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MailTribune.com
  • Police catch suspect in Medford murder case

    Helped by a tip, police track down suspect in fatal stabbing of Medford woman
  • An anonymous tip led to the capture of homicide suspect Jose Valencia-Gaona, who was spotted Wednesday near the railroad tracks running through central Medford.
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  • An anonymous tip led to the capture of homicide suspect Jose Valencia-Gaona, who was spotted Wednesday near the railroad tracks running through central Medford.
    "We received word that this individual was seen in the area of Clark Street near the railroad tracks," Medford police Chief Tim George said. "We were able to get out there in a short time and arrested the suspect without incident."
    And so ended a three-day hunt for Valencia-Gaona, 45, who was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on a murder charge and $1 million bail.
    George hinted that Valencia-Gaona could face additional charges for his alleged actions at the murder scene after the Jackson County District Attorney's Office has reviewed the case.
    "There could be charges such as menacing, as he did threaten some witnesses with a knife that night," George said.
    Investigators are still piecing together the events leading up to the murder of Maria Guadalupe Rodriguez, 38, who was brutally stabbed outside her apartment Sunday night.
    "There are no happy endings to a homicide," George said. "This is a very sad case."
    Police allege Valencia-Gaona of Medford jumped from a hiding spot in the bushes outside Rodriguez's apartment at 1990 Table Rock Road at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday and stabbed her several times. He also swiped at witnesses who tried to intervene and ran away before authorities arrived, police say.
    George said Valencia-Gaona and Rodriguez knew each other but declined to elaborate.
    "They were known to each other, but we won't go into the motive at this point," George said.
    Witnesses have reported that Valencia-Gaona was seen at Rodriguez's apartment in the weeks before the murder.
    Having a suspected killer on the loose prompted the Medford Police Department to call in extra manpower working overtime to comb through leads.
    Officers spent hours chasing down faulty tips that had to be cleared, George said.
    "We appreciate that the public was so willing to talk to us," George said. "We took every tip seriously and were fortunate that we got the one that led to this dangerous individual."
    In all, the department had 30 extra people on board for the 72-hour search effort. The agency's SWAT team was scheduled for training on Tuesday and was diverted to a search team, George said.
    Investigators will look into whether Valencia-Gaona had an accomplice helping him allegedly hide out from police in the days after the murder.
    "We want to know what he's been doing since the murder happened," George said.
    Homicide detectives were interviewing Valencia-Gaona at police headquarters Wednesday in the hours after his arrest. Following the interview, he was shipped to jail, where he will wait until his first court appearance.
    A murder charge carries a minimum 25-year prison sentence upon conviction under Oregon law.
    George previously said Valencia-Gaona has lived in the area for the past four or five years. Court records don't show any criminal history for him in Oregon.
    Rodriguez left behind two children, a son who lives in Alaska and a daughter living in Eugene. The son is in Medford and has been in contact with police during the search for Valencia-Gaona.
    "Our thoughts are with these family members," George said.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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