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Greenway rapist faces 8 years in prison

After his release, he must also register as a sex offender for life

The man who raped a 15-year-old girl on the Bear Creek Greenway last year will spend more than eight years in prison.

Christopher Richard Valdez, 34, heard his sentence of eight years and four months Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court. In addition to the prison term ' the mandatory penalty under Oregon law ' Valdez must be supervised for 20 years after his release and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

A jury in December convicted Valdez of first- and third-degree rape but acquitted him of assaulting and kidnapping the victim. She did not appear in court Monday.

The girl testified during Valdez's two-day trial that she was on her way to school on March 4 last year when Valdez approached her on the bike path. While Valdez started a conversation with her, two other men jumped out of nearby blackberry bushes.

One man struck her in the face, knocking her to the ground, the victim said. Valdez and the other man dragged her through the briars to a tent, where they injected her with an unknown substance, and each raped her, she testified.

— DNA evidence showed Valdez's semen was inside the victim when she was examined at Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass. The girl also identified Valdez in a photo lineup and accurately described two tattoos on his chest. Police could not establish identities for the other two men.

The rape prompted a community outcry last year.

Weeks of news reports detailed a swift reaction by city and county authorities to remove masses of blackberry bushes sheltering campsites staked by the homeless along the Greenway, a popular recreational path between Central Point and Ashland.

When asked Monday if he wanted to address the court, Valdez said he thought the jury's guilty verdict on both charges ' forcible and statutory rape ' presented a conflict. His attorney last week asked the court to postpone Valdez's sentencing so he could research possible grounds for a new trial.

Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia clarified Monday that prosecutors never alleged sexual contact between Valdez and the victim was consensual. Statutory rape charges can include consensual sexual contact with a minor.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail Greenway rapist faces 8 years in prison"slemon@mailtribune.com.