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Man admits to beating girlfriend's father to death

A 20-year-old Medford man will serve more years behind bars than he’s yet lived after admitting to bludgeoning his juvenile girlfriend’s father to death in 2017.

Gavin Curtis MacFarlane was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to murder and murder conspiracy charges in the death of 50-year-old Aaron Friar of Medford.

In the predawn hours of Oct. 2, while Friar slept on his couch, MacFarlane killed him with a baseball bat at his home at 517-1/2 Benson St., according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Markiewicz, who prosecuted the case. The hearing was the first time a murder weapon was divulged, with earlier news reports describing the cause of death as "blunt head trauma."

Initial blows woke Friar, Markiewicz said, prompting a struggle before his death.

Friar’s teen daughter, Ellen Rose Friar, now 16, and Russell Pierce Jones II, 23, who police described last year as MacFarlane’s friend, still face charges for their alleged role in the attack.

MacFarlane had been in a sexual relationship with Ellen Friar prior to the attack, according to Markiewicz.

MacFarlane and his alleged co-defendants put Friar’s body into Friar’s car, then dumped it in the 9100 block of East Antelope Road outside Eagle Point, where it was found by police.

Aaron Friar’s girlfriend, Michelle Peterson, spoke in court, saying the pain and terror Friar must’ve felt in his last moments still keeps her up at night.

“These are the thoughts that’s kept me awake for over a year,” Peterson said.

Peterson said that in their short time together, Friar had become her confidant and best friend.

“Even though our relationship was short, the love and bond was strong,” Peterson said.

Friar’s sister, Marie Friar, described her brother as a “kind and loving soul” whose “kids were his life.”

“He always said that he’d die for them,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that he did.”

The murder had been the family’s sixth death in five years. Friar’s father had died just weeks prior to his death.

MacFarlane’s motive was over a sexual relationship with Friar’s teen daughter, according to court proceedings and earlier news reports. Friar had reported MacFarlane to police for statutory rape, his sister said.

Marie Friar told the court “the system failed” Friar, saying Friar just wanted police to get his daughter out of the house at 23 Almond St., where MacFarlane and Ellen spent large amounts of time together.

Investigators later found at the Almond Street residence written plans in Aaron Friar’s murder, as well as plans to kill Jones’ father, Russell Jones I, Markiewicz said.

MacFarlane said little during the hearing aside from a soft-spoken statement of “I’m sorry” and an indication he’d like to “take it back.”

Following the terms negotiated between Markiewicz and MacFarlane’s court-appointed defense lawyers, Judge Lisa Greif sentenced MacFarlane to life in prison with no possibility of parole until he serves 25 years.

“It’s hard to say what was going on with the three of you,” Greif said to him, adding that he’ll have “plenty of time to think about it.”

“When you eventually do get out, try to do some good,” Greif said.

Prosecutors dropped felony rape, sexual abuse and sodomy charges stemming from 2017 relationships with two minors separate from Ellen Friar. Markiewicz reserved the right to refile the charges if MacFarlane fails to testify truthfully at a trial set for the first week of February in Jones’ and Ellen Friar’s cases as is required in MacFarlane’s plea deal.

Markiewicz said it’s not clear how much of MacFarlane’s testimony prosecutors intend to use, but if MacFarlane reneges on any terms of the plea deal, Markiewicz also reserved the right to prosecute charges related to recordings of sexual conduct with Ellen Friar found on MacFarlane’s phone.

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

Gavin Curtis MacFarlane