A 27-year-old Corvallis man has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in connection with the death of a woman whose body was found Monday evening on private timberland near Alsea.
William Chase Hargrove was arrested Wednesday night and booked into the Benton County Jail on Thursday morning, according to the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Hargrove pleaded not guilty to the charge during his arraignment hearing Thursday afternoon before Judge Eveleen Henry.
At Thursday's arraignment, assistant district attorney Amie Matusko called the case "a problematic love triangle." Hargrove, she said, was living with two women in two different households. One of the women gave Hargrove an ultimatum, Matusko said: "'Her or me,' and the defendant decided" to shoot the other woman.
Hargrove then lured the victim into the woods and "she was found shot dead in the back of her head, execution-style."
Hargrove, who was denied bail, is being represented by court-appointed attorney Mike Flinn, who declined comment following the hearing.
A preliminary hearing in the case has been set for 1 p.m. April 27 before Judge David B. Connell.
Here is how the case has unfolded:
Dispatchers received a call from a security representative of a lumber company at around 5 p.m. Monday that a woman's body had been found in a wooded area about five miles outside of Alsea, a small Coast Range community. Deputies and detectives responding to the scene found a white woman, believed to be in her early to mid-20s, dead from an apparent gunshot wound.
Undersheriff Greg Ridler of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that the victim had been tentatively identified but next of kin had not yet been notified.
"These efforts may take several days, and until the proper notifications have been made, no further information will be released on the victim," Ridler said in a press release. "The investigation of the murder has been difficult. The investigation will continue and additional evidence is being examined."
Ridler declined to comment on whether additional arrests would be made in the case and would not comment on the specifics of the circumstances that led investigators to make the arrest. He also declined to comment on the weapon used in the killing. He previously said that the incident was being investigated as a gunshot wound and that no weapon was found near the site that would be consistent with the victim’s injuries.
“The investigation is ongoing," Ridler said. "Additional charges are being considered. We have lots of things to follow up on and we’re going to continue doing that.”
Benton County Sheriff's Office personnel set up a temporary command post Tuesday at a timber landing several miles up a rugged logging road west of Alsea, before leaving the site Tuesday afternoon. Ridler said Thursday that investigators had not returned to the scene since Tuesday.
Authorities have not released the exact location where the woman's body was found but have confirmed that the body was found on Weyerhaeuser property. Weyerhaeuser owns a large amount of timberland in the Alsea area, much of it interspersed in a checkerboard pattern with tracts owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
Located about 25 miles southwest of Corvallis on Highway 34, Alsea is an unincorporated community of about 165 people. The surrounding hills are a patchwork of public and private timber tracts connected by a maze of gravel logging roads.
The investigation involved a coordinated effort including the Benton County District Attorney's Office, the Corvallis Police Department, the Philomath Police Department, Oregon State Police, the Albany Police Department, the FBI and the Oregon Department of Justice.