Judge finds Damascus killer guilty except for insanity — (The Oregonian)

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The Oregonian

01/03/04

SARAH HUNSBERGER

Lee J. Vojta, 52, who fatally shot a 20-year-old woman at a horse farm, is placed under state psychiatric care

OREGON CITY — A Damascus man who said he heard voices telling him to “Kill her! Kill her!” was found guilty except for insanity Friday of shooting to death a 20-year-old New Jersey woman last spring.
Clackamas County Circuit Judge John Lowe found Lee J. Vojta, 52, guilty except for insanity on charges of murder and attempted aggravated murder after Vojta waived his right to a jury trial Friday.
Vojta shot Sarah Huang in the back and neck while she was working at a Damascus horse farm on April 4.
Vojta also was found guilty except for insanity of attempting to shoot another worker at the farm.
Lowe placed Vojta under the supervision of the state’s Psychiatric Security Review Board for up to the rest of his life and ordered him to be taken to the Oregon State Hospital. The review board will decide whether Vojta will ever qualify for a supervised community placement, said Mary Claire Buckley, the board’s executive director.
She said Vojta could be released from the board’s authority someday if he were found no longer to have a mental defect or disease, or if he no longer were a danger to others, but Buckley said that almost never happens with cases as serious as Vojta’s.
Huang’s family flew in from New Jersey to attend Vojta’s sentencing.
Her mother, Janet Buehler, told the court that about 200 people attended funeral services for her daughter, who loved camping and surfing, and who had a knack for baby-sitting young children.
“We’re very concerned that the safety of the community be looked after with this judgment,” Buehler said.
Buehler carried a small, tapestry-covered photo album filled with childhood pictures of her brown-haired daughter wearing frilly holiday dresses and grinning beside her brother, Matthew.
A lifelong competitive equestrian who won more than 85 ribbons, Huang also worked as a riding instructor to young children.
Buehler said after the hearing that her daughter had attended college in Vermont but was taking a year off to “find herself.” She moved to the Portland area with friends and took a part-time job at the horse farm.
Buehler said she would not allow her daughter to take a job at places that could be dangerous, such as convenience stores. But she felt a farm was safe.
“She loved the beautiful Oregon countryside,” Buehler said.
Huang had been cleaning stalls April 4 when Vojta emerged from his mobile home on a neighboring property and fired a rifle.
A worker at the horse farm, James Conrad, told Vojta to stop. Vojta pointed the gun at Conrad, but the gun either misfired or was not loaded. Vojta briefly returned to his mobile home, returned and fired more shots, hitting Huang.
Vojta later told investigators that he awoke that morning to voices saying, “Kill her! Kill her!” but he didn’t know who “her” was. He had never met Huang.
Vojta’s behavior had grown more bizarre and worrisome to his family before the shooting, according to court documents.
A Vietnam War veteran, Vojta had received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder a few years earlier. He took antidepressants and other prescription drugs, and he had regularly smoked marijuana for decades, according to a report by Richard Hulteng, a forensic psychologist who evaluated Vojta.
In the months before the shooting, Vojta heard voices yelling at him, told people he was a U.S. marshal who had killed dozens of people, and fired shots from his front door. He also called the police to report people “watching” him.
In early 2003, Vojta’s sisters sent a letter to his doctor asking for help, according to court records.
Vojta saw the doctor in February but declined follow-up mental health treatment that was offered, Hulteng’s report said.
Sarah Hunsberger: 503-294-5922 shunsberger@news.oregonian.com