A Portland man was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison in the slaying of his boyfriend, whose body was found near Dougan Falls in April 2017.
Benjamin C. Serrato, 41, was convicted by a Skamania County Superior Court jury in April of first-degree domestic violence murder in the killing of Christopher M. Libert, 40, of Portland. Libert’s body was found April 1, 2017, near a bridge at Dougan Falls; an autopsy found he had been shot in the head and stabbed at least 10 times, court records say.
As part of their verdict, jurors also found firearm and deadly weapon enhancements, as well as an enhancement for being a family or household member.
Serrato was sentenced to 364 months in prison and 36 months of community custody, online court records show.
At trial, Serrato testified that he stabbed and shot Libert once at his Portland apartment and shot him again after taking him to Dougan Falls. He claimed it was self-defense, according to Skamania County Special Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Robinson.
Skamania County sheriff’s deputies arrived around 9:15 a.m. at Dougan Falls for a report of a death. Nearby campers and residents said they heard a gunshot in the area early that morning. One resident heard a vehicle drive away several minutes after hearing the gunshot, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Investigators found fresh tire impressions in the mud, and about 30 feet away, spotted a pool of blood and Libert’s body over an embankment, court records say. He was identified using his fingerprints, and investigators discovered he had a roommate, identified as Serrato.
When investigators went to Serrato’s home, they noted his Honda Accord had a tire tread pattern similar to what they found at the crime scene. Serrato told investigators he and Libert had been dating and were on-and-off roommates. He claimed he hadn’t seen Libert since March 30, two days before the body was found. They had argued about Libert’s relationship with Amanda Rauch of Portland, whom Serrato described as Libert’s girlfriend, according to court documents.
Rauch told deputies she hadn’t heard from Libert since March 30 and was worried. She said Serrato over the last few months had been trying to stop Libert’s relationship with her, and recently gave Libert an ultimatum, court records state.
Serrato later consented to a polygraph, and when asked whether he caused Libert’s death, the results indicated he was being deceptive, according to court records. When pressed further, he said Libert told him he wanted to kill himself, and he drove Libert to Dougan Falls so he could kill himself there. They kissed goodbye, he said, and Libert left to walk to the river’s edge. Serrato said he didn’t see whether Libert had any weapons and didn’t know how he had planned to kill himself.