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Medford man pleads guilty to Tiki Lodge murder

A Medford man will serve at least 25 years in prison for stabbing a woman to death at a Medford motel in 2019.

Justin Lee Graham-Yaeger, 35, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court to second-degree murder in the May 3, 2019, death of 23-year-old Sierra Bree Clemens of Grass Valley, California, at the Tiki Lodge in Medford.

Clemens had been staying at the motel on North Riverside Avenue that morning when Graham-Yaeger stabbed her multiple times about 4:38 a.m. in the course of what Senior Deputy District Attorney Allan Smith alleged was a robbery.

“They did not know each other prior to this night,” Smith said.

Court filings indicate that the items Graham-Yaeger stole from Clemens included an iPhone with a Kate Spade cover, backpacks and bags.

Smith said that he and Deputy District Attorney Ruby Herriott originally sought a charge of aggravated murder against Graham-Yaeger because the killing occurred during the commission of a crime; however, they later revised the charge to first-degree murder.

“While this case was pending, the law was changed,” Smith said. “We no longer have aggravated murder and murder.”

The Oregon Legislature dramatically limited the crime of aggravated murder — the only crime in the state allowing for capital punishment — in late 2019 and expanded the crime of murder into two degrees.

First-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 30 years, and second-degree murder carries a penalty of 25 years to life.

Smith offered the five-year difference of second-degree murder as a plea deal that Graham-Yaeger accepted. Graham-Yaeger pleaded guilty Wednesday morning.

“Practically it has almost no effect,” Smith said of the agreement.

Prior to sentencing, Clemens mother, father and younger sister each provided written statements to Smith describing Clemens as a young woman with an “unquenchable thirst for life and adventure,” as someone “who would give her last five dollars to someone in need,” and as the type who would befriend others without judgment.

With the exception of Clemens’ mother, those family members and others attended the hearing Wednesday morning in person and by phone, Smith said.

“I think the mother just could not handle being present,” Smith said.

Judge Tim Barnack sentenced Graham-Yaeger to life in prison with a 25-year minimum, lifetime post-prison supervision should he be released, the forfeiture of all weapons involved and restitution to be determined for the family’s funeral expenses.

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

Justin Lee Graham-Yaeger, 35, will serve 25 years to life in prison for the May 2019 murder of 23-year-old Sierra Bree Clemens of Grass Valley, California at a Medford motel. Medford police booking photo.