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Medford man faces murder charge in killing of girlfriend

A Medford man faces a murder charge after reportedly killing his girlfriend early Saturday morning.

According to Medford investigators, a man called police at 6:05 a.m. saying his brother, later identified as Mitchell Alan Below, 50, had killed his girlfriend and intended to take his own life.

Officers responded to the apartment in the 500 block of West Sixth Street near the YMCA and found a dead woman inside.

Meanwhile, Below had barricaded himself inside his bathroom and refused to exit when ordered to do so by police.

A standoff ensued, prompting Medford police supervisors to call in the department's SWAT team. At 9 a.m., Below left the bathroom and appeared to have suffered self-inflicted knife wounds.

He was taken to the hospital, where he underwent surgery, said Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George.

"He is expected to survive the wounds," George said. "We have him under police guard at the hospital."

The victim was identified as Bonnie Susan Payne, 48.

"This is another tragic result of domestic violence," George said.

Medford police did not comment on the manner in which she died, citing the continuing investigation.

George said Below will be charged with murder within the next few days.

Murder carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years, under Oregon Measure 11 law.

"We are trying to figure out what to charge Mr. Below with, but their definitely are some sort of homicide charges coming," George said.

Medford detectives are working with the Jackson County District Attorney's Office in the continuing investigation.

The doorway to the apartment building where the crime allegedly occurred was roped off by police tape Saturday afternoon. The YMCA, which is connected to the apartment, remained open throughout the day.

The Jackson County Public Defender's Office rents the bottom floor of the building where the murder occurred. The top floor houses four apartments, one of which either Below or Payne rented, George said.

Jackson County Circuit Court records show Payne lived in Ashland for several years before moving to Dunsmuir, Calif and back to Medford.

Court records also show Below has lived in Burney, Calif. which is northeast of Redding. He also has listed residences in Dunsmuir and Bend.

Below does not appear to have a record of violent crimes in Oregon.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.