Defense attorneys will bring forward any argument they think will result in the best possible outcomes for their clients. That’s the job they’ve been hired — or assigned — to do.
So it wasn’t surprising that attorney Daniel Bouck claimed last week that the case against his court-appointed client, Gwydn Stryder Styarfyr, should be dismissed.
Bouck maintained before Douglas County Circuit Court Judge George Ambrosini that the statute of limitations should be applied to Styarfyr. That suggestion itself isn’t too startling. Styarfyr is accused of sex crimes that took place more than 15 years ago. More puzzling is Bouck’s contention that the statute should be applied because police “unreasonably delayed” their search for the fugitive. That argument is feeble at best.
Styarfyr, then known as Daniel Clement Chafe and married to a Roseburg woman, was scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 25, 1998, on 18 counts of sex crimes against two teenage girls. The FBI alleges Chafe recruited girls ages 14 to 16 with the intention of setting up a cadre of children under his rule.
Shortly before the arraignment, Chafe was reported by a friend to have fallen into a river while fishing in Washington state. The friend said Chafe never resurfaced. In fact Chafe/Styarfyr remained hidden to law enforcement until shortly before his arrest Jan. 15 in Bozeman, Mont. He had been living there under the name of Zachary Taylor. Like the U.S. president of the same name, the Bozeman resident lacked a Social Security number. This omission had a hand in delivering him to Douglas County authorities.
Following his arrest in Montana, Chafe/Styarfyr was extradited to Douglas County to face six charges of rape, five counts of sexual abuse and seven counts of sodomy.
On Wednesday, Bouck said the prosecution let the case lapse. There were periods, he said, in which police relied on TV shows instead of carrying out an active search for the fugitive. The show in question was “America’s Most Wanted,” which aired an episode about Chafe/Styarfyr in 2005 that repeated in 2006 and 2008.
There’s a one-word response to Bouck’s claim that authorities got lazy in looking for the alleged sex offender: Nonsense.
Naturally, as time went on, there were days when officers did not work actively on the case. As residents of timber-dependent counties know, funding for law enforcement is not unlimited. The cooler a trail becomes, the more likely it is that resources will be diverted to cases with higher chances of yielding results.
Two Oregon State Police detectives testified last week that they continued their efforts to find Styarfyr as tips came in. One of them followed up on leads even after he was transferred to the OSP wildlife division. After his retirement, the case went to a second OSP detective who ultimately found his quarry. Had the case truly lapsed, Bouck would be representing someone besides Styarfyr.
It’s unfortunate for many reasons that it took so long to bring Styarfyr to trial. But the fact he eluded officials successfully for so long is no argument that the case against him has no merit. And he’s not wanted for accumulating a passel of parking tickets.
The time has come for Styarfyr to face his accusers and receive a fair hearing.