Police say the man who stabbed 38-year-old Maria Guadelupe Rodriguez to death outside her Medford apartment Sunday night hid in the bushes, waiting to attack her when she returned home.
"He had been there before," said Medford Police Chief Tim George. "He knew the address. He was no stranger to that location. There was no question that he was lying in wait."
Police allege Jose Valencia-Gaona, 45, of Medford, jumped from his hiding spot at about 8:30 p.m. and stabbed Rodriguez several times with a knife in a rage before fleeing the apartment complex at 1990 Table Rock Road. They believe the two knew each other, possibly from a past relationship.
Rodriguez died at the scene. Police declined to give details about her wounds but said an autopsy was being conducted Tuesday to determine the official cause of death.
Police combed west Medford Tuesday looking for Valencia-Gaona and asked for the public's help in tracking 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 said they believe Valencia-Gaona — who is also known by a street name "Pepe" — and Rodriguez got into a verbal argument when she arrived home. The fight turned physical, and Valencia-Gaona allegedly stabbed Rodriguez several times, threatened to kill onlookers who were trying to intervene and then ran away. Police said a neighbor went inside his home to grab a firearm but came back out too late.
Police said with the help of witnesses, officers have nearly apprehended Valencia-Gaona several times, coming within a half-hour of catching him. Police and a SWAT team 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 Oregon. George said Rodriguez did not have a restraining order against Valencia-Gaona, though she may have mentioned occasional concerns to friends and neighbors. He does not have a vehicle registered to his name, police said.
Neighbors said Rodriguez worked two jobs and was a kind and gracious neighbor. Police said two children survive her, a son who lives in Alaska and a daughter who lives in Eugene.
George encouraged the public to be on the lookout for Valencia-Gaona. He 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 call the Medford police at 541-770-4783 as soon as possible, George said.
"We need to know about it," George said. "He's out there, and we've got to think catch until we catch."
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.