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Alleged thief stole more than $10K in police property

A Medford man is facing charges of burglarizing a police corporal's house and stealing more than $10,000 worth of Medford police property.

Duke Jacob Ham, 27, of the 1000 block of West 11th Street, entered not guilty pleas Thursday afternoon in Jackson County Circuit Court to a list of felony charges that included aggravated theft and burglary.

On April 7, Ham allegedly stole personal and Medford Police Department property from Medford police Cpl. Tom Venables at an east Medford home that Jackson County property records show belongs to a Curtis Whipple.

"We have recovered almost everything," Medford police Sgt. Brent Mak said.

Mak couldn't specify what was taken because the case remains under investigation, but Ham faces a charge of possession of a destructive device, which court documents describe as a flash diversionary device that Mak said was "department-issued gear."

Ham pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated first-degree theft, second-degree burglary, first-degree theft and unlawful possession of a destructive device.

In a brief video arraignment Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Kelly Ravassipour ordered that Ham be exempt from early release at the jail. Ham then asked to be released early in order to return to work, a request Ravassipour denied. At the hearing, lawyer Lawrence Parker was appointed by the court to defend Ham, who remained in jail Tuesday on $120,000 bail.

The crime occurred at a shop or detached garage, and Mak believes it was merely a crime of opportunity that involved expensive equipment.

“I don’t think they had any idea this was a police officer’s,” Mak said. “I do not think this is a targeted or specific event.”

At least three men allegedly assisted Ham in the scheme by reselling property they knew was stolen, and Mak said others may be involved. Two of the three defendants named in court documents, Jose Antonio Garcia and Jeremiah Duane Richards, were arraigned Thursday. 

Garcia, 26, of the 1000 block of Mt. Pitt Street, Medford, was lodged in the Jackson County Jail last Wednesday on warrants charging failure to appear on misdemeanor strangulation and harassment charges. Garcia has four felony convictions for methamphetamine possession dating back to 2011, and a 2014 heroin possession conviction.

Richards, 30, of the 300 block of Hamilton, was lodged in jail Saturday on a felony methamphetamine possession charge and for violating his parole on a previous first-degree burglary conviction. Richards has Jackson County felony drug convictions dating back to 2005.

An additional person named in the indictment, Brandon Lee Evans, who lives in the 100 block of South First Street in Talent, has yet to be arraigned on a felony first-degree theft charge. Court records show Evans has multiple felony drug convictions in Jackson County that date back to 2005, as well as pending felony charges that include a February charge of delivering meth.

On Feb. 2, the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team executed a search warrant and seized Evans' vehicle, where investigators allegedly found more than 3 ounces of a substance believed to be meth, packaging scales and a .22-caliber handgun. 

Ham also entered not guilty pleas in a string of cases separate from the alleged theft, including an alleged March 31 case of vehicle theft and identity theft. Ham and a female co-defendant allegedly left the Medford Motel 6 in a stolen red 2007 Corvette convertible and the owner's debit card.

They allegedly drove the stolen car to the owner's residence, where a confrontation with the owner's wife ensued. The convertible was abandoned in the Target parking lot, according to the affidavit. Ham also entered not guilty pleas on three separate meth possession charges filed this year.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.