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Medford man pleads guilty to Ashland murder

A Medford man charged in the stabbing death of Frank Damiano of Ashland during a botched robbery last fall pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Othon Robert Campos Jr., 42, also pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and burglary before Judge Lorenzo Mejia.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit, a bespectacled, bearded Campos told Mejia, "(We) took his life."

"By strangulation? Stabbing?" Mejia asked.

"By stabbing," Campos said.

Campos also agreed to testify against his roommate and alleged co-conspirator, Merlin Elmo Bound III, in Bound's trial on similar charges, set for Jan. 20, 2015. 

Campos' crimes carry a sentence of at least 25 years under Measure 11 guidelines, but he won't be sentenced until after Bound's trial.

"Part of his plea agreement is that he would testify," said Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert, adding she could not disclose additional details about the murder because of the upcoming trial.

Bound remains in the Jackson County Jail without bail on two counts of murder and first-degree robbery, along with a first-degree burglary charge.

Damiano, who was also known by the name Tony Della Penna, was found dead at his home in the Bear Creek Mobile Home Park outside Ashland on Oct. 10, 2013, during a welfare check by police. He had been stabbed to death Oct. 7 during an apparent burglary, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said last year.

Bound was arrested Oct. 15 at his Medford home. Campos was indicted later that month and arrested in Vancouver, Wash., after U.S. marshals tracked him there. He was later extradited back to Jackson County, though he tried to delay the process. Prosecutors said last year they believe Campos and Damiano knew one another, but Bound hadn't met the victim before. 

Heckert said she was pleased with the plea change, but said the casework will see no reduction in costs because of it, as Bound still has to go to trial.

"I think it does give some peace of mind to the family," she said.

Court records show Campos has a lengthy criminal history — numerous misdemeanor cases and a few felonies — stretching back to 1995. In a November 1995 case, Campos was found guilty of an attempt to commit a class B felony, while a slew of other charges — attempt to commit murder, attempt to commit a class A felony, reckless endangerment and unlawful discharge of a weapon — were dismissed. Additional felony convictions include methamphetamine possession and assault, court records show.

Aside from the current case, Bound has no apparent criminal history in Jackson County.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

Othon Robert Campos Jr. of Medford pleaded guilty Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court to charges of murder and first-degree robbery and burglary related to the Oct. 7, 2013, stabbing death of Frank Damiano in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch