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Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 12/16 – Umpqua Bank to Rebuild Phoenix Store & Offer Help to Home Owners, OSP Investigating Fatal Shooting Near Merlin

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting and

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 

Rogue Valley Weather

Wednesday- Rain, mainly after 4pm. Patchy fog before 10am. High near 47. Light south southeast wind becoming southeast 9 to 14 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Thursday- Rain likely, mainly before 10am. Snow level 3500 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43. Light west wind. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Friday- Patchy fog before 7am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 46.

Saturday- A slight chance of rain after 10am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.

Sunday– A chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 51.

Oregon Health Authority reported 1,129 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today bringing the state total to 96,092. The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (7), Benton (20), Clackamas (128), Clatsop (8), Columbia (15), Coos (9), Crook (10), Curry (10), Deschutes (31), Douglas (10), Grant (2), Hood River (19), Jackson (86), Jefferson (15), Josephine (15), Klamath (22), Lake (3), Lane (111), Lincoln (3), Linn (30), Malheur (18), Marion (140), Multnomah (215), Polk (22), Tillamook (4), Umatilla (44), Union (5), Wallowa (1), Wasco (6), Washington (89), Yamhill (31).

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Oregon – State kicks off massive immunization campaign as health facilities begin receiving new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

COVID-19 has claimed 54 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,214 the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

Oregon Health Authority reported 1,129 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today bringing the state total to 96,092.

“Today’s record-high death toll tragically reminds us that the pandemic is far from over despite the arrival of vaccines in Oregon,” said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority. “These Oregonians and the ones who passed before them were loved ones who will be dearly missed by their families, for whom we express our sincerest condolences.”

Oregonians can continue to work together to prevent more lives being lost to the virus by doing the following:

  • Maintain 6 feet of physical distance; 
  • Wear a face covering when outside the house; 
  • Practice good hand hygiene; 
  • Avoid any gatherings with non-household members;
  • If you start to have symptoms — even mild ones — consult with a medical provider quickly to get instructions on how to care for yourself and your household members and also whether to get tested;
  • And finally, if you get a call from public health, answer it, and take their advice on how to protect yourself and those around you.

The rising case count that surged in November is one factor attributed to today’s record-high death count. The counting of deaths from death certificates may take time to process because they are determined by physicians and then sent to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further review before the cause of death is ultimately determined.  Once this information is confirmed, the information is reported back with a final cause of death to states. This lagging indicator is now being captured today.

Umpqua Bank to Rebuild Phoenix Store Destroyed in Wildfire
Bank is waiving up to $10,000 in financing costs for homeowners seeking to rebuild

Umpqua Bank, a subsidiary of Umpqua Holdings Corporation, officially announced today plans to rebuild its retail bank store in Phoenix, Oregon, destroyed by recent wildfires that swept through the surrounding area. Details on timing and scope of the rebuild are still being determined, but city officials and bank leaders are discussing scenarios that could include community space in addition to a new bank facility for community benefit.

The announcement comes as Phoenix and communities across Oregon, Washington and California recover from devastating wildfires in 2020 that consumed more than five million acres and resulted in dozens of deaths across the region.

“The devastation in communities like Phoenix is staggering and almost unimaginable. As the hard work of recovery continues, we want our friends, neighbors and associates to know that we’re committed for the long haul,” said Umpqua Bank CEO Cort O’Haver. “Rebuilding our store is a priority for the bank, and we look forward to partnering with community leaders in a variety of ways to help Phoenix emerge from the destruction in the months and years ahead.”

Umpqua also recently announced that it will waive fees associated with financing to rebuild dwellings in Phoenix and other West Coast communities designated emergency disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a result of this year’s wildfires. In addition to other disaster relief for homeowners, those seeking to rebuild their home could save 1% off the cost to rebuild up to $10,000. For impacted homeowners with loans serviced by Umpqua in designated areas, the bank will also waive certain fees associated with purchasing a new home.  

“Our community is still coming to grips with the devastation we’ve experienced,” said Phoenix City Manager Eric Swanson. “It’s encouraging to know we are not forgotten, and Umpqua’s commitment to help us rebuild homes and business gives us confidence that we’ll get through this and build a new future.”

On September 8th, the Alameda Fire swept through Phoenix and the neighboring town of Talent, Oregon, destroying an estimated 18,000 homes and businesses. Umpqua’s store located at 4000 South Pacific Highway in Phoenix was one of the businesses consumed in the blaze. The devastation received national attention, including coverage in the New York Times.

For more information on relief for homeowners impacted by the wildfires, visit: For more information, visit:

About Umpqua Bank
Umpqua Bank, headquartered in Roseburg, Ore., is a subsidiary of Umpqua Holdings Corporation, and has locations across Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. Umpqua Bank has been recognized for its innovative customer experience and banking strategy by national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Fast Company and CNBC. The company has been recognized for eight years in a row on FORTUNE magazine’s list of the country’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and was recently named by The Portland Business Journal the Most Admired Financial Services Company in Oregon for the sixteenth consecutive year. In addition to its retail banking presence, Umpqua Bank also owns Financial Pacific Leasing, Inc., a nationally recognized commercial finance company that provides equipment leases to businesses.

OSP investigating fatal shooting- Josephine County
On Monday, December 14, 2020 at 6:52 A.M., Josephine County Sheriff’s Deputies and Troopers responded to the report of a shooting at 200 Corporate way near Merlin in Josephine County. Upon arrival, Kurt Krauss (56), of Grants Pass, was found deceased on scene.

The investigation was turned over to the Josephine County Major Crime Team. Oregon State Police (OSP) is the lead investigating agency and is being assisted by the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, Grants Pass Department of Public Safety, and the Josephine County District Attorney’s Office. The investigation is active and ongoing.

OSP is requesting anyone with information about the incident to contact the OSP Southern Command Center at 541-664-4600 or OSP from a mobile device and reference OSP Case #SP20-347133.


This year’s winter whale watching and the 2021 First Day Hikes will go on, but volunteers won’t be stationed at whale watching sites and hikes won’t be led by rangers or volunteers. Visitors encouraged to explore on their own and stay local

“Oregonians love these traditions, but with the pandemic continuing to affect our communities we encourage everyone to visit the whale watching sites and hike or explore a state park Jan. 1 on their own,” said Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The parking fee for the 25 parks that normally require a parking permit will be waived for First Day Hikes Jan. 1, 2021. Some parks may display posters that include recommended hikes and ranger favorites.

“We encourage visitors to explore parks close to their homes, wear face coverings and practice recommended social distancing,” Sumption added. “If a park is crowded, please consider visiting another nearby park.”

Although trained volunteers and staff will not be available this winter at whale watching sites, most viewing sites managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department remain open to visitors, but they should expect reduced services in some locations. The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay is closed, but the viewing deck on the exterior of the building is open.

Before your visit a state park, take a look at the Oregon State Parks status map that shows open and closed parks, as well as parks with reduced services. A new COVID-19 resource,, is also available. The online mapping tool provides information about most of Oregon’s publicly accessible recreation areas including city, county, state, and federal lands. This web resource displays nearby recreation opportunities based on a user’s location and shows detailed information for each site, such as; available amenities, the potential for encountering crowds and an estimate of site specific COVID-19 prevalence.

December 16, 2020 – Salem, Ore. – Vanessa Ottinger of Tigard was checking her Mega Millions tickets when it hit her, was that last ticket four numbers, or five?

Taking a closer look, she realized she had matched five numbers. Before getting too excited, she handed the ticket to her husband, Craig.

“What, did we win a million bucks?” Craig asked her. “Yes!” was her answer.

The couple, by matching five out of five numbers, but not the Mega Ball number, on the Oct. 16 drawing, they had won $1 million playing Mega Millions. If they had also matched the Mega Ball, they would have won $77 million.

If the win was a shock for the Tigard couple, it was an even bigger shock for Sherry Daniels, owner of The King City Liquor Store. The long-time Oregon Lottery retailer has seen its share of jackpot wins, that for some reason just keep happening.

“I think I know what’s going on,” Daniels said. “My dad, Leo Stratton, owned the store before me, and we lost him about five years ago. I think he is in heaven making sure we have winners. That’s the only thing I can explain.”

The store has a history of selling jackpot tickets, but its trend has increased in recent years. The $1 million Mega Million prize will be the second time in three years the King City store has sold a ticket that won a large prize. In October 2018 the store sold a $8.5 million Oregon’s Game Megabucks ticket. And now Ottinger with her $1 million prize.

“I think people buy their tickets from us because we are very friendly, we always explain the games, and we have a history with the Lottery,” Daniels said. “My dad invented the Jackpot Trio, and we had a $23 million Oregon’s Game Megabucks winner back in the 1990s. We continue this business as his legacy, and I think he is looking down and helping us.”

Mega Millions is one of two multi-state lottery games the Oregon Lottery offers. You can play Mega Millions in 44 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each play costs $2 to play.

To protect the health and safety of its employees and the public, the Oregon Lottery has temporarily closed the Salem and Wilsonville Lottery offices. Officials with the Lottery continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely. If players have a winning ticket, they can fill out a claim form on the Oregon Lottery website, , and then mail in the signed ticket and claim form.

Players who have winning tickets of $50,000 or more, will need to make an appointment to come to the Oregon Lottery office in Salem. Call 503-540-1000 for assistance. As always, players should be certain to sign the back of their tickets.

Since 1985, Oregon Lottery players have won more than $38 billion in prizes.

Lottery officials recommend that you always sign the back of your tickets with each Oregon Lottery game you play, to ensure you can claim any prize you may win. In the event of winning a jackpot, players should consult with a trusted financial planner or similar professional to develop a plan for their winnings. Prize winners of more than $50,000 should contact the Lottery office to schedule an appointment to claim their prize.

Since the Oregon Lottery began selling tickets on April 25, 1985, it has earned more than $12 billion for economic development, public education, Outdoor School, state parks, Veterans services and watershed enhancements. For more information on the Oregon Lottery visit

Portland Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Filing False Tax Returns

PORTLAND, Ore.—A Portland, Oregon, tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to preparing and filing false and fraudulent tax returns for clients and for herself, announced U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.

Elizabeth Munoz, 37, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of preparing and filing false income tax returns for clients and to four counts of filing false income tax returns for herself.

According to court documents, from 2015 to 2018, Munoz operated a federal and state income tax return preparation business from her home in Southeast Portland. Munoz advertised on business cards that she would obtain for her clients the “Biggest Refund Guaranteed.” Munoz allegedly prepared 1,196 false and fraudulent individual income tax returns for about 629 clients, resulting in an approximately $3 million tax loss through fraudulent refunds. The exact tax loss will be determined at Munoz’s sentencing on March 16, 2021.

Munoz’s allegedly used fraudulent tax schedules, tax credits, and filing statuses to carry out the refund fraud. Though Munoz charged her clients up to $150 per tax return, she reported no business income on her own personal income tax returns from 2014 through 2017.

On August 5, 2020, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a 25-count indictment charging Munoz with filing false income tax returns and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false income tax returns.

Each count of conviction carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a one-year term of supervised release. Munoz will also be ordered to pay full restitution to the IRS.

This case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Seth D. Uram, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

OSP lead investigation into former Klamath Falls Police Department Detective’s Arrest- Klamath County

On November 27, 2020, at approximately 3:58 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers were dispatched to a multiple vehicle crash at the intersection of South 6th Street and Crater Lake Parkway.  The driver that caused the crash, later identified as, Thomas Dwayne Reif (27) was driving a silver 2013 Dodge Avenger.

Reif was a detective with the Klamath Falls Police Department, was on duty at the time of the crash, and was driving his assigned Detective vehicle.

Just prior to the crash, Klamath County 911 received a call describing Reif as driving recklessly down South 6th Street.

Reif was evaluated at the scene by Klamath County Fire District 1 personnel and found to be unresponsive and not breathing.  He was transported to Sky Lake Medical Center where emergency department personnel were able to quickly stabilize him.

The Klamath Falls Police Department immediately requested the Oregon State Police take lead on the investigation.  Troopers began a DUII investigation and collected evidence the night of the crash.  Evidence was sent to the Oregon State Police Crime Lab as part of the investigation.  Members of the Oregon State Police Criminal Investigation Division were brought in to work with the Patrol Division on the investigation.

While evaluating the evidence seized in the investigation, Troopers developed probable cause that Reif had unlawfully obtained and used drug evidence from an unrelated case in the course of his duties.

Once lab results were obtained on the evidence, Troopers sought to arrest Reif for DUII, Reckless Driving, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Official Misconduct 1st degree, Tampering with Evidence, and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance (Schedule II controlled substance – fentanyl)

Thomas Dwayne Reif was booked into the Klamath County Jail on December 15, 2020.

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