An autopsy report on Bonnie Sue Payne showed she was strangled to death on March 4, said Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.
As the state's murder case against Mitchell Alan Below, 50, proceeds to the grand jury today, new information is coming forward about the mental state of the defendant and allegations about how he killed his girlfriend.
Medford police entered the apartment in the 500 block of West Sixth Street shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday and found the 48-year-old Payne dead inside. Below, 50, threatening to kill himself, was barricaded inside the bathroom. After a three-hour standoff, Below was persuaded to leave the bathroom and was found suffering from self-inflicted knife wounds.
Below had cut his wrists and neck, and was transported to a local hospital where he underwent surgery, Huddleston said.
Later that day Below was taken to the Jackson County Jail, where he was being held on a murder charge without bail, said Andrea Carlson, spokeswoman for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
Jail officials grew increasingly concerned about Below's suicide risk. They doubted their ability to render aid quickly enough if Below decided to rip out his stitches, she said.
"This was a man who was truly suicidal," Carlson said. "If he had pulled his stitches out, he probably would have bled out and died."
Below was returned to the hospital on Sunday and remained there until Monday afternoon. Once Below was returned to jail, his status was checked every 15 minutes, she said.
"That has changed to every 30 minutes last night," Carlson said. "He has been cleared (by jail mental health care professionals) as a suicide threat."
Below is being represented by a public defender, Christine Herbert. He was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Jackson County Circuit Court on a district attorney's information charging him with murder in the March 4 killing of Payne.
Payne's autopsy was performed Tuesday by Dr. James Olson, deputy state medical examiner. The cause of death was strangulation, he said.
If the grand jury returns an indictment, the court will cancel the preliminary hearing and set a date for Below to appear for arraignment on the indictment. Murder is a Measure 11 crime. If Below is found guilty, he would be sentenced to life in prison with a 25-year minimum sentence. Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack set a pretrial hearing for March 15.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail email@example.com.