A 57-year-old man is accused of attempting to murder his cellmate while he was booked in Clatsop County Jail.

Police initially made contact with Steven Wayne Campbell after receiving a report of an extremely intoxicated man going through the drive-thru at Burger King in October. Astoria police arrived and found him passed out over his steering wheel with the car still running in the parking lot, District Attorney Ron Brown said.

After failing a field sobriety test, Campbell was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants and was booked into jail later that night. When the officer returned the next day, Campbell allegedly was making strange statements about some people deserving to die, Brown said.

Concerned, the officer went to review video footage of Campbell’s cell and found that he was pinching the air tube of his cellmate’s CPAP machine, a device used to treat sleep apnea. Brown was unaware of any motivation the man might have had or if he knew the man before the incident.

The officer arrested Campbell for attempted murder. Judge Dawn McIntosh initially decided there wasn’t probable cause to charge Campbell with attempted murder, but his reckless endangerment charge stuck.

The grand jury later reviewed the case and voted to charge him with attempted murder.

“When that happens, it’s kind of an odd thing,” Brown said. “We like to think we are looking at the case as conservatively as anyone would, but sometimes people on the grand jury take an even more conservative view.”

Despite the fact it is physically impossible to kill someone by pinching a tube on a CPAP machine, the grand jury found there was enough evidence to suggest Campbell made a substantial step toward killing another human being. The fact that it is impossible is not defense to an attempted crime.

“Basically it was a very oddball set of facts,” Brown said.

Without Campbell making statements about wanting to kill people, it’s possible no one at the jail would have known about the incident, Brown said.

“Nobody probably would have been the wiser ... the guy woke up and didn’t know what the heck woke him up,” Brown said. “If Campbell hadn’t started talking about his weird thoughts, probably nothing would have happened.”

Campbell has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and the felony DUI and is being held on $250,000 bail. His next hearing is in March.

Brenna Visser is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact her at 971-320-4558 or bvisser@dailyastorian.com.

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