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Crime spree brings 6-year sentence

A Medford man who stole nearly 20 cars ' some right out of owner's garages ' will spend more than six years in prison.

Joseph Andrew Hulse, 25, of the 3200 block of Griffin Creek Road, pleaded guilty Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court to more than 30 counts of burglary, theft, unauthorized use of a vehicle, criminal mischief and drug possession. Circuit Court Judge Bill Purdy ordered him to spend six years and two months in prison, a sentence partially based on Oregon laws requiring minimum prison terms for repeat perpetrators of property crimes.

Hulse stole most of the cars between August 2002 and March of this year from neighbors' driveways in the South Stage and Griffin Creek Road areas, police said. Hulse drove the cars around town, took various items from inside and then abandoned the vehicles, said Detective Colin Fagan of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

In three cases, however, Hulse broke into locked garages, stealing the cars when owners were sometimes in the next room, Fagan said.

— I was sleeping on the other side of the wall, Janice Griffith, now of Medford, said in court Friday. Just the thought of him being in there freaks me out. For weeks afterward, we couldn't sleep.

I just want you to understand that you made my wife feel unsafe in her home, said Griffith's husband, Brian Griffith.

Police recovered the Griffiths' silver 2001 Lexus, which had little damage, several weeks after it was stolen from their Jacksonville home in July 2002. Hulse first broke into the couple's GMC Suburban ' locked and parked outside ' where he found the garage door opener and keys to the Lexus, the couple said.

Police tied the numerous car thefts to Hulse, a convicted felon, because the vehicles were stolen in the approximate area of his known address and then abandoned in west Medford, near his girlfriend's home, Fagan said. A fingerprint found inside one of the cars confirmed the thief's identity, Fagan said.

Hulse took &

36;10,000 in items from the cars, including firearms, stereos, cash and laptop computers, Fagan said. He also broke into dozens of other vehicles, cases that police could never clear, Fagan said, adding that Hulse's methamphetamine addiction fueled his crimes.

The cumulative effect of this got him the same amount of time as if he had done an armed robbery, Fagan said.

Police arrested Hulse six times between January and March, but he couldn't be held in jail because the state in its budget crisis wasn't appointing attorneys for such cases, Fagan said. Each time Hulse was released, he committed more crimes, until the court finally set his bail at &

36;1 million, Fagan added.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail