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Suspect arrested for 2015 homicide

Rainier man turned himself in after indictment

HELLER Four days before what would have been Christopher Heller’s 31st birthday, a grand jury indicted Randolph Lee Pritchard, 49, of Rainier, for the murder of Heller.

Pritchard turned himself in after the indictment on March 1, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office reported.

On July 21, sheriff’s deputies arrived at a home on Whitney Road in the Goble area, where the 30-year-old St. Helens man had just been beaten unconscious.

When deputies arrived, Heller’s mother, who found Heller and reported the crime, had taken him to a hospital in Longview, Wash., where doctors determined he had a fractured skull.

His mother told authorites Heller was working in a shop on the property when he was assaulted.

The following week, on July 28, Heller died from his injuries.

Investigators from the Columbia County Major Crimes Team knew the case was a homicide, but the case hit a lull shortly afterward, when witnesses turned up few to no leads, and no one else came forward with information. Three months later, with no suspect, the case went cold.

“There are conflicting stories and a number of leads that investigators are following at this time,” Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson stated on Aug. 5.

“Things like this tend to go nowhere fast, and then all the sudden something breaks,” Dickerson told the Spotlight in an interview later that month.

Two months later, investigators had yet to arrest a suspect.

Heller was a Columbia County native who left behind four children, according to family members.

PRITCHARDPritchard is being held without bail in Columbia County Jail on a charge of murder and a warrant out

of Washington for escape,

according to the Sheriff’s Office.

If convicted, Pritchard could face 25 years to life prison.

“It took them a while to track him down because he was kind of transient,” Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison said. “He didn’t have a known location.”

Court records show Pritchard was convicted of fleeing or attempting to allude a police officer in Columbia County in 2011. In 1996, he was found with a gun illegally in his possession in Clackamas County.

He has several other vehicle infractions, dating back as far as 1988.