Updated story: Sweet Home man arrested on murder, robbery charges after body found in pond


A Sweet Home man has been arrested on murder and robbery charges following the death of another Sweet Home man, who was found in a pond near Sweet Home on Wednesday morning, May 7.

Sheriff Bruce Riley said late Friday that detectives had received a full confession from Donald Arthur Matzke, 43, of Sweet Home. Matzke has been arrested and lodged in the Linn County Jail on charges of murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Tim E. Miller.

Miller, 56, was found face down in the shallow pond at the Rockin Red Ranch, located at 25491 Crescent Hill Road, approximately seven miles south of Sweet Home off Highway 228.

Miller’s son, Jason Miller also of Sweet Home, reported his father missing to the Sheriff’s Office on May 6.

Tim Miller’s body was recovered Wednesday afternoon from the pond.

An autopsy conducted Thursday revealed that Miller had died from homicidal violence, Riley said.

He said Matzke and Miller had been drinking alcohol together at the Rockin Red Ranch on the night of May 1. Riley said Matzke told detectives that he and Miller began to argue at which time Matzke stabbed Miller several times, killing him. Matzke told detectives he tried to conceal the body by disposing of it in the pond and weighing it down with rocks.

Riley said detectives believe Matzke acted alone and there were no witnesses to the killing.

The robbery charge stems from Matzke stealing money from Miller after his death, Riley said.

Detectives from the Sheriff’s Office and members of the Linn County Major Crimes Team completed a search of the property and conducted numerous interviews. The Major Crimes Team consists of members from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Albany, Lebanon and Sweet Home Police Departments, Oregon State Police, Medical Examiner’s Office and the Linn County District Attorney.

Riley said an investigation is continuing.

Janice Urben, who owns the ranch, said Miller was “a good friend” whom she had known for 25 years and who once lived on the property.

He was a frequent visitor to the ranch, she said.

Urben was on a horse camping trip to Cape Blanco when Miller disappeared, she said.

“On Monday his son Jason and a buddy Joey Williams asked me if I’d seen Tim, and I said no.”

She said Miller had spent time at the ranch on May 1 with Fred Shipley and Robert Folsom, both of whom live on the property, and Matzke, who, she said, was a resident of Trailer Villa in Sweet Home, and was also visiting. She said the visitors were there to help prepare for a “Barn Bash” event planned for later this month.

Urben said she was told Shipley turned in, but “Bob and Don and Tim drank tequila.”

“When I came back on Sunday, boys told me Tim Miller had come by. I didn’t think anything of it. On Monday his son Jason and a buddy Joey Williams asked me if I’d seen Tim, and I said no. At that time I didn’t know when he’d come out, only that he’d come out during the week while I was gone.

“Monday, after I got home, I started making calls to everyone I know who knows Tim and getting information from the boys at my house who were with him when he came down.”

She said she and Jason Miller searched the 92-acre property on the morning of May 7 and discovered Tim Miller’s body.

“Tim once lived on the back end of the property. We went to the very back of property, where there are beaver ponds back there. It wasn’t two seconds that Jason walked up to where he was.

“Jason found his glasses quite a ways from the body. He didn’t have his wallet or cellphone on him.

He wasn’t too far out in the pond, but the pond has a real steep bank right there. It’s not easy to see in that water. Only his behind was sticking out of the water.”

Urben said after discovering the body, they returned to call the Sheriff’s Office.

“We went back to the house in the truck and waited for officers of the law. It’s a long way out there.”