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MailTribune.com
  • How moments of terror ended in tragedy

    Neighbor recounts sudden events that led to brutal Sunday slaying
  • Roderick Hawkins recently moved away from the tough streets of Dallas, Texas, to escape violence and bloodshed.
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  • Roderick Hawkins recently moved away from the tough streets of Dallas, Texas, to escape violence and bloodshed.
    But the 31-year-old Medford resident found himself next door to a murder scene Sunday, when his neighbor Maria Guadelupe Rodriguez was stabbed to death right in front of him.
    "This whole neighborhood is in shock right now," Hawkins said.
    Hawkins said he was in his apartment next door to Rodriguez's home at 1990 Table Rock Road when the woman was attacked suddenly outside her door.
    "The mother of my children was just talking to (Rodriguez) right before he attacked her," Hawkins said.
    Hawkins said Rodriguez had just returned home from grocery shopping at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday when a knife-wielding man sprang from behind a bush and assaulted her.
    "This was premeditated," Hawkins said. "He was there to kill."
    Police have identified the suspect as Jose Valencia-Gaona, 45, of Medford. They had yet to apprehend him as of Tuesday night.
    Hawkins' girlfriend saw the attack and began screaming, prompting him to rush out the door to see what was the matter.
    "I was getting ready for work when I heard all this screaming," Hawkins said. "I came out the door and was running up to help when the guy popped out and swung the knife at me. He was going to cut me."
    Hawkins dodged the swipe and began rushing toward a doorway leading out of the alleyway behind the apartments. He said Rodriguez was fleeing her assailant when he caught her from behind.
    "I thought she was right behind me and we were going to get away," Hawkins said. "But he must have choked her or stabbed her before I got there because she wasn't moving very fast."
    Hawkins joined several neighbors who had arrived and began yelling for help and ordering the man to leave. The man threatened to kill the witnesses prior to escaping before police arrived.
    "One guy was going inside his house to get his gun, but the guy was gone before he got back," Hawkins said. "If I had a piece, I would have shot him. But I didn't even have any shoes on and this guy was trying to kill me with that knife. If I hadn't seen him in time, I would have been the second victim."
    Medford police said Hawkins and the other neighbors did the right thing by yelling at the suspect and threatening to call the police.
    Sgt. Brent Mak said it's easy to imagine a scenario where someone carrying a gun or another weapon could have stepped forward to kill or injure the suspect. However, these things do not go down quick and easy like in the movies, Mak said.
    "We want you to be a vocal witness when you approach a scene like this," Mak said. "Scream and yell that you are calling the police. These are extremely dangerous situations and more than one person could end up dead."
    Most people who carry guns for personal protection are not trained in emergency situations such as this one, Mak said.
    "You could crank off some rounds and they could hit the victim or blow through a window and hit an innocent person in the home. There is a lot of liability when you use a firearm in public."
    Mak said it is personal choice for gun owners whether they act with deadly force in these situations. He urged caution and said that a gun in untrained hands could make matters worse.
    "Going out to the firing range and shooting at targets is not the same as using a firearm in a dynamic situation where someone is attacking you or another person," Mak said. "Police train for these situations all the time. Most people don't participate in scenario-based training, so they are taking a real chance."
    Mak said one thing to avoid in any case is cornering a dangerous suspect. He suggested giving the suspect an escape route so he can later be apprehended by police.
    "If someone with a weapon feels you are the only thing between them and escape, then you could become a victim," Mak said.
    It is critical that you note the clothing and any other distinguishing features of a suspect that could help police narrow down a search.
    Sunday night's horrific event has left Hawkins shaken. He said Rodriguez was well liked by her neighbors.
    "She used to make Mexican meals for me," he said. "I used to talk with her all the time. She was a real nice lady."
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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