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Brutal attack leads to 10 years in prison

A Medford man was sentenced to more than a decade in prison Wednesday for stealing an SUV and brutally attacking the owner, who was asleep inside.

Aaron Dale Eaton, 40, admitted to felony assault and kidnapping charges in Jackson County Circuit Court Wednesday for shooting Christopher Applegate, 42, inside the victim's Nissan Pathfinder, then dumping Applegate along the side of Interstate 5 in the early morning hours of Feb. 23.

Applegate had been sleeping off a night of drinking when he awoke inside his vehicle with two men he didn't know driving it, according to Deputy District Attorney Alyssa Claseman. Eaton reportedly shot Applegate during a struggle that ensued. 

Steven Allen Martin, 28, who is accused of acting with Eaton to steal the SUV, allegedly stabbed Applegate with a pair of scissors. He faces attempted murder, robbery, kidnapping and assault charges.

In a statement Claseman read to the court, Applegate described himself as a father of two and a 2015 Southern Oregon University graduate whose life was endangered so that Eaton and Martin could take a vehicle valued at $2,100, a cellphone that was remotely disabled and a set of golf clubs worth no more than $300. 

"In other words, nothing," the statement read.

Applegate was rushed to the hospital about 6 a.m. after witnesses spotted him injured in the 4000 block of Old Upton Road, just off the freeway in Central Point. It took months of forensic investigation in order to track down suspects, according to Claseman. Eaton was arrested June 2 after DNA evidence taken from the recovered vehicle linked him to the crime. 

Eaton briefly apologized to the victim, but otherwise said little.

"I'm sorry — that's to him, not to you guys," Eaton told the court.

Christine Herbert, Eaton's court-appointed defense lawyer, said her client cooperated with authorities after he was questioned. Eaton led investigators to Martin, who was arrested June 20.

Eaton was sentenced to 124 months in prison. Assault in the first degree carries a 90-month mandatory minimum sentence under Oregon's Measure 11. Eaton also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, attempting to elude police in a vehicle, delivering methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine and heroin.

Martin faces charges of attempted murder, first-degree robbery, first- and second-degree assault, second-degree kidnapping, unlawful use of a weapon, two counts of felon in possession of a firearm and a single count of unauthorized use of a vehicle. His next court hearing is a pretrial conference set for July 10.

Eaton has a lengthy criminal history dating to 2005 when he was convicted of burglary.

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

Aaron Dale Eaton