MILTON-FREEWATER, Ore. (KOIN) – Trial for a 24-year-old man accused burning a body in Umatilla County is set for August.
Officers with the Milton-Freewater Police Department arrested Conor Michael Dayton on July 7 in the area of Broadway and Depot Street. He was booked into jail on charges of abuse of a corpse, tampering with physical evidence and criminal trespass. A grand jury dismissed the latter two charges and chose to issue an indictment on one count of first-degree abuse of a corpse.
The medical examiner’s office has not said how the victim, Marcos Jesus Gutierrez-Rodriguez, died.
The sheriff’s office reported an autopsy determined Gutierrez-Rodriguez had very high levels of methamphetamine in his system, and his body was badly damaged from the fire.
Dayton was questioned by detectives and reportedly told them that he started the fire that burned Gutierrez-Rodriguez.
“Dayton claimed that he found Gutierrez-Rodriguez’s deceased body at the location and started the fire to hide his drug use,” according to the sheriff’s office.
The East Oregonian newspaper reported that Gutierrez-Rodriguez’s body was found on May 22 after emergency crews put out a fire under the Eastside Bridge along the Walla Walla River. The sheriff’s office at the time said there was no foul play, and it appeared he died from a cooking fire mishap.
“At the time of the fire and discovery of Gutierrez-Rodriguez’s body, there was insufficient evidence to prove a criminal case,” the sheriff’s office said in a prepared statement.
The investigation is continuing, the sheriff’s office said.
Trial for Dayton is set for Aug. 29, but could be delayed.