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Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Oct. 3, 2023

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Vancouver man claims self-defense in beating death at motel

By , Columbian staff reporter

A Vancouver man is claiming self-defense in the January beating death of another man in a local motel, his defense attorney said Monday during opening statements in his murder trial.

Jonathan D. Smith, 39, is facing a charge of second-degree murder in Clark County Superior Court stemming from the Jan. 27 attack at the Sunnyside Motel, 12200 N.E. Highway 99.

Roger Hudyma, 58, died from blunt and sharp force head injuries, according to the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office. His death was ruled a homicide, meaning it resulted from another person’s deliberate action. The ruling does not make any judgments about criminal culpability.

The autopsy report also noted Hudyma suffered from severe coronary artery disease and methamphetamine use.

In his opening statement, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jeff McCarty said Smith told law enforcement that Hudyma was raping his girlfriend. But only Smith and Hudyma were in the room when Clark County sheriff’s deputies arrived. McCarty also said deputies found Smith with blood on his face, hands and arms, but only minor injuries.

By comparison, McCarty said the jury will see “gruesome” photos of Hudyma’s injuries and will hear testimony from the medical examiner that with “the blood loss and beating that he suffered, he was not strong enough to survive.”

A deputy testified after opening statements that Hudyma’s face was unrecognizable and disfigured after the beating. He and another deputy described having to move Hudyma out of the bathroom to perform CPR because the floor was too slick with blood for them to provide aid.

Defense attorney Phillip Ard said the prosecution won’t be able to explain what happened in the motel room or why it happened.

“We’re not debating that Roger Hudyma died after a fight with my client. We’re not debating he died in my client’s apartment,” Ard said. “What we’re debating is how he got to that position. Why did this fight occur?”

Deputies responded shortly after 9 p.m. for a report of a disturbance in Room 31 at the motel. The caller said he heard his neighbors fighting, and someone was screaming to call the police, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

After deputies knocked, the door opened and Smith, with blood on his face and hands, crawled out. Deputies said Smith looked up at his girlfriend — who was standing with the 911 caller — and said, “He was trying to rape you, he was raping you,” the affidavit states.

Deputies found Hudyma, nude and lying on the bathroom floor; there was blood on the floor and walls, court records say.

Smith’s girlfriend told investigators the couple were hanging out at a friend’s trailer earlier in the day, and Hudyma picked them up and brought them to their motel room. Hudyma came inside and got into the shower, she said. She then went to the motel office, she said, when she heard screaming and returned to the room, according to the affidavit.

She saw Hudyma lying on the bathroom floor with Smith on top of him. She believed Hudyma was having a seizure and that Smith was helping him. She then saw Hudyma’s eye looked swollen, she said, and told Smith they needed an ambulance, court records say.

Prior to opening statements, McCarty said his office has been unable to contact Smith’s girlfriend, who is transient, in the past few months, and Judge Robert Lewis ordered an arrest warrant to make her appear to testify.

Prosecutors said during Smith’s first appearance he had just been released from prison in December after serving a 10-year sentence for second-degree assault. He has a lengthy criminal history, including prior assault convictions — some for domestic violence.