The man charged with first-degree murder in the killing and dismembering of a Whitman College employee on Monday had multiple run-ins with police and was released June 25 from Umatilla County Jail due to overcrowding.

Court documents provided Wednesday state that Colby J. Hedman, 23, admitted to police he struck Walla Walla man Kyle J. Martz, 35, with an ax multiple times before stealing his car and fleeing to Oregon, where he was arrested Monday night.

Hedman, whom police said was a transient from Heppner, Ore., missed a court hearing Monday morning in Umatilla County for second-degree trespassing, interfering with police, third-degree escape, second-degree disorderly conduct, controlled-substance possession and four warrant charges from a June 5 arrest, according to Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts.

It wasn’t Hedman’s first arrest, but he was released June 25 because the jail was overcrowded. When jail population reaches around 230, as it was that day, mattresses and other resources run out, according to East Oregonian reports. The jail uses a matrix based on an inmate’s history and the seriousness of offense, and those with repeated offenses and more serious crimes have higher scores, putting them lower on the release list. Hedman’s previous arrests weren’t violent, according to reports.

On Monday, Walla Walla police found two coolers in a locked garage at 331 S. Fourth Ave., records said. The lock had not been on the garage earlier, according to reports. A square shovel, hammer and ax with blood on them were found nearby. Blood and dismembered human remains were found in one of the coolers, records stated.

Martz’s roommate had alerted authorities at about 6 p.m. that he was missing “under suspicious circumstances,” according to records. The roommate found blood in different parts of the house and noticed a strong smell of bleach, according to documents.

Two people staying next door told police they last saw Martz around 10 p.m. Sunday on the back porch, records said. The neighbors also told police they loaned an ax and shovel on Monday to a man in a red shirt, later identified as Hedman, records stated. He allegedly told them he needed the tools for work, records stated. The three then smoked marijuana in the afternoon.

Detectives “pinged” Martz’s cellphone near North Powder, Ore. Oregon police found and arrested a man matching Hedman’s description Monday night for allegedly stealing at least one vehicle — including the victim’s — and attempting to elude law enforcement in Baker City. 

The court documents state Hedman confessed to police that he killed Martz “with an ax, hitting him multiple times.” He also told investigators that Martz was “still on the property.”

In the June 5 case, Hedman told police he was high on heroin and had a syringe with him after being arrested, according to the East Oregonian. Initially, police didn’t recognize him and only monitored him while he was acting suspicious until a homeowner wanted Hedman arrested for trespassing. After having probable cause, police gave chase and eventually found him hiding in a basement stairwell.

Hedman’s previous charges include menacing in 2015 in Morrow County, where he served two years on probation, the East Oregonian reported. He pleaded guilty in June for a felony and got 30 days in jail and three years of probation. He also pleaded no contest in 2016 in Wasco County, Oregon, for driving with a suspended license after not paying a speeding ticket, according to the newspaper. In 2019, he pleaded guilty in Morrow County for providing false information to an officer, and in another case he pleaded no contest for uninsured driving.

Martz was a Whitman graduate and international student and scholar adviser at the college. Police suspect the two didn’t know each other. 

Martz worked at Whitman for seven years and graduated with a gender and German studies degree in 2007, according to an email to staff on Tuesday from Whitman College President Kathy Murray.

She wrote that the Glover Alston Center was open for people to gather to support one another, and people can call the counseling center at 527-5195 or the dean of student’s office at 527-5158.

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