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Held hostage: Mom freed after ordeal

ROGUE RIVER — An urgent text-message plea resulted in a wild cross-town chase and attempted murder charges against a wanted man who allegedly hid out in his victim's apartment for two months and threatened to harm her children or pet if she told anyone.

Robert Francis Poole, 27, was arrested Sunday and taken to the Jackson County Jail where he remained Monday on $1.25 million bail for multiple charges, including attempted murder, kidnapping, assault, strangulation, menacing and resisting arrest.

Beginning early Sunday morning police made repeated visits to Jessica Bridges' Cedar Street apartment after receiving a call from Bridges' mother, Donna White, who told authorities her daughter had sent her a two-word text that read, "Help me," said Chief Ken Lewis.

White and police were immediately concerned that Bridges' message was related to her ex-boyfriend, Poole, who has a history of violence, and earlier this year faced felony domestic violence and stalking charges, Lewis said.

But the first two times officers went to Bridges' apartment at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday, no one answered. Neighbors told the officers Bridges' baby had been crying several times during the previous night and earlier in the day.

On the third welfare check at 5 p.m., Bridges opened the door and assured the officers she was fine, Lewis said.

Officers Ken Frownfelter and Chris Snyder continued to question Bridges, he said.

"She kind of averted her eyes. Then she whispered, 'Help me. He's in the bathroom,' " said Lewis.

The officers first got Bridges and her two children safely out of the building before breaking open the bathroom door — just in time to see Poole squeeze out the window.

"Poole hit the ground running," Lewis said.

From that point on it was a foot chase through side streets and alleys in Rogue River, with officers and residents alike shouting out Poole's location, he said.

"Poole was hiding here and jumping there," said Lewis.

Finally the two officers caught up to Poole, and fired four shots from their tasers, which use electric charges to subdue their target. But there were problems, he said

"The first one missed, the second one hit but only one barb stuck, and the third one was a dud," Lewis said. "The fourth one was a dead hit in the back. And they managed to get (Poole) subdued and handcuffed."

Lewis said he did not yet know if Bridges was taken by surprise and Poole forced his way in. But Bridges told police on Sunday that Poole had been hiding in her apartment for almost two months, Lewis said.

"He told (Bridges) she was never to undermine him again," said Lewis. "But I'm actually shocked he's been (here in town) for that length of time. He must have been holed-up 24/7."

Bridges said Poole made sure he kept either one of her children or a family pet hostage when she went out, he said.

"He threatened to harm or kill the kids or the cat if she told anyone," Lewis said.

On Saturday Bridges became convinced Poole was going to kill her and frantically sent a text message to her mother, he said.

"She said he choked her into unconsciousness," said Lewis. "She had multiple bruises and a rug burn on her back."

On the morning of Feb. 10, a pregnant Bridges came into Lewis' department, barefoot and with her 4-year-old son in tow, to tell police that she had just escaped an assault by Poole as she was getting ready for work, he said.

Poole was arrested on felony domestic violence charges for that alleged assault and authorities later blocked his attempt to purchase an AK-47 rifle.

Since being released from jail pending a trial, Poole harassed his former girlfriend and her mother, giving police probable cause to arrest him on stalking and witness-tampering charges, Lewis said.

Poole posted bail and was released from jail after his February arrest. He then allegedly called White and sent threatening text messages, Lewis said.

Shortly after Poole was released from jail, the alleged victim and her mother attended a family barbecue at a Grants Pass park. They told police that Poole e-mailed them photos of themselves at the park and asked in the messages, "How safe do you feel now?", Lewis said.

Bridges told police that Poole, who is originally from California and has felony convictions in that state, was exploring the militia movement online and had ordered an AK-47 via the Internet using her credit card and identity. Poole's convictions bar him from legally purchasing weapons, Lewis said.

The gun had been sent to a gun shop in Grants Pass, where she would have to pick it up and complete the required paperwork, Lewis said. The woman said she had no intention of completing the transaction for Poole and was planning to leave him because of what she described as increasingly violent and controlling behavior.

Lewis said he contacted the gun shop and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to ensure the sale wasn't completed. No charges are expected in that case because the fraudulent purchase was stopped, Lewis said.

"Thank God he never got that AK-47," said Lewis.

Lewis said the charges in Poole's first case were scheduled for trial on July 20. Court records show his case was continued to Aug. 9.

"I said it back in February, and I'm saying it again today; that guy is dangerous and he needs to be in jail," said Lewis.

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

Held hostage: Mom freed after ordeal