It was a typical Friday night commute for off-duty nurse, Paula Langer, until she encountered a woman at a Woodland gas station who had been shot in the face, and she sprang into action to save her life.
Langer was one of about a dozen people who testified Thursday for the prosecution’s case during Brent Luyster’s triple aggravated murder trial in Clark County Superior Court. Luyster’s mother, Susan Dvorak, and Paul Sibley, the father of Luyster’s girlfriend, Andrea Sibley, also testified.
Langer’s testimony further revealed how Breanne L.A. Leigh, who was allegedly shot by Luyster at a Woodland-area home, sought help for her injuries.
Luyster also stands accused of fatally shooting Joseph Mark Lamar, 38; Lamar’s partner, Janell Renee Knight, 43; and Leigh’s partner, Zachary David Thompson, 36, at Lamar’s home southeast of Woodland.
Langer testified Thursday afternoon that she left her work in Gresham, Ore., about 6:30 p.m. July 15, 2016, and drove to Vancouver to go grocery shopping. She headed home to Clatskanie, Ore., afterward but stopped in Woodland, as was usual, to fuel up.
She said she had been at the Arco gas station, 1038 Lewis River Road, for about five minutes when a red car sped into the lot. The car parked by the entrance to the AM-PM Mini-Market.
At first, Langer said, she was annoyed because of the car’s dangerous speed. She assumed it was a bunch of teenagers and kept an eye on the vehicle.
But then someone’s arm waved out the window, and a man approached the car.
“I saw the look on his face, and he looked terrified,” Langer said.
Another man approached the car and his face mirrored the first, she said. That’s when she sensed something was wrong, and her nursing background kicked in.
Langer started to walk toward the car, she testified, and one of the men told her that a woman had been shot in the face.
That woman was later identified by law enforcement as Leigh.
Leigh was the only person in the car, Langer said, and was sitting in the driver’s seat with blood pouring from her face. There was extensive damage to the lower half of her face. She had a small, perfectly round hole on the left side, “like someone used a hole punch on her skin,” Langer said.
Langer tried to reassure Leigh that everything was going to be OK, that she was a nurse and she was there to help.
Leigh tried to speak but couldn’t because of her injuries, Langer said. However, Leigh was wildly flailing her arms like she was trying to tell Langer something, she said.
Blood was entering Leigh’s airway, so Langer told her to lean forward so it could drain out, she testified. She also prompted her to cough to prevent the blood from clotting.
As Langer recounted what happened, she told the court that she was nervous but not on the night she helped Leigh. That night, she said, she was calm, centered and focused on saving Leigh’s life.
She recalled telling Leigh what a strong woman she was and that help was on the way.
An officer soon arrived at the scene, and Langer explained what was going on. The officer tried to get information from Leigh, Langer said, but her answers came out as gurgles and grunts. When he asked Leigh who shot her, she shook her head side to side, Langer said. She also testified that Leigh was not writing down answers because there was too much blood everywhere.
Langer said she believes Leigh wasn’t flailing her arms because she was in pain, she was trying to communicate and kept pointing southeast.
It sounded like Leigh was trying to say something that started with the letter “J,” Langer said, so she and the officer began saying names. They were playing a guessing game.
“Finally, I said something, and it was Janell,” Langer said. Leigh nodded her head in agreement and became quite upset. Langer said it appeared that Leigh’s main focus was to get help to someone else, presumably, Knight.
More officers arrived on the scene, as did medical personnel, Langer said, and they took it from there.
The next morning, Langer said, she told her son what happened, and she called area hospitals to try to find out Leigh’s condition. But she was unsuccessful.
Luyster’s trial will resume Monday with additional witness testimony for the prosecution’s case.