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Burglar who preyed on Wimer area gets prison

A Wimer man responsible for about two-dozen drug-fueled burglaries who robbed his neighbors and even family friends of their sense of backwoods security was sentenced Friday to five years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in restitution.

A tearful Dylan James Stradford, 29, pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to 12 burglary and theft charges stemming from his four-month burglary binge that capped a lengthy criminal past that neighbors said has forced them to padlock sheds, lock doors and abandon a sense of safety and community between Rogue River and Wimer.

Some of the burglaries preyed on family friends and included losses of $3,000 to more than $10,000 in property, with the booty stashed in the woods and some of it sold for drug money, investigators said.

"If he would do it to a friend, I don't have any doubt he'd do it to anybody," said Robert Hart, one of Stradford's neighbors along the 5000 block of West Evans Creek Road who also was a victim. "If this was his first time, I'd see giving him a second chance, but it's been a pattern for years.

"He needs to be isolated so he can't prey on a community like he has for so many years," Hart said.

Stradford asked Circuit Judge Patricia Crain to refrain from giving him a prison sentence and instead enroll him in the county's drug court because the route focusing on drug treatment is the "only and best chance to be the person I want to be."

Crain denied Stradford's request, saying "the damage to the community has been extensive" and that "the community demands you be locked up."

Prosecutors had recommended a seven-year prison sentence, but Crain opted for a lesser sentence to reduce the risk of Stradford "coming out hardened," and noted that Stradford will receive drug treatment near the end of his sentence.

"You're looking at it like it's the end of your life, but it's the beginning of your life," Crain said. "If you don't take advantage of it, it's your fault."

During the plea, 11 other felonies, including possession of methamphetamine and heroin, were dismissed. However, Stradford is on the hook for restitution in every burglary case associated with him, which Jackson County sheriff's Detective Ben Weaver said was about two dozen.

Weaver declined to put a financial value on all the items stolen in those cases, saying it was "several tens of thousands of dollars." Prosecutors have three months to file restitution figures.

From Nov. 1, 2016, through Feb. 25, Stradford broke into sheds and other outbuildings on Queens Branch Road, Tenney Drive, Pleasant Creek, West Evans Creek Road, Pinegrove Road and elsewhere, often stealing tools and machinery, court records state. In one break-in on Upper River Road outside of Gold Hill, Stradford made off with more than $10,000 worth of items, including an antique Honda motorcycle he later sold for $500, court records state.

He was tripped up by a confessed collaborator who sometimes drove the getaway car, court documents state. That man led Jackson County sheriff's Detective Ben Weaver to some of the stashed goods, where Weaver set up a trail camera that captured images of Stradford returning later that night, records state.

Stradford was arrested on a 22-count indictment March 3 and lodged in the Jackson County Jail, where he has remained since.

At the start of Friday's hearing, defense attorney Larry Roloff apologized to victims in the courtroom for what he said was "a drug-fueled situation" and said Stradford was "extraordinarily remorseful" and is "a good human being who got way off track."

Weaver, however, told Crain in court that he had lodged Stradford several times in jail and had several discussions with Stradford, who, Weaver said, "had no sense of remorse. Nothing other than 'sorry I got caught.' "

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Dylan James Stradford