Backyard bunker owner admits 2014 killing

Gary Lewis will spend 16 years in prison when he's sentenced

Gary Lewis in a Multnomah County courtroom on murder charges, July 8, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Gary Lewis in a Multnomah County courtroom on murder charges, July 8, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A man who built a bunker in his Northeast Portland backyard admitted killing a woman who lived in the basement of his home in 2014.

Gary Lewis pleaded guilty to 1st-degree manslaughter and will get 16 years in prison when he is sentenced March 1, Deputy District Attorney Steven O’Hagen told KOIN 6 News.

The case

An undated photo of Renee Sandidge released by the Portland Police Bureau on June 8, 2014
An undated photo of Renee Sandidge released by the Portland Police Bureau on June 8, 2014

Renee Suzanne Sandidge-Crowell lived in the basement of Lewis’ home in the 3900 block of NE 66th Avenue. On June 7, 2014, the 59-year-old woman was killed, and a hammer with hair strands was found at the scene, investigators said.

Lewis, who was 61 at the time he was arrested 5 days later, was quickly identified as the main suspect.

Lewis’ daughter told police she had come home around 8:15 a.m. on June 7, 2014 and went in the backyard to get her dog, and said she saw her father “swinging an object and heard what she believed was moaning,” court documents stated.

A close-up of a bunker found in the backyard of a Portland house in the 3900 block of NE 66th Avenue, June 9, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A close-up of a bunker found in the backyard of a Portland house in the 3900 block of NE 66th Avenue, June 9, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

The daughter said she saw “her father in the backyard dragging a trap toward a large shed” with what appeared was a body inside the tarp, according to the court documents.

She said she saw the tarp flap open and “she saw female legs encased in khaki pants, and a pink shirt,” the warrant states. Another neighbor told police she had seen Sandidge-Crowell earlier in the morning in the driveway wearing khaki pants.

About 45 minutes later, Lewis’ wife came home and her daughter told her what happened. They left and went to a friend’s house where they called 911.

During the investigation, detectives discovered a bunker in the backyard of Lewis’ home. A neighbor told police Lewis said he stocked the bunker with “weapons and food.”

A warrant for Gary Lewis’ arrest was issued July 10, 2014 when Crowell’s body was discovered hidden inside one of the walls in a shed on the property.

Two days later he was spotted in the Roseway neighborhood after a person recognized him after the intense media attention on the case.

Gary Lewis, 61, seen in an updated photo from the Portland area (right) was wanted for the murder of Renee Sandidge-Crowell, June 12, 2014. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)
Gary Lewis, 61, seen in an updated photo from the Portland area (right) was wanted for the murder of Renee Sandidge-Crowell, June 12, 2014. (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)