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Medford suspect faces murder charge

A Medford man on parole for a 2004 attempted murder is suspected of brutally killing a man Sunday afternoon by hitting him in the head several times with an unidentified weapon.

Travis Donald Asbill, 29, of the 700 block of Western Avenue, was arraigned on a murder charge Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court. He is being held without bail in the Jackson County Jail.

The assault was reported just before 1 p.m. Sunday. Police and paramedics found Donald William Mack, 54, inside his apartment at 115 Almond St., Medford, with major head injuries. Mack was transported to Rogue Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:34 p.m.

Medford police have yet to determine a motive in the slaying but said Mack and his alleged attacker knew one another.

"Based on our investigation so far, it appears to be an unprovoked attack," said Lt. Mike Budreau. He said as of Monday afternoon, it was not confirmed whether drugs were a factor.

The Jackson County District Attorney's Office is not yet releasing what kind of weapon was used, citing the ongoing investigation.

Detectives with Jackson County's Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit spoke with witnesses who were present during the attack. Asbill was identified as a suspect, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Budreau said an unknown number of people were at the home at the time, but that it wasn't a party.

"By the time we got there, the apartment was essentially empty except for the victim," Budreau said. "Anybody that was there had essentially fled."

Police later tracked Asbill to a residence in the 500 block of South Platt Street in Eagle Point. Medford and Eagle Point police and Jackson County sheriff's deputies surrounded the home at 8:30 p.m. Budreau said Asbill left the house, ran back inside when he saw police, then surrendered a few minutes later.

Police said specifics on Mack and Asbill's relationship are not yet known. They are trying to track down additional witnesses they believe were on scene when Mack was attacked, Budreau said.

Court records show Asbill pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of a friend's father, Ronald Ragsdale, in 2004. Asbill shot and stabbed the 48-year-old man several times at a trailhead off Crowfoot Road in the early-morning hours of Nov. 4, 2003. Ragsdale had been sleeping in his car at the time, Mail Tribune archives show.

Attorneys said Asbill likely had been in the midst of a methamphetamine-induced psychosis that caused him to hallucinate. Mail Tribune delivery driver Eric Sheldrake found Ragsdale after the attack and called 911. Ragsdale suffered a punctured lung and liver, but he survived.

Asbill was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison for his crimes, followed by parole. State prison records show he was released in May 2011.

Shane Hagey, director for Jackson County Community Justice, said recidivism rates among felons on parole for murder or attempted murder have been low locally.

"That's not common, especially something that's as serious as attempted murder," Hagey said.

Community Justice records show Asbill's post-prison supervision entailed reporting to parole officials on a regular basis, staying in the state, not owning any weapons or dangerous animals and abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Community Justice officials said Asbill had been compliant until he was arrested Sunday.

Kelly Officer, research analyst with the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, said the group recently released a report showing increased prison time — such as imposed mandatory Measure 11 sentences for specific felonies — does not necessarily mean a drop in the number of convicts who reoffend once they leave prison. For those rates to drop, adequate programs have to be in place during and after offenders' prison sentences.

"We didn't see a drop in recidivism with the longer sentences, and that kind of matches other studies that have been done nationally," Officer said.

Other agencies assisting on Sunday's murder investigation include Oregon State Police and the Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

Travis Donald Asbill, 29, is arraigned on a murder charge in Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia’s courtroom Monday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch