On Nov. 17, 2018, at 1:40 a.m., Loretta Williams was shot and killed in her home in Cove. Her soon-to-be ex-husband, Ronald D. Lee, 71, was arrested and has pled not guilty to charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
A trial date for Lee, who has been in the Union County Jail since he was arrested in February, has not been set. During a hearing on Aug. 27 in which the state proved Lee should continue to be held without bail, evidence was given, including information about the weapons used the night Williams died.
A key element in the State of Oregon’s case against Lee is the evidence that has been collected regarding the guns that may have been used in Williams’ murder.
There were two guns that Union County Major Crimes Team found to be involved in the case, according to the testimony of Union County Sheriff’s Office Det. Jason McKaig during last week’s hearing.
The first gun that has been positively identified as a weapon used in Williams’ murder is a Glock 140 MOS. A bullet the Union County Major Crimes Team recovered from the ceiling of the Cove home was identified as a 10 mm with patterns consistent with being shot from a Glock pistol, according to McKaig. An accessory case commonly sold with a Glock was found in Lee’s home on Highway 37, according to McKaig, and Lee could not explain why he had these items.
When investigators discussed semi-automatic firearms with Lee, he said he didn’t own or have any reason to own a semi-automatic gun, and he said they weren’t reliable or methodical when shooting, according to McKaig. However, Deva Williams, an associate whom Lee had hired to drive him around due to having a suspended license, told McKaig that he recalled Lee saying he would like to have a Glock.
At the hearing, McKaig said that during the investigation, Deva Williams also told police that he and Lee tested a Glock to see how loud it was by shooting hay near Lee’s shop, and the casings of those bullets were later found in Lee’s pickup truck by police.
Other people possibly involved with Lee’s alleged possession of a Glock are Jamie Griffin, Russell McEntire and Tammy Hadder. Griffin, a business neighbor located near Lee’s shop, overheard Lee’s end of a phone conversation with McEntire, who is a friend of Lee’s. Due to having his phone still connected to a bluetooth speaker from listening to music at work, Griffin heard Lee saying that the cops had come by and telling McEntire neither of them know anything while Lee borrowed Griffin’s phone, according to evidence presented at the hearing.
McEntire purchased a Glock, according to McKaig, and gave it to Lee before Loretta Williams was killed. The gun was purchased from Gamer’s Sporting Goods in Pendleton, McKaig said. Hadder, the store’s owner, told police she remembered Lee called multiple times, attempting to purchase the firearm over the phone, which the store does not allow, according to McKaig. Also purchased with the Glock were two boxes of ammunition, one of which was a box of S and B 10 mm ammo, consistent with the kind found at the scene of the crime, according to McKaig.
McKaig said McEntire also recalled seeing a PT Cruiser that matches the description of Deva Williams’ car when he delivered the pistol to Lee. However, McEntire did not see the driver, according to the detective.
A .22-caliber revolver
An autopsy performed on Loretta Williams found the cause of death to be gunshot wounds to the head and chest. She had received three shots in her head and one in her chest that exited out her back, and she had a graze wound on her right shoulder. Of the bullets found in her head, only one could be positively identified as a .22-caliber bullet. The others were damaged beyond recognition. This meant that the police were looking for a second weapon, according to McKaig.
During a search of Lee’s home, investigators found a .22-caliber Single-Six stainless steel revolver in his safe. It had been purchased by Lee from Oregon Trail Trader in La Grande. The police determined it had not been used in Williams’ death, but investigators suspected Lee had a second gun like it, since they found the gun had not been fired recently, according to McKaig.
After Williams’ deathSteve Witty, a friend of Lee’s, contacted the police to say that Lee had told him he wanted to purchase an undocumented .22-caliber revolver, according to McKaig. Witty said he told Lee about an ad he had seen in The Nickel, and Lee told him he had purchased the unregistered firearm and tested it by a river, according to McKaig’s testimony. When Witty heard the police had takenLee’s gun he thought they may have the wrong one, McKaig said.
According to McKaig, additional evidence supported Lee’s alleged possession of an unregistered revolver. The detective said Lee had shown Craig Lore — the business partner of Lee’s son, Chris Lee — identical .22 revolvers in his home. McKaig said Deva Williams said he also knew about the unregistered revolver.
In April a farmer found a .22 revolver on Highway 237, less than 10 miles from Loretta Williams’ home in Cove. The gun was loaded but was missing three rounds. The serial number identified the handgun as the one purchased from The Nickel ad, McKaig said. A chunk of the gun’s grip was missing, and the piece was found 15 feet away from where the gun was located. This led investigators to believe the gun had been thrown from the window of a car.
Other evidence cited by McKaig in his testimony at the hearing included two cases of .22 bullets found in Lee’s home. One case was missing exactly six rounds, and they matched the type of bullet from the one round that could be positively identified in Williams’ autopsy because of the “F” for Federal ammo stamped on the bullet. However, this could not rule out or confirm the gun found on the highway or the revolver purchased by Lee as the murder weapon.
Lee will remain in custody at the Union County Jail until the trial, which is expected to last at least a month.