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Hitchhiker accused of attacking driver

A missing 25-year-old hitchhiker from California turned up in the Jackson County Jail on Tuesday after she allegedly tried to stab a Central Point man who gave her a ride.

Kelsey Ann Pawlyk, no known address, was walking along Interstate 5 near Central Point when Jay Fitzgerald, 31, a cab driver who was off-duty, offered to give her a ride out of the rain. Pawlyk wanted to go to Ashland, but Fitzgerald told her he could take her only as far as the Rogue Valley Transportation District transfer station in Medford and offered her money for a bus.

"I told her I really can't — I have my wife and kids waiting for dinner," Fitzgerald said Wednesday. "She said, 'I'm not getting out.' "

Fitzgerald said Pawlyk remained mostly silent as he drove, quietly mumbling to herself. Eventually, he said, she yelled, "You're twisting my words!" and began punching and kicking him, eventually pulling a knife from one of her boots and trying to stab him as he jumped out of the car near Walgreens on South Pacific Highway in Medford.

Fitzgerald said the incident was witnessed by numerous people, none of whom intervened. "I'm afraid if I hit her, I'm going to jail," he said. "Eventually, I'm able to get the knife away from her."

Police arrived shortly after and took her into custody. Pawlyk was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of attempted second-degree assault, attempted fourth-degree assault, first-degree harassment, reckless endangering and second-degree disorderly conduct. She's being held in lieu of $55,000 bail.

Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said Pawlyk had been entered in the law enforcement data system as a missing person out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and that there were notes she had mental health issues.

"We don't deal with these situations that often, but we don't respond to hitchhikers (on the freeway) that often," he said, explaining that Oregon State Police have that particular responsibility.

Under Oregon law, walking on a roadway with the intent to catch a ride is a Class D traffic violation.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.

Kelsey Ann Pawlyk