A Medford man arrested for allegedly trying to snatch a 5-year-old boy from his mother in west Medford has a long history of mental illness, and he had been displaying increasingly dangerous behaviors for weeks, concerned family members say.
Robert Vincent Jones, 47, is accused of grabbing the boy while he was walking with his mother and trying to drag him into an orange Ford Mustang with a black hood Monday morning at the intersection of Monroe and Grape streets, police said.
Jones' ex-wife, Mary Marshall, attended his arraignment hearing Tuesday afternoon at Jackson County Circuit Court. Marshall and her daughter breathed a sigh of relief when Judge Tim Gerking raised Jones' $15,000 bail to $250,000 for his pending charges of second-degree kidnapping and harassment.
"He's where he needs to be," Marshall said. "I am not making excuses for what he has done, at all. But the whole mental illness issues need to be addressed."
Marshall said Jones has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and anxiety, as well as alcoholism, and she said Jones' mental health has been in a steady decline despite the family's efforts to get him help.
"We've been trying for over a month to get him help," Marshall said. "He's been hospitalized at least a dozen times. But they let him right out. And we know that he's tried several failed attempts at suicide."
Marshall said she and Jones were married for almost 25 years. Jones has never fully accepted his mental illness issues, she said, adding Jones will at times stabilize when he's taking his prescribed medications. But he sometimes refuses to take them, she said.
"We're in for a roller-coaster ride," she said.
Jones has never recovered from the trauma of the still-born birth of their daughter, Marshall added.
"He's come into the cemetery and slept on her grave," she said.
Marshall said she fears Jones has become a danger to himself and others. In recent weeks, Jones has twice made demands that their son's child be turned over to him, she said.
"Two weeks ago he went into my grandson's mother's work and demanded my grandson," Marshall said.
On Monday morning, Jones allegedly stopped his vehicle in the street and offered the victims a Bible and a sip from his drink. Then he grabbed the child and told the mother he was going to take him, police said. The mother intervened, and the pair escaped to her nearby car. Jones allegedly fled the scene as the mother called police from her cellphone, said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.
About 35 minutes after the would-be abductor fled, police stopped Jones' vehicle in the 500 block of South Riverside Avenue, police said.
Jones was arrested on a charge of attempted second-degree kidnapping, police said. His vehicle, which was registered to him and insured, was seized pending a search once a warrant could be obtained, Budreau said.
"There was a drink with a straw inside the vehicle," Budreau said.
After seeing news reports about Jones, Renee Valdez contacted the Mail Tribune and said she believed her 16-year-old daughter had been stalked on Sunday by Jones while walking on Biddle Road.
Her daughter was headed to visit Valdez at work when Jones allegedly cut her off with his Mustang in the Toys R Us parking lot. The teen dashed into a sandwich shop to get away, but Jones continued to circle the area in his vehicle, she said.
Valdez said a couple of good Samaritans in the restaurant witnessed the incident and gave her daughter a ride to her work. Valdez said she called police, but she did not receive a call back.
"Medford police dropped the ball," Valdez said.
Budreau verified two calls came in Sunday night regarding an incident Valdez described. A Medford officer was dispatched but was unable to locate a vehicle matching the description, he said. Valdez and her daughter are cooperating with the investigation, and Budreau said he is looking into why they did not receive a call back that night.
Heather Hoeber, who also called the Mail Tribune after seeing reports about Jones' arrest, said she came into contact with Jones last Thursday at a church dinner. Jones' Mustang was having mechanical issues, she said, but he, a female companion and a dog all entered the First Christian Church at Brookhurst and Crater Lake Avenue. Jones kept telling Hoeber she was "another beautiful sister in the lord," as she offered them food and they shared a table at the community dinner.
"They let anybody walk in if they need food," Hoeber said, adding Jones was repeatedly asked by church officials not to let the dog eat off the church plates.
Marshall said Jones has family members near both areas of Medford where the alleged incidents occurred. Marshall expressed shock at seeing Jones' physical demeanor and condition at Tuesday's arraignment.
"He looks terrible," she said. "He looks like his own evil twin."
Jones' stepdaughter, Tosha Jones, said she and her brother have been seeking appropriate mental health help for Jones "for months and months."
"He hears voices," she said. "He thinks God is talking to people through him."
Jackson County's mental health system and justice system have failed the community and her father, she said.
"I am not justifying what he did. He is very mentally ill," Jones said. "But Jackson County needs to be responsible for some of the actions here because they keep putting him back out on the streets. He needs help. This whole situation could have been avoided. And this poor little boy wouldn't have had to go through this, and neither would his family."
Budreau said Medford police crossed paths with Jones on May 31 when police were called to an apartment on Crater Lake Avenue. Jones had locked himself in a bathroom and had made suicidal threats. Officers took him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center's psychiatric unit for assessment, Budreau said.
Jones was subsequently arrested that day on a charge of second-degree criminal trespass. Lodged in Jackson County jail at 4:46 a.m., Jones was released seven hours later due to overcrowding, Budreau said.
Jones was again lodged on June 1 at 12:01 a.m. on a charge of improper use of 911. He was released at 9:20 a.m., Budreau said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email@example.com.