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Portrait emerges of young murder suspect

Educators at Talent Middle School where Mauricio Humberto Teran attended sixth and seventh grade were saddened to learn that their former student had been accused of murder, Principal Curt Shenk said.

The 14-year-old is also accused of first- and second-degree manslaughter, first-, second- and third-degree assault, riot and disorderly conduct.

Investigators and prosecutors said that Teran participated in a violent altercation Sept. 15 between groups of young men that left 24-year-old Central Point resident Marco Diaz dead. Diaz, who was beaten and stabbed outside an apartment in the 600 block of Beatty Street in Medford, died of knife wounds at a local hospital several hours after the fight.

Prosecutors hope to prove that Teran was involved in two separate incidents of violence during the melee — a beating that injured Diaz and a stabbing that killed him.

"It's sad for us," Shenk said. "We know that there's a better side to Mauricio than what he's gotten himself into would show."

Shenk remembered Teran as a quiet kid at school when he was there, although absences and tardiness were both recurring problems. He wasn't enrolled at the school this year.

Although Teran had what the principal described as "a mixed bag" of discipline issues, he cooperated with the deans and wasn't defiant.

At school, he didn't exhibit behavior that hinted he could be violent or dangerous, Shenk said.

However, teachers and fellow students knew Teran was making poor decisions outside of school and getting involved in potentially risky activity, Shenk said.

At Shady Brook Mobile Home Park on Talent Avenue where Teran's family lives, half a dozen boys hanging around on the front step of one home waiting for a friend said they knew Teran, but they hadn't seen him for months since he ran away.

At the home he left, a woman smiled apologetically and said she didn't speak English when asked Friday about Teran.

Medford police confirmed that Teran had run away and was living on the streets, drifting from couch to couch among friends. He was arrested two days after the fatal fight at an apartment in the 1800 block of Crater Lake Avenue.

Teran and about a dozen other young men suspected of being involved in the fatal fight and a disturbance at the Beatty Street apartment complex the next night were quickly arrested on riot and disorderly conduct. Most have remained in custody while police worked to determine who was responsible for Diaz's death.

Teran was the youngest of the suspects police have identified as being involved in the fight.

He isn't the youngest murder suspect in Jackson County's history, though.

In October 1982, 13-year-old Tina Jean Winfrey shot her 38-year-old aunt, Connie Faye Welburn, in the head with a rifle while the woman slept in a home they shared in the 1200 block of Covina Street, Medford. Winfrey was found guilty of murder and sentenced to remain in custody until she turned 21. She was sent to a secure youth treatment center at the Utah State Hospital, near where her parents lived, to serve out her sentence, Mail Tribune archives show.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.