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Hit-and-run suspect served on front lines in Iraq

Ryan Dean Rackley - arrested on Friday for allegedly being — the driver in a hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of an — Ashland man - is a former Ashland High School football and track athlete — who served in the U.S. Marines Corps., including a tour of duty in the — Middle East.

Rackley, 24, was arraigned in Jackson County Court on — Monday. He was arrested Friday night on suspicion of driving his car into — 20-year-old Anthony James Waldron, while Waldron was walking along South — Valley View Road on the evening of Sept. 15. Police say it was Rackley — who fled the scene following the accident.

Waldron was hurled about 70 feet, and died the next day — at Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford. He had been living for the — past month at the Wellsprings campground off Highway 99.

Rackley was arrested on charges of first and second-degree — manslaughter, felony hit-and run and driving under the influence of intoxicants. —

Athlete, soldier

Rackley has been in the news before, but for his accomplishments, — not his potential crimes. A November 15, 1997 Medford Mail Tribune photo — shows Rackley racing 78 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown against — Tigard.

A March 20, 2003 Tidings article said Rackley was a sergeant — in the 3rd division of the U.S. Marine Corps. The paper talked to his — father, Bob Rackley of Ashland, shortly after the first U.S. bombs struck — Iraq. At the time, the senior Rackley was monitoring the news, surfing — between channels.

"He's right on the front line - that's why we're watching," — he said.

Rackley said his son was due to get out of the service — in January of 2003, after having served four years. His duty was extended — because of military orders aimed at retaining skilled servicemen.

"He was three weeks of getting out of the service. I asked — how he felt about going back in, and he said "if my unit goes back, I'm — going. We're like a family.' He was pretty adamant about that," the senior — Rackley said.

A message left at the home of Bob Rackley seeking comment — was not returned by deadline today.

In an article from the North County Times, a paper based — in Southern California, a writer at Camp Doha in Kuwait talked to a number — of soldiers from the 3rd division, including Ryan Rackley.

The article said he had planned to start taking general — education courses near Ashland, before hearing of the general discharge — deferment.

"But for something like this, I'm happy to go," he said. — "We trained for four years and didn't get to see anything. I'm glad to — be here."

A tragic night

Capt. Joe Puckett of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department — said Rackley was seen drinking at an Ashland bar several hours before — the fatal collision. According to Jackson County Circuit Court Records, — he was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol in 1998. Rackley — completed a one-year diversion program, resulting in the dismissal of — the case.

If he is convicted of first-degree manslaughter, Rackley — would spend a minimum of 12 years in prison under Oregon's mandatory sentencing — law, Measure 11.

Rackley was first considered a suspect when he reported — to Ashland police that someone stole his car. The car was found a day — after the collision at Rackley's residence. The passenger side had been — damaged, and the windshield was cracked, Puckett said. Some plastic parts — found at the crash site also appeared to fit components broken from the — car's undercarriage.