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Mental condition at core of Devin Hansen murder trial

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Two months before the death of his live-in girlfriend, Devin Hansen spent nearly 12 hours talking on the telephone with his mother, telling her their life together was “volatile and unhealthy” and that he was trying to find a way to kick her out of his Geary Street apartment.

But shortly after 6 a.m. on Jan. 25, 2014, Hansen, then 31, and Christine Smith, 29, got into an argument that resulted in Smith’s death and Hansen being charged with murder, second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, strangulation, menacing and reckless endangerment.

A 15-day trial began Monday in Linn County Circuit Court, the honorable Deann Novotny presiding. Hansen is represented by Eugene attorney Elizabeth Baker. Representing the state is Jonathan Crow.

Cheryl Hansen, the defendant’s mother, said that around Thanksgiving 2013, her son called her home in Redmond. She and her husband Tim had met Smith only once.

“He said Christine wouldn’t stop hollering at him, and he didn’t know what to do about it,” Cheryl Hansen said.

Hansen said the first phone call lasted about four hours and subsequent calls added up to about 12 hours.

“He was trying to make plans to shut her out, but he wanted her to be able to find a place,” Hansen said. “I asked him if he could hold on until he got his tax return, then he could quit his job and move to Central Oregon.”

Hansen said her son “was upset. He didn’t know how to make Christine leave him alone. She would follow him from room to room, and he felt overwhelmed.”

Hansen said Devin at one point told her “he was afraid he might hit her.”

Hansen said she could hear Smith in the background over the telephone saying, “I love you. It’s because I love you, Devin. I don’t want you to hate me.”

According to the state, Devin Hansen worked the night shift at Paragon, a local phone and alarm answering service and would get to the couple’s Latitude 44 apartment on Geary Street a little after 6 a.m. that day.

Shortly after, an argument ensued that reportedly included Smith slamming doors and throwing items about what was described as a cluttered one-bedroom apartment.

At some point, Hansen reportedly was bitten on the forearm by Smith and also suffered scratches to his arms and face.

Hansen took photos of his injuries on a cellular phone during a break in the altercation.

But by about 6:16 a.m., the 6-foot 3-inch Hansen, who at the time weighed 400 pounds, pinned Smith on a couch and put his forearms on her throat and face.

When he realized she wasn’t breathing, he began administering CPR and, at about 6:25, called 9-1-1. Hansen told detectives that at one point he stopped CPR and talked to Smith’s body.

Hansen said he started CPR while Smith was on the couch, but soon moved her to the floor.

Albany police officers Jorge Salang and Nathan Ard were the first to arrive on the scene. They entered the apartment through a door that was already partially open and saw Hansen administering CPR.

They cleared the apartment and found Smith’s 3-year-old daughter lying on the floor of the bedroom, wrapped in a blanket.

They allowed Hansen to continue CPR until Albany paramedics arrived and the officers handcuffed him and took him into custody.

Paramedic Greg Sipe said the emergency response team administered advanced life support and eventually Smith restored a very shallow pulse.

She was taken to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis, where she died two days later.

Several law enforcement officers were sworn in and all reported that Hansen was cooperative and did not appear extremely agitated as is usually the case in a domestic violence situation.

Lt. Marvin Hammersley called Hansen’s demeanor “flat.”

Catherine Hobson said she worked with Hansen at Paragon and called him a good, solid worker.

“We worked together three to four nights a week,” Hobson said.

Hobson said she cared for Hansen like he was her own son. Hansen does not have a driver’s license. Hobson said she would often volunteer to drive him home, which she did the morning of the incident.

He would talk with Hobson about his rocky relationship with Smith.

“Things were not going well,” Hobson said. “They had fights. Things weren’t working out. He wasn’t happy with their relationship.”

Hobson said Hansen appeared extremely tired when he came to work Friday evening.

“He wanted to get some sleep, but he said Christine wanted to go out and do things,” Hobson said. “I was afraid he wasn’t getting much sleep.”

Hobson told Baker that she considered herself Hansen’s friend and added, “I’m not his biological mother, but Devin is my boy. I care very much for him.”

She knew about Hansen’s mental health issues and could understand his situation because members of her own family dealt with similar issues.

Hobson also said that Hansen kept his work area neat and professional, a contrast to the apartment clutter reported by police detectives.

When questioned, Detective Glenn Fairall said the apartment was, “definitely unkempt, but I have seen worse than this.”

Throughout Monday, Hansen’s mental health history was focused upon. According to his attorney, as a young man, Hansen had tried to commit suicide by taking pills, cutting his wrists, drowning himself and hanging himself.

At one point, he would draw patterns on his arms and then use a knife to trace the patterns.

Over the years, he has received treatment at state mental hospitals, most recently in 2010 when he was diagnosed as being bipolar.

But Baker said Hansen does not believe that diagnosis was correct, and after taking only about a half bottle of prescription Lithium, he quit taking his medicine.

Hansen’s mother said her son didn’t like taking the medication “because (emotionally) he couldn’t feel anything at all.”

Detectives said Hansen appeared calm during two interviews, but became upset when he learned that intravenous drug paraphernalia had been found at the apartment.

Retired detective Dawn Hietala said syringes and a bag of white powder were found, but she did not know what a lab analysis revealed about those materials.

“He knew there had been a drug history, but he did not know it had been going on in his house,” Hietala said. “He seemed surprised by this information.”

Several of Smith’s friends were present in the courtroom and wore buttons with her photo on them.

They said her now 5-year-old daughter is in a stable foster home in east Linn County.

The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Hansen has been lodged at the Linn County Jail since Jan. 25, 2014.

He sat quietly through Monday’s proceedings, glancing up occasionally to look at evidence shown on a large media screen in the courtroom.

In March 2015, Hansen was declared mentally unfit to proceed with a trial, and he was committed to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem for treatment.

The trial had been scheduled to begin on June 1, 2015.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.


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