• Gold Hill man improves; arm may be amputated

    Miner faces first-degree assault charge after the shooting on a Josephine County mining claim
  • A Gold Hill man, shot in the arm by a miner while off-roading outside Kerby Sunday, is listed in fair condition in a Portland hospital but will likely undergo amputation, friends said Tuesday.
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  • A Gold Hill man, shot in the arm by a miner while off-roading outside Kerby Sunday, is listed in fair condition in a Portland hospital but will likely undergo amputation, friends said Tuesday.
    Friends of Gregory Glen Graybill, who lives on Sardine Creek Road, say the 53-year-old carpenter likely will lose his right arm after taking a blast from a 12-gauge shotgun witnesses say was wielded by 61-year-old Ronald Eugene Spears.
    "There's just nothing left to save," Graybill's girlfriend, Karren Claassen, said Tuesday.
    "He's in a terrible amount of pain. He can hardly talk."
    Graybill was in a caravan of six trucks traveling Sunday morning on a rugged gravel road about two miles west of Highway 199 on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest when the shooting occurred. He was riding in Eric Olson's Jeep, the third vehicle in the caravan.
    Olson, 54, of Gold Hill, said the group, which ranged in age from 5 to nearly 80, came upon a camp with two tents and what they thought was an abandoned truck parked on the roadway. The riders planned to head down a ravine, then back up a ridge to a main forest road, he said. But Spears confronted them, demanding they get off his property, which he described as an 80-acre mining claim he had lived on for 22 years, Olson said. As the confrontation continued, Spears pointed a shotgun at Graybill and fired, he said.
    Graybill turned to the side just in time to avoid a shotgun blast to the chest, Claassen said.
    "He could see it in (Spears') eyes he was going to shoot him," she said, adding Graybill has burn marks from the shotgun barrel on his torso.
    Spears was taken into custody Sunday and arraigned Monday afternoon. He is in the Josephine County Jail on $75,000 bail for a single charge of first-degree assault, said Josephine County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Mulkins.
    "It doesn't sound like a very substantial charge," Olson said. "But I guess it is. To me, it's definitely attempted murder."
    Mulkins declined to discuss why Spears was charged with assault, saying only that Spears would face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of seven and a half years if convicted of the Measure 11 crime.
    Spears' next hearing is set for April 14, court records show. The Mail Tribune filed a request for information regarding Spear's mining claim Tuesday.
    Forest Service spokeswoman Patty Burel said she couldn't discuss the specifics of the case while the investigation was ongoing. Miners can remove valuable minerals from the land where they have a claim, but they do not own the public land. Off-road vehicle use is allowed as long as drivers obey any posted rules and don't damage resources, she said.
    Olson said he was in the room when vascular surgeons at Rogue Valley Medical Center spoke with Graybill on Sunday before he was transported to Legacy Emmanuel Hospital in Portland. Graybill has massive muscle, bone and nerve damage to his arm, Olson said.
    Graybill is scheduled for another surgery today. But the prospects for saving the limb don't look good, Claassen said.
    It is likely Graybill will be transferred again to a Veterans Affairs hospital for amputation, Olson said.
    "They got the bleeding stopped, put two pins in the bones and tried to do something about the circulation. But he has no feeling in the nerves at all. They told Greg they doubted they could do anything to save the arm because the injuries are so severe," he said, adding Graybill has no insurance.
    "That didn't help matters," Olson said.
    The sheriff's department is continuing its investigation. Anyone with information can call the department's tip line at 474-5160 or the major crime unit at 474-5153.
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