Murder charges likely in woman’s death

Joyce Key, 80, died Saturday, six months after she was beaten in her Umapine home.

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PENDLETON — Murder charges are pending for three Walla Walla-area men accused of leaving an elderly woman for dead after a beating and home invasion.

Joyce Key, 80, of Umapine, was the victim in the Jan. 30 crime. She died Saturday.

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Matthew Raymond Hermann

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Caleb Leon John Scott

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Jacob Lee White

Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said his office plans to bring charges against Matthew Raymond Hermann, 20, Caleb Leon John Scott, 21, and Jacob White, 19.

The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office filed probable cause affidavits for aggravated murder against Hermann and Scott and a probable cause for murder against White.

Primus said he plans to present evidence for the charges Thursday to a grand jury. If the grand jury indicts, the district attorney’s office will arraign the men on the murder charges.

Hermann and Scott are in the Umatilla County Jail, and Primus said White was in jail in Idaho. Boise police Monday night picked up White, according to online jail roster of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.

Key died a little more than six months after she was the victim of a home invasion and assault.

The District Attorney’s Office accused the trio of conspiring to rob Key because she lived alone on her farm in the rural community near Milton-Freewater. Court documents paint Hermann as the lead actor in the crime that left Key nearly dead.

Hermann had planned to change his not guilty plea to charges of attempted aggravated murder, assault, kidnapping, robbery and theft. Key’s death may change that plan.

Scott and White faced charges of robbery, kidnapping, burglary and conspiracy to commit each.

Scott had a jail release hearing Monday at the Umatilla County Courthouse. Douglas Key, one of Joyce Key’s three sons, testified she ha been vibrant, healthy and walked two miles each day. The attack put her in a coma for a month, and though she regained consciousness, he said, she never fully regained her faculties because of significant brain damage.

A couple who said they were Scott’s friends testified on his behalf and said he could live with them and their two young girls at their Walla Walla home. Tyler Larson called Scott his best friend of the last two-and-half years. He and his fiance, Heather Wilson, said Scott was a good person and would make sure he was on time for court hearings.

Larson said he began work eight weeks ago as an on-call corrections officer for the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Richard Bunney, chief deputy prosecutor in the Umatilla County District Attorney’s Office, questioned Larson about contacts with Scott, an offender. Larson admitted he never told prison administrators about the contact, which Bunney pointed out violated corrections policy.

Larson and Wilson also said Scott lived with them in College Place at the time of the attack, and under questioning from Bunney admitted they knew Scott had a warrant out for rape of a 14-year-old girl he lived with when he was 20.

Bunney asked Circuit Court Judge Christopher Brauer of the 6th Judicial District to keep Scott in jail and increase his bail, which was $500,000.

The judge agreed and upped it to $1 million. Scott’s public defender, Thomas Gray, didn’t fight the decision.

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