A Roseburg man came home last week and went back to work after spending seven months in jail, missing the birth of a daughter and the death of a son and worrying about whether he would be sentenced to die.
“I woke up in the morning sometimes gasping for air. The feeling of knowing you’re innocent. I don’t know how to explain. I turned gray in there. That kind of stress, I’ve never felt anything like that in my life. The only help I had was Jesus,” George Bogan said Wednesday in an interview with The News-Review.
Bogan, 45, was arrested in Roseburg Feb. 21 and charged in Grant County with aggravated murder in the death of Danny Sweet, who disappeared in 1992.
Grant County prosecutors accused Bogan of hiring another man to kill Sweet over drug debts.
A Grant County judge dismissed the charge against Bogan on Sept. 17 at the request of Grant County District Attorney Ryan Joslin.
In documents submitted to the court, Joslin said new evidence “seriously calls into question the credibility of a key state’s witness.”
Joslin declined further comment, citing the ongoing murder case against the other man.
Bogan’s defense attorney, Peter Fahy of Corvallis, said Wednesday that Joslin did the right thing in dropping charges against Bogan.
Fahy said he wants the community to know that Bogan is an innocent man.
“George Bogan was facing the death penalty for a crime he had nothing to do with. The district attorney recognized the flaws in the case and did the honorable thing and dismissed the case. George Bogan gets to go back to his family,” Fahy said.
Bogan, who maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, said authorities couldn’t have picked a worse seven months to lock him up.
He missed the birth of his daughter Lily Loy-Steiner, now 4 months old, and the funeral of his son Daniel Jacob Bogan, who died at age 26 of heart problems.
“If I hadn’t have been in jail, I’d have been right there beside him. They took away my chance to be with him,” he said.
Ten days ago, Bogan held his baby girl for the first time. Before then, he had only seen Lily through a glass window at the jail.
“I didn’t even know if I would ever get to hold her,” Bogan said. When he did, he said “it made my knees wobble.”
Bogan knew and partied with Sweet, who was a 36-year-old Mitchell resident when he went missing in 1992.
In January 1996, two teenagers looking for horns on rangeland near Mount Vernon in Grant County discovered Sweet’s skeletal remains. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide.
Bogan lived in Prine-
ville at the time of Sweet’s disappearance. Bogan said he remembered Sweet as short, 5 feet 2 inches tall, and good-natured.
“We were both young and dumb. Other than being just friends, we played with drugs together, sold drugs sometimes,” Bogan said.
Bogan said he stopped using or selling methampetamine 15 years ago because he saw the damage it was doing to the people around him.
He said the last time he saw Sweet was on a trip they took to Portland about two weeks before Sweet disappeared from his Mitchell home.
An indictment issued by a Grant County grand jury Feb. 8 of this year alleged Bogan hired Thomas Allen Colbert, 51, of Indian Springs, Nev., to kill Sweet sometime between 1992 and 1996.
Bogan was arrested without incident by Oregon State Police at a traffic stop near his Roseburg residence Feb. 21.
Bogan and Colbert were charged with murder and aggravated murder. The latter charge carries a possible death penalty. Both charges against Bogan have been dismissed and the aggravated murder charge against Colbert has been dismissed. Colbert is still charged with murder.
Fahy said the state’s case against Bogan rested primarily on the testimony of a single witness.
Bogan said he has pored over thousands of pages of evidence compiled by state police in the case and still has no idea what happened to Sweet. He said the evidence he read suggested Sweet was badly beaten.
“I have read every paper of that 3,700-some pages five times. I have laid in bed at night thinking if I could just figure out what happened to Danny Sweet I’d be free,” he said.
Bogan said that he thinks his arrest was due to “shoddy police work.” All the evidence he needed to show his innocence was contained in their reports, he said.
“I’d like to say I believe the justice system is just because the D.A. let me out, but the system also put me in there,” he said.
Bogan credited his attorney with going above and beyond the call of duty to save his life.
He said he also was grateful for the support of his fiancee, Alicia Loy-Steiner, 29, and his friend and boss, Shane Stone, 41, owner of the Roseburg welding shop Cornerstone Enterprises.
Stone said he was happy to keep Bogan’s welding job open for him.
“He’s a good man, a good hard worker. He’s always been an honest employee,” Stone said.
Bogan said he’s still getting used to being free.
“My feet are just barely starting to touch the ground. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up and be back in that jail. I feel like I’m in a dream state,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The feeling of knowing you’re innocent. ... I turned gray in there. \n