A transient who asked for a drink of water from an east Medford man allegedly repaid his kindness by stealing his car and crashing it in a chase with police.
Robert Roy Pridy, who also uses the last name of Kennedy, is being held in the Jackson County Jail on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle, possession of methamphetamine, being a felon in possession of a weapon, attempting to elude police on foot and in a vehicle, reckless driving and hit and run. His bail was set at $64,000 Wednesday.
Authorities said Pridy, 39, came up to Robert Paul Clewell, 37, in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 700 block of Royal Avenue around 9 p.m. and asked for a glass of water. Clewell let him into his apartment to get the water, saying he felt bad for Pridy because of the hot temperatures.
"He was standing out there," Clewell said. "He looked like he was ready to pass out."
The two men had a brief conversation. Clewell left the room for a moment, then returned to bid his thirsty visitor good-bye. After Pridy left, Clewell noticed his car keys were missing. As he began to search for them, he heard his 2006 Ford Mustang rev to life outside.
"I just thought, 'Oh my God, he's got my keys,' " Clewell said.
He stepped out of his apartment just as Pridy pulled out of the parking lot in the Mustang, police said. Clewell chased the retreating car down the sidewalk.
Police said it's not clear whether the request for water was part of a larger plan from the get-go, but that's likely.
"It's really hard to say if (car theft) was his intent all along," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said. "I have no doubt the water was a ruse to get into the home."
A Jackson County Sheriff's Department deputy spotted the stolen Mustang at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday near the intersection of Griffin Creek and South Stage roads. The deputy tried to stop the car, but it was driven off into west Medford. Pridy kept the lights off and navigated through neighborhoods with Medford police and deputies on his trail, police said.
"It was all residential streets, and he was making a lot of turns," Budreau said.
Police put out spike strips near the intersection of Prune Street and Columbus Avenue. That slowed the vehicle before it was crashed into a parked trailer on Murray Street near Peach Street.
"It was very heavily damaged," Budreau said of the Mustang. "If it's not totaled, it's probably close."
Pridy bolted from the vehicle and escaped officers in pursuit, he added.
A sheriff's department dog searched the area, but Pridy was found when a tip came into police at 1:03 a.m.
The caller told police someone was hiding in his garage in the 700 block of South Peach Street.
Pridy initially resisted and had to be subdued with a stun gun before officers could take him into custody, police said. Authorities said they also found a dagger and methamphetamine — both allegedly belonging to Pridy — in the car.
Pridy was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for minor injuries before being released back to police and jailed.
Clewell had automobile insurance. He said he feels a little better that the theft happened to him instead of one of his elderly neighbors.
"It could have been worse. He obviously had a weapon on him," Clewell said.
He added that the incident has made him more cautious concerning strangers and keeping doors locked.
"There's never been anything (here)," he said. "It's pretty scary."
Pridy is a familiar face to police. Court records show a long record stretching back to 1994, including convictions for theft, possession of a controlled substance, delivery of a controlled substance, possession of methamphetamine and burglary.
"He's very well-known to law enforcement. He's been around for years, getting arrested a lot," Budreau said. "Back when I was on patrol, I used to arrest him all the time."
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at email@example.com.