnold filed in court a copy of a four-page letter that he sent to Deputy District Attorney Bob Lane on Feb. 27, after learning that prosecutors had planned to present evidence to a grand jury in nonpublic proceedings.
According to the document, Arnold informed Lane that Strebendt wanted to appear as a grand jury witness, but only if several conditions were met. Those conditions included allowing Strebendt to testify about what happened during the 911 call after the jury listened to the recording; limiting questions to the events of Jan. 29; recording his testimony; and allowing him breaks between questions to speak with an attorney.
The letter asserts that Lane told Arnold that if Strebendt wanted to appear as a witness, "the bottom line was that he needed to come in and testify before the grand jury without accommodation."
Strebendt ultimately did not testify. Grand juries typically do not hear testimony from potential targets of a criminal investigation.
Strebendt's girlfriend, Kristin Swenson, was called as a grand jury witness. It's unclear what information she provided, as police said Strebendt was traveling alone when his truck and Crofut's SUV collided.
Crofut's wife, Brenda, was in the SUV when the crash occurred, police said. She also testified before the grand jury, according to a copy of the indictment.
The Register-Guard has attempted to contact Brenda Crofut and other members of her family, but they have not spoken publicly about the shooting.
Police have acknowledged that the Crofuts -- who had moved to Springfield from Tacoma just weeks before the shooting -- had been at a local tavern prior to crossing paths with Strebendt.
While police have not said whether the couple had been drinking, Arnold alleged in his letter to Lane that two bartenders, a patron and the owner of Driftwood Bar & Grill in Springfield could have testified about the Crofuts' time at the bar. Arnold asked Lane to have those people testify before the grand jury, but they were not called as witnesses during the proceedings, according to a copy of the indictment.
Arnold alleged in the letter that the bartenders could have testified that David Crofut drank approximately six beers, and that his wife had a similar number of alcoholic drinks.
On March 3, another attorney in Arnold's office emailed Lane to ask if he would contact the office to arrange for Strebendt's surrender in the event that the grand jury issued an indictment -- which it did three days later.
Those arrangements were not made, and Springfield police ended up taking Strebendt into custody last Thursday evening after stopping a car near 32nd and Main streets. Police Sgt. David Lewis said Wednesday that after police learned that a warrant had been issued for Strebendt's arrest, they followed normal procedures and set out to find him.
Allowing a suspect to turn himself in "is done in some cases," Lewis said. "But I've never seen it done in a murder case."
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