LA GRANDE — Ronald Lee of La Grande suffered a stroke while awaiting trial for murder. His attorney, Dean Gushwa of Pendleton, asked the court to delay the trial.

"I'm hoping my client recovers quickly," Gushwa said Thursday during a phone interview. "He did suffer a profound stroke."

Ronald Lee

Ronald Lee

Gushwa learned on Jan. 23 that Lee had a stroke while in the Union County Jail, La Grande. Gushwa said District Attorney Kelsie McDaniel told him about Lee's medical emergency immediately after the sheriff's office notified her.

Gushwa and his investigator met with Lee on Jan. 25 at a local hospital, and Gushwa determined Lee was unable to communicate effectively. Gushwa filed a motion on Jan. 31 to postpone the trial.

"The defendant cannot communicate verbally in any intelligible manner, and is therefore unable to aid and assist in his own defense," Gushwa wrote in the motion. 

McDaniel did not object, and Circuit Judge Thomas Powers granted the motion Monday.

Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen credit his staff with aiding Lee.

"There was a medical event and our corrections officer noted it immediately," Rasmussen said.

An ambulance took Lee to a local medical facility, but Rasmussen would not reveal where Lee is, citing security concerns. Rasmussen said Lee remains in the custody of the sheriff's office and under 24/7 supervision while he receives medical treatment. Gushwa said he is filing requests to obtain Lee's medical records.

The state has accused Lee of killing Loretta Williams in November 2018 at her home in Cove. The two were divorcing. The local circuit court set the entire month of April for the trial. Court records show McDaniel could call as many as 93 witnesses. 

The court has not re-set the trial date.

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