Arrest made in Ashland homicide

Investigators mum on cause of death at Bear Creek Mobile Home Park; suspect held without bail

A Medford man was arrested Tuesday on charges he murdered an Ashland resident and stole property from him last week.

Merlin Elmo Bound III, 34, of the 500 block of Boardman Street, is being held without bail in the Jackson County Jail on charges of murder, first-degree assault and first-degree robbery, jail records show.

Bound is suspected of killing Frank Ronald Damiano, 62, also known as Tony Della Penna. Damiano was found dead in his home in the Bear Creek Mobile Home Park on Corral Lane in Ashland at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

The mobile home park is between Interstate 5 and South Pacific Highway outside Ashland, close to Exit 19. Detectives had been performing a welfare check at the home when they found Damiano's body inside.

Sheriff's detectives aren't revealing whether Bound and Damiano knew each other, how the homicide was carried out or what property was stolen from Damiano's home. Sheriff's officials said they will release more information on the investigation soon.

"The investigation is still ongoing," said Detective Julie Denney. "We're very confident that Mr. Bound was involved in the victim's murder. We're still following up on some of the information related to the crime itself."

Those who knew Damiano described him as a "bright" personality known to favor eye-catching clothing everywhere he went.

He also was active in the local music scene, having been a tenor in the Rogue Valley Peace Choir and the Rogue Valley Gay Men's Chorus.

"He was an excellent tenor," said Ginger Gough, spokeswoman for the Rogue Valley Peace Choir. "He loved singing and he was so full of spirit. He had a gentle spirit."

Gough spoke with people who joined Damiano in the choir and asked them to provide her with reflections on his life.

"I took notes when I spoke to them and they just described him as being so full of spirit," Gough said. "He actually took care of one of our members when she was sick. He took care of her right up until she died."

Damiano was proud of his sexuality and believed in equality for everyone, Gough said.

Bound's Facebook page said he had been a line cook at Elmer's Restaurant in Medford before his arrest. His profile said he was from Port Orford and attended Pacific High School there.

A friend of Bound's who wished to remain anonymous said he was a hard worker who valued his connection to his family.

"But he started going through a real hard time," the woman said. ... "I'm still just shocked that Merlin could be involved in something like this."

The Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit, a multi-agency team of investigators from the sheriff's office, Oregon State Police and Medford, Ashland and Central Point police, is conducting the investigation.

Court records indicate Bound had no prior criminal history in Oregon. Detectives said he will be arraigned today in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Anyone with information pertaining to the case is asked to call the Jackson County Sheriff's Department tip line at 541-774-8333.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471, or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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