A Medford man lay in wait for a woman's return to her apartment Sunday night, jumping from his hiding spot and stabbing her several times with a knife before fleeing in a rage, police said.
Now that man, 45-year-old Jose Valencia-Gaona, is wanted as a suspect in the woman's murder. Maria Rodriguez, 38, who knew Valencia-Gaona — possibly from a past relationship — died at the scene. An autopsy is being conducted today to document her official cause of death.
"He had been there before. He knew the address. He was no stranger to that location," said Medford Police Chief Tim George. "There was no question that he was lying in wait."
Rodriguez's alleged murderer still has not been found and area police agencies are looking for the public's help to track him down.
"We've spent extensive time, energy and effort trying to locate this individual," George said, adding authorities believe Valencia-Gaona is still in west Medford based on several witness sightings. "These people knew each other. This was a targeted attack."Police allege the attack happened around 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Based on witness statements, Valencia-Gaona — who is also know by his street name "Pepe" — and Rodriguez got into a verbal argument when she arrived at her home in the 1900 block of Table Rock Road. The fight turned physical, and Valencia-Gaona allegedly stabbed Rodriguez several times, threatened to kill onlookers who were trying to intervene and ran away.
Since then, police said they have had several near misses on apprehending Valencia-Gaona, coming within a half hour of catching him, based on witness statements who know the suspect. Police and SWAT also have been to his home in the 2400 block of West McAndrews Road twice.
"We've got a ton of boots on the ground. We've been close a couple times," George said.
George said Valencia-Gaona has lived in the area the past four or five years. Court records don't show any criminal history for him in Jackson County. George said Rodriguez did not have a restraining order against him, though she may have mentioned occasional concerns to friends and neighbors. He does not have a vehicle registered to his name, police said.
George encouraged the public to be on the lookout for Valencia-Gaona and to call in additional sightings as soon as possible. Valencia-Gaona is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds. He has black hair and a faint mustache and beard. Anyone with information should contact Medford police at 541-770-4783.
"We need to know about it," George said. "He's out there, and we've got to think catch until we catch."
— Ryan Pfeil