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Some scars don't heal

The man who narrowly escaped death at the hands of accused murderer Travis Donald Asbill nearly eight years ago said Asbill should not have been set free to attack again.(Correction: The time of the attack on Mack has been corrected in this story.)

Asbill is in the Jackson County Jail, facing murder charges in the June 3 bludgeoning death of Donald William Mack.

"I'm very upset," Ronald Ragsdale said. "What (Asbill) did to me, and what he did to (Mack), is not human."

Asbill, 29, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Ragsdale, 56, in 2004. He was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison for the Measure 11 crime. He was released on supervised probation in May 2011.

Medford police say that just before 1 p.m. on June 3 Asbill used a golf club to attack Mack, 54, inside his apartment at 115 Almond St., Medford.

Police and paramedics discovered Mack with major head injuries. He was transported to Rogue Valley Medical Center and pronounced dead at 1:34 p.m. Police have yet to determine a motive in the slaying but said Mack and Asbill knew one another.

Asbill's alleged attack on Mack gives Ragsdale chills and sets horrific memories cascading through his mind. Ragsdale said he wants Asbill, a man he once considered "another son," to spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"He went to school with my sons," Ragsdale said. "I took him hunting and fishing and camping."

But in the early morning hours of Nov. 4, 2003, while Ragsdale waited for some fishing buddies to arrive at his White City residence, Asbill showed up and "ruined my life," Ragsdale said.

Asbill asked for a pack of cigarettes and then began driving erratically around Ragsdale. When Ragsdale told him to stop, Asbill launched an unprovoked attack — first shooting Ragsdale, and then stabbing him multiple times with what Ragsdale believes was his own fishing knife.

"He did a real number on me," Ragsdale said. "He shot me twice — once in the head and once in the chest. And he stabbed me six times. He lacerated my liver, punctured my lungs and put seven holes in my stomach."

Left for dead on the side of the road, Ragsdale was "bleeding out" when he was discovered by Mail Tribune delivery driver Eric Sheldrake, who called 911.

"The newspaper guy saw the steam coming off me. He thought I was a dead deer or something. He turned around and came back to see," Ragsdale said.

Ragsdale, thinking it was Asbill coming back again, tried desperately to crawl away. But Sheldrake found him, Ragsdale said.

As he heard the ambulances wailing in the distance, Ragsdale told Sheldrake "I don't think I'm going to make it."

"He tried to keep me conscious," Ragsdale said. "He saved my life."

Ragsdale still has a bullet lodged next to his carotid artery and multiple bullet fragments in his body. He has endured 17 major surgeries on his misshapen shoulder which continues to dislocate and causes him chronic pain, he said.

"I used to be healthy as a horse," Ragsdale said. "I was an avid hunter, fisherman and logger. Now I live on $650 a month. I can't even get a side job with my arm."

Ragsdale says he suffers from severe post traumatic stress from Asbill's attack. He has trouble sleeping, is afraid to be left alone and is fearful in crowds. He also he believes Asbill may have been stalking him prior to his alleged attack on Mack.

"I'm scared of my own shadow," Ragsdale said. "But my dog was going nuts three weeks before the other guy was killed."

Attorneys said Asbill likely had been in the midst of a methamphetamine-induced psychosis that caused him to hallucinate when he attacked Ragsdale.

Ragsdale said Asbill's drug use does not justify his actions.

"Drugs don't make you want to do that to someone," Ragsdale said. "He's brutal. They ought to give him life without parole."

Ragsdale is angry with the Jackson County District Attorney's office, and particularly with the county's parole department, for putting himself and the community at risk, he said.

Asbill had violated his parole multiple times in the past year, said Ragsdale.

"He was in jail for stuff that should have put him back in prison," he said. "If his parole officer was doing his job, (Mack) would still be alive."

Nate Gaoiran, a Community Justice program manager confirmed Asbill had repeatedly violated the conditions of his parole. Gaoiran declined to provide details on Asbill's violations or what sanctions he received.

The term of Asbill's supervised probation was extended because of his risk level and his violations, Gaoiran said, adding his department tracks 2,500 different offenders.

"He was one of our priorities," Gaoiran said. "Each time he violated, we took action. From our perspective, we took action."

Community Justice did not have the authority to send Asbill to prison based on his violations, he said.

Asbill's parole could be revoked only if he engaged in new criminal activity, and the department can send a parolee only to the county jail, not state prison, he said.

"We couldn't legally have sent him back to prison," Gaoiran said.

Asbill had been assessed as a parolee with a "medium risk to recidivate," prior his alleged attack on Mack. He has been reassessed as "high risk," Gaoiran said

"These cases are tragic when they recidivate," he said. "There is no way to predict with complete accuracy whether someone is going to recidivate. We're doing the best job we can with the resources available to us."

As for Asbill's parole officer, Gaoiran said, "She's pretty shook up about the whole thing."

Ragsdale is also angry because he was not notified when Asbill when released from state prison.

"The D.A. never contacted me to let me know he was out, like they told me they would," Ragsdale said.

District Attorney Mark Huddleston said there is a national tracking system for prisoners available to victims. VINElink (Victim Information and Notification Everyday), located at www.vinelink.com, is an on-line resource that allows victims to search for information regarding an offender's current custody status. It is provided by the Oregon Department of Corrections and Oregon Department of Justice in cooperation with the Oregon Sheriffs' Association and the Oregon Youth Authority.

Ragsdale and others may also register to be notified automatically when an offender is released, transferred, escapes, dies or has a change in parole or probation status.

But no one from his office should have told Ragsdale that they would personally notify him.

"I can't imagine a deputy D.A. saying that," Huddleston said.

Prisoners serve their terms "at the pleasure of the supervising authority" — whether it's the county jail or state prison, Huddleston said.

When a prisoner is released depends upon the duration of their sentence, their behavior while incarcerated and/or the prison or jail's capacity, he said.

The Oregon VINE Service website states its purpose is to help keep the public safe and informed. But it urges users not to depend solely on the VINE service for their protection.

"If you feel that you may be at risk, take precautions as if the offender has already been released," the site states.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Ronald Ragsdale, who was shot and stabbed by Travis Donald Asbill in 2003, is still suffering from his wounds and is angry that his assailant is back in jail, now accused of a murder. - Bob Pennell