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Convicted Jackson County robber dies in prison

A man serving a prison sentence alongside his brother for a string of Southern Oregon robberies and for a planned escape attempt at trial died Monday in prison.

William Douglas Reeves, 67, died in the infirmary at the Oregon State Penitentiary, according to a release issued by the Oregon Department of Corrections. He was on hospice care at the time.

Reeves and his older brother, Walter Ralph Reeves, have been serving 26-year prison sentences since 1998 for their roles in four armed robberies at Medford businesses as well as a planned escape attempt in the middle of their jointly held robbery trial, according to Mail Tribune news reports at the time.

On April 2, 1998, William Reeves reportedly created a violent distraction during the trial that allowed his brother to escape.

William Reeves reportedly pushed past a bailiff, lunged behind the bench and grabbed a clerk seated next to Judge Raymond White, according to eyewitness accounts.

Reeves reportedly made statements that included, “I’ll kill her,” while he had the woman in a chokehold, according to a statement filed by a former defense lawyer who had recused himself from the case.

He lost his grip on the woman after Judge White tackled Reeves to the floor. A scuffle with the judge ensued until police and jail deputies could subdue William Reeves with pepper spray.

Walter Reeves made a break for it during the scuffle. He made it as far as a courtroom stairwell and knocked down at least one person in the process, but police knocked Walter Reeves down before he could get past the stairwell.

A mistrial was declared after the judge and defense lawyers recused themselves.

William and Walter Reeves were each sentenced to roughly 26 years in prison April 24, 1998, after pleading guilty to first-degree escape and four counts of second-degree robbery.

The Reeves brothers were originally charged with robbing a gas station, two Papa Murphy’s restaurants and a KFC.

William Reeves expressed no remorse in an April 16, 1998, Mail Tribune interview from the jail, telling the reporter, “I’d go to the pits of hell for my brother.”

Walter Reeves is still incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary, state records show. His earliest possible released date is March 31, 2023.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

William Douglas Reeves, who made an escape attempt during a 1998 Jackson County robbery trial, died Monday in the Oregon State Penitentiary. Oregon Department of Corrections booking photo.