State rules that man in canal was drowning victim

The Oregon State Medical Examiner has determined that the April 5 death of Robert Lawrence Hayes, 51, of Albany, was a drowning.

Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny released a report stating that on July 27.
According to the police report, the state medical examiner said there were no outward signs of the cause of death.

Hayes’ body was found in the Albany-Lebanon Canal on April 5. At 1:53 p.m., Lebanon Police Department officers responded to a report of a body found in the water.

Based on the preliminary investigation, police believed the body had been submerged for about a week.

In the report, Detective Justin McCubbins said after the autopsy, the medical examiner told him that “the body had been in the canal much longer than the five to nine days previously believed. She said that the body very well could have been in the canal since Feb. 24, 2017 based on the decomposition of certain organs.”

On Feb. 25, officers were dispatched to the Knothole to contact a man that was getting into a silver Volkswagen Passat.

The officer found a 43-year-old man sitting in the passenger seat with the door open. He said the vehicle belonged to a friend and he was retrieving his belongings. The officer detained the man on an unrelated arrest warrant.

On Feb. 24, Knothole staff members had reported a male left the vehicle at the market under suspicious circumstances. Police records state that a man in his 40s looked to be “spooked” when an officer drove up to the store and he “stashed a white powdery substance in the coffee straws.” The man then left on foot.

McCubbins said he had made several attempts to contact the owner of the Knothole to obtain video from the night of Feb. 24, but the owner did not return his calls.

McCubbins wrote that, based on the information he had obtained, he believed that Hayes left the Knothole Market on Feb. 24 and ended up near the canal, either to hide from the officer or “to cut through, out of sight, from S. Main Street to S. Second Street.”

“I believe that Robert accidentally fell into the canal,” McCubbins said. “Robert was wearing heavy boots, jeans, several shirts and a heavy jacket. The water would have been near-freezing temperature and is more than 6 feet deep in areas.”

The Volkswagen was towed more than a week later and Hayes still had the key to the vehicle in his pocket when his body was found, according to the report.

“I have not received any information that Robert had been seen or heard from since that night,” McCubbins said. “There has been no evidence in this case which would lead me to believe there was any foul play in Robert Hayes’ death.”

LPD has not yet received the toxicology report on Hayes.