• Medford murder suspect pleads not guilty

    Jose Valencia-Gaona shows emotion during hearing on Thursday
  • A man accused of stabbing a Medford woman to death on Sunday pleaded not guilty Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
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  • A man accused of stabbing a Medford woman to death on Sunday pleaded not guilty Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
    Jose Valencia-Gaona, 45, kept his head tipped to the side and wiped away tears as the court interpreter told him he was facing a murder charge in the death of Maria Guadalupe Rodriguez, 38, who was killed outside her apartment.
    Valencia-Gaona's voice broke as he answered the interpreter's questions, translated from visiting Judge Fred E. Avena and Alyssa Bartholomew, his court-appointed attorney.
    Bartholomew requested a plea of not guilty be entered on behalf of Valencia-Gaona.
    Avena ordered him held without bail, at least until his Sept. 12 pretrial hearing.
    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.
    An anonymous tip led to his capture Wednesday near the railroad tracks running through central Medford.
    Medford police Chief Tim George said at a press conference on Wednesday 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.
    George said Valencia-Gaona and Rodriguez knew each other but declined to elaborate. Witnesses have reported that Valencia-Gaona was seen at Rodriguez's apartment in the weeks before the murder. Investigators will look into whether Valencia-Gaona had an accomplice help him hide from police in the days after the murder, he said.
    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 prior criminal history for him in Oregon.
    Rodriguez left behind two children, a son who lives in Alaska and a daughter who lives in Eugene. The son is in Medford and has been in contact with police.
    Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.
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