The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Rogue Valley Weather
It’s Been Two Years Since Fauna Frey Went Missing in Grants Pass
The family of a Lane County woman who went missing in Josephine County is still working hard to make sure there is information kept out to the public leading to her return. None of this would happen if it weren’t for the efforts of people in the community who have stepped up to make sure Fauna Frey isn’t forgotten, and to bring light to the many people missing in Southern Oregon.
Frey was last seen at the Umpqua Bank in Rogue River, Oregon on June 29, 2020.
She had decided to take a trip as a way to cope with her brother’s unexpected death a few weeks earlier and mentioned to her father that she’d picked up a hitchhiker.
In the days prior to her disappearance, Frey used her credit card twice to purchase camping equipment and personal items. She also used her credit card to reserve a room at the Weasku Inn in Grants Pass, Oregon, but she never showed up to claim her reservation. She was reported missing on July 5th.
Her vehicle, a blue 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo with two or three parking stickers on the windshield and the Oregon license plate number 339EYB, disappeared with her. A photo of it is posted with this case summary.
On September 23, almost three months later, the car was found on a dead-end spur off Reuben Mountain Road, a mining road about six miles past the Grave Creek Boat Landing in Josephine County. It was locked and some of her belongings, including food she’d purchased, were inside it. It appeared to have been parked there for a month or longer.
An extensive search turned up no indication of Frey’s whereabouts. Police have questioned the hitchhiker she picked up and the person isn’t a suspect in her case. Frey left her laptop and cellular phone behind, but her father stated she often didn’t use her phone and would use a burner phone to keep in touch with people.
Since Frey was last seen, her bank account has not been accessed. Authorities claim there is no evidence of foul play in her disappearance, which remains unsolved.
Oregon Has Third-Highest Rate Of Open Missing Person Cases In USA – Disturbing Number of Missing Women in Southern Oregon
Of course, not only women are missing, as there are so many children and men missing too. And missing people is a crisis that gets shoved aside as not enough resources and it is a horrible thing to even think about.
This is an ongoing story and help from the public is needed to keep attention on this crisis and local law enforcement, state law enforcement, and the FBI need to make these investigations a priority. People don’t just go missing like this without someone somewhere knowing something.
Fauna’s family has set up an anonymous tip line 541-359-5638 and email address firstname.lastname@example.org for anyone who has any leads on Fauna’s disappearance. #findfaunafrey #bringfaunahome — Let’s bring Fauna home!
Two-Week Non-Compliant Sex Offender Sweep Concludes with 32 Arrests
JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. – Operation Copperhead, a non-compliant sex offender registration sweep concluded last week with a total of 32 arrests in the Jackson County area. The suspects arrested were charged with failure to report as a sex offender (ORS 163A.040). The operation ran for two weeks and also resulted in the registration of 34 out-of-compliance sex offenders. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) detectives conducted the sweep using United States Marshal Service funded overtime. During the sweep JCSO detectives documented approximately 75 compliance checks with non-compliant sex offenders and cleared six additional active warrants.
A major goal of these operations is to lower the risk non-compliant sex offenders pose to public safety. Sex offenders are required to report their current address, place of employment or school status, any change in name or residence, and any intended travel outside of the US. They must also participate in a sex offender risk assessment and submit to fingerprinting and photos of their face, and identifying scars, marks or tattoos. Compliance checks involve law enforcement contacting sex offenders or conducting research to confirm addresses.
Oregon State Police keeps an updated map of registered sex offenders at https://sexoffenders.oregon.gov/
Man Found Deceased in the 1000 Block of Biddle Road
On 6/28/22 at 08:41 hours, Medford Police patrol officers responded to the report of a body in the irrigation canal in the 1000 block of Biddle Road. Upon arrival, officers located a deceased male and Medford Police Detectives were called to assist with the investigation. A Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Medical Examiner was also called to the scene to assist with the investigation. At this time, the circumstances of the man’s death are unknown and he did not have any obvious signs of trauma.
This incident is under investigation and more details will be released when they are known. The identification of the deceased male is being withheld at this time pending notification of next of kin. A Forensic Pathologist will confirm the cause and manner of death as part of this investigation.
Jackson County Jail Reports Oregon’s Highest Overcrowding Releases Last Six Years; Providing Social Media Updates
JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. – The Jackson County Jail consistently reported the highest amount of releases due to overcrowding in the state of Oregon over the last six years. From 2016 through 2021, our community’s jail has averaged more than 5,300 overcrowding releases per year. These 30,900 forced releases are the most overcrowding related releases reported from any jail in Oregon during this time period.
Beginning this Wednesday, June 29th the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) will provide updates on social media showing a snapshot of the people recently released from the Jackson County Jail due to overcrowding. This information can be accessed on Facebook and Instagram Story @JCSheriffOR. These “Stories” will include the total number of Adults-In-Custody (AIC) released that day as well as their individual charges.
The Jackson County Jail has an operational capacity of 300, although that number has been much lower the last couple years because of precautions put in place due to the Coronavirus. When the jail population exceeds that capacity, Jail Staff must release an individual with orders to appear in court at a later date. When releases are required, JCSO leadership utilizes a proven standardized assessment tool with the intention of releasing individuals who are at the lowest risk to re-offend while awaiting trial.
More than half of the jail’s population is ineligible for pre-trial release due to the nature of their charges. This population includes Measure 11 offenders awaiting trial for murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, and other serious crimes.
To see the Jackson County Jail overcrowding releases social media updates go to the JCSO Facebook or Instagram account and click on our “Story” @JCSheriffOR
Grassfire in Rogue River
ODF firefighters mopped up a half-acre grassfire that resulted from a structure fire on the 400-block of Nugget Drive in Rogue River.
We were able to quickly create a break with our bulldozer and firefighters on scene are now reinforcing fire lines and looking for potential new starts. A Type 2 helicopter was also brought out to do a recon flight for additional spot fires in the area.
Jackson County Fire District #1 will have additional information about the structure fire itself.
This is the third structure fire ODF has responded to following fire spread to the wildland in the last 24 hours; this goes to show how dry fuels currently are and how easily fire can spread, especially in the heat of the day. Please be aware of this increased risk and follow all current regulations. A complete list can be found on our website, swofire.com.
Fire Near Hugo
The fire has been named the #JackCreekFire. It is now 100% wet lined and all active fire has been knocked down.
A 15-person BLM crew is en route to assist our firefighters in mopping up. Additional information will be posted only if the incident status changes significantly.
Firefighters responded to a fire east of Hugo. We currently have one engine on scene and additional resources en route. It’s currently estimated to be a quarter-acre in size.
This fire is burning on BLM Oregon & Washington land; there are currently no structures threatened. The cause of the fire will be under investigation.
Be Fire Aware: Fire Restrictions in Effect on Bureau of Land Management Public Lands in Medford District
MEDFORD, Ore. – As the weather warms and fire danger increases, Bureau of Land Management Medford District officials are implementing public use restrictions on BLM-managed lands in southern Oregon. Starting July 1, 2022 at 12:01 a.m., certain activities on BLM-managed lands in Jackson and Josephine Counties will be restricted to prevent human-caused fire and reduce wildfire potential.
Despite a wet spring, conditions are warming and drying rapidly. Most of Jackson and Josephine counties are in severe to extreme drought. Significant fire potential is expected to increase to above normal for Southern Oregon in June.
“Eighty-seven percent of all wildfires are human-caused, so we’re asking everyone to do their part to protect our forests by knowing and following fire restrictions,” said Matt Watson, BLM Medford Fire Management Officer.
Starting July 1, campfires will only be allowed at the Hyatt Lake Campground and the lower section of the Rogue River below the high-water mark. In all other areas, visitors can use portable cooking stoves that use liquefied or bottled fuels. Otherwise, campfires or any other type of open fire, including the use of charcoal briquettes, is prohibited.
Additionally, the following activities are restricted:
- Smoking is only allowed while inside a vehicle or while stopped in an area at least three (3) feet in diameter that is clear of flammable vegetation.
- Operating a motor vehicle and parking off road (including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles) is only allowed on roadways clear of flammable vegetation.
- Using fireworks, exploding targets or tracer ammunition is prohibited.
- Using a chainsaw or other equipment with internal combustion engines for felling, bucking, skidding, wood cutting or any other operation is prohibited between the hours of 1:00 PM and 8:00 PM. A firewatch of at least one hour is required following the use of a saw.
- Welding, or operating a torch with an open flame, is prohibited between 1:00 PM and 8:00 PM.
Visitors to BLM-managed public lands are also required to carry tools with them to ensure small fires can be put out quickly, including a shovel, axe and at least one gallon of water or a 2.5 pound fire extinguisher.
Violation of these restrictions can result in a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
The safety of the public and all wildland fire responders is always the number one priority for all wildland fire agencies. BLM officials are taking the necessary steps to ensure their ability to deploy firefighters for wildfire response. Officials stress their commitment to the most efficient wildland fire suppression operations during these challenging times.
For updated information on public use restrictions, please visit https://www.blm.gov/orwafire and the Oregon Department of Forestry at https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx
Visit https://www.ready.gov/wildfires to learn how you can prepare for fire season.
This year, we invite everyone to reimagine your public lands as we celebrate 75 years of the BLM’s stewardship and service to the American people. The BLM manages approximately 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
We want to keep you informed about COVID-19 in Oregon. Data are provisional and change frequently. For more information, including COVID-19 data by county, visit our dashboard: http://ow.ly/58vb50JJZGx
Identified coronavirus cases jumped 32% in Oregon last week compared to the previous week, according to state data released Monday, with hospitalizations rising above projections for the omicron wave.
Oregon recorded about 12,000 weekly cases, up from about 9,000 the previous week. The state is now identifying about 1,700 daily cases – the highest level since February – but reported case numbers are a dramatic undercount because of at-home testing.
The number of people hospitalized and testing positive in Oregon also jumped in the past week, reaching 357 as of
Monday, exceeding the June 5 peak of 327 projected by Oregon Health & Science University. The increase comes as Oregon sees more iterations of the highly contagious omicron variant.
Nine Oregon counties are now in the high category for spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with indoor masking recommended in public places.
The high counties are: Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Lane, Douglas, Coos, Jackson, Klamath and Lake. In the metro area, Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties are in the medium range, with people at high-risk of severe infection encouraged to talk with a health care provider about whether to wear masks.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) says Independence Day should be a holiday marked by freedom and fun – not forest fires.
Forest Service officials in the Pacific Northwest want people to celebrate safely with fire safety always, including this holiday weekend. USFS says all explosives and pyrotechnic devices, including fireworks and explosive targets, are prohibited in national forests in Oregon and Washington.
“Violators who bring fireworks onto national forests and grasslands can be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced with up to six months in jail, and may be liable for suppression costs and property damage.”
Despite a seemingly extended damp spring, it says summer’s arrival is quickly drying potential forest fire fuels in the Pacific Northwest. USFS is reminding people about standing safety practices for visiting public lands, starting with a check of fire danger level and public use restrictions in effect.
It also suggests using a fuel stove with an on/off switch to prepare hot meals if cooking outdoors, and if campfires are allowed, keep coals inside a steel container or fire ring and never leave a fire unattended. Extinguish campfires by stirring water into the ashes and break up any coals until the ground feels cold. It asks smokers to smoke on places without vegetation-free area or stay inside a car to never toss lit cigarettes.
USFS recommends people have fire extinguishers or several gallons of water when traveling in remote areas.
In a related story, Independence day gives people freedom — to “Keep it legal, keep it safe.”
That’s the message from the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) about Oregon’s 2022 fireworks retail sales season. It is underway, running through July 6.
To reduce wildfire risk, some local governments in Oregon have regulations, some including bans such as Talent and Phoenix, on sale or use of fireworks.
OSFM insists people check local regulations and follow them to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.
OSFM says consumer legal fireworks can be purchased only from permitted fireworks retailers and stands, and State regulations restrict where fireworks may be used. It says people who get legal
fireworks should “practice the four Bs of safe fireworks use:”
Wildfire in Eastern Oregon Grows Past 40,000 Acres
Firefighters from several agencies around the region are working to contain a wildfire in Malheur County, Oregon, north of Vale. Smoke from the fire also is noticeable in much of southwestern Idaho.
The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and local rural and rangeland firefighters responded Tuesday night to what is now called the Willowcreek Fire. The fire was reported on private land at about 4 p.m. and spread to land managed by the Vale District BLM.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, the BLM estimated the fire to be 15,000 acres with zero containment. As of 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, the fire’s estimated size is 40,000 acres and the fire remains uncontained, said Larisa Bogardus, public affairs officer for Vale District BLM.
The fire is burning in grass and sagebrush. The BLM says no injuries have been reported, the fire is not threatening any structures, and no evacuation orders are in place.
Cooler weather and calmer winds overnight gave firefighters the opportunity to get around hot spots move crews and other resources into a better position to fight the fire, Bogardus said Wednesday morning. Fire activity is expected to increase as temperatures rise through mid-morning and afternoon, but lighter winds are expected and the fire is not expected to spread as quickly as it did Tuesday evening.
Oregon Department of Transportation closed Interstate 84 from Ontario to Baker City due to smoke. The highway reopened by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.
Firefighters from Burnt River and Vale Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, Vale Rural Fire Department, Oregon State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, two water tenders and two dozers are on scene, fighting the fire on the ground and from the air.
Oregon To End Bail-Based Pretrial Release System On Friday
A new state law that takes effect on Friday, July 1st makes major changes in Oregon’s process for determining whether and how arrested individuals can be released from jail before their first court hearing or trial, with a new system that focuses on their danger to the community — not whether they can afford bail.
Senate Bill 48, passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor last year, significantly changes the way that people who are charged with a crime are released from jail, Deschutes County Trial Court Administrator Angie Curtis said in a news release Tuesday.
As of July 1, “the historic security or ‘bail’ schedule will be replaced with new criteria that determine who can be released on their own recognizance, released with conditions or held in jail until an initial appearance before a judge,” Curtis wrote.
“The new release categories are based on the seriousness of the charges and the person’s individual history, such as prior convictions or failure to appear in court on past charges,” she said.
Based on the SB48 legislation, the Chief Justice of the Oregon Judicial Department issued Chief Justice Order 22-010, with guidelines for circuit courts to develop local presiding judge orders (PJOs) that refine release criteria, based on the needs of the community.
“The community should not be concerned about community safety” as a result of these changes, Deschutes County Presiding Circuit Judge Wells Ashby told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday as the court released his order.
“People who qualify for release and can be safely released will be released into the community,” Ashby said, “and those who require that security be set and need to visit with the judge will be held until that takes place.”
Although there has been some criticism of the changes, District Attorney John Hummel said, “This bill improves community safety.”
“Right now, if you are arrested, dangerous, and have money, you can post bail at the jail and be released before seeing a judge,” he told us recently. “Come July 1, if you are arrested and dangerous, you will not be able to post bail at the jail, and instead will have to appear in front of a judge to request release. At a release hearing, the State and the victim will be able to argue against release.
“Another positive result of this bill,” Hummel continued, “will be that if you are arrested and not a danger to the public, you will be released without having to pay bail money, and will be ordered to appear at a future court date to resolve your case. This is good, because right now, many people who are not a danger to the public sit in jail awaiting their first court appearance in front of a judge because they cannot afford to pay bail.”
Hummel pointed out three key aspects to the changes:
“1. People charged with certain dangerous crimes will not be released prior to a court hearing;
“2. Certain crimes will result in a release prior to a court hearing, but conditions will be placed on the person that they have to comply with when on release (depending on the charged crime, no alcohol, no contact with the victim, etc.). This is different than the status quo. Today, if a person is released from jail prior to a court hearing, the jail places no conditions on them.
“3. There is an override section that will result in no release, even if the person is charged with a crime that is listed in the release section. Override reasons include a pending criminal charge, threat of violence, on probation, prior failure to appear in court, and other listed conditions you’ll see if the draft order. “
Hummel said Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters “created guidelines that compiled with the bill, and she granted counties latitude to craft our own system, as long as it did not conflict with her guidance or with the bill.”
Ashby also noted that the county order, drafted with input from the local legal community, can be modified if any issues arise after implementation.
Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber recently issued a news release sharply critical of the SB 48-driven changes in the release process made by the chief justice. “One of the negative effects of this decision,” it stated, “is that many people battling mental illness, who are taken into custody for lower-level offenses, will be released and miss an important opportunity for connecting with mental health services to aid them in their illness and maybe prevent future criminal activity.”
Kaber said, “When someone is suspected of victimizing others, it is appropriate for them to be brought before the judge for their initial plea. That is best accomplished by holding them in jail until they appear before the court or requiring some form of assurance (bail) that they will appear before the judge at a later date.
“With the implementation of this law, in many cases being arrested will merely become an inconvenience for them, once they realize they will be released as soon as the initial booking process is complete,” the sheriff continued. “Many adults in custody will also not receive the mental health care they desperately need to help them avoid future conflicts with society.”
“This decision by progressive government officials, who do not understand the complexity of the criminal justice system, does not help our rural community. It is becoming easier each day to be a criminal in our state,” he said.
Kaber concluded the news release by saying: “Remember to lock your doors, lock your cars, keep an eye on your neighborhood, and report suspicious activity.”
Hummel said after reading Kaber’s news release that it’s important to note “the sheriff of Klamath (County) is arguing for the status quo. The status quo is that rich, dangerous people can get out of jail right now without having to appear in front of a judge.”
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is proposing a unique plan to tackle record-high gas prices.
The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is putting forward a bill that would include a surtax on oil company profits. The surtax would be on top of the corporate tax rate and would push oil companies to either invest their profits back into their companies and workers or face a higher tax rate.
Wyden said, as paying for gas becomes more difficult for everyday Americans, their representatives are feeling pressure to get something done. Wyden’s plan would also impose a higher tax on stock buybacks and eliminate loopholes that allow oil companies to downgrade their profits.
Federal Judge Halts Logging Of Former Elliott State Forest Tract That Was Sold To Private Timber Company
A U.S. District Court judge issued a ruling Tuesday preventing Scott Timber from clearcutting old-growth forest that was previously part of the Elliott State Forest, a conservation group said.
The court found that the proposed logging of the Benson Ridge parcel by the subsidiary of Roseburg Forest Products would harm and harass threatened marbled murrelets, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. The court’s ruling permanently enjoins logging of the occupied murrelet habitat.
In August 2016, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Portland Audubon filed suit seeking to block Scott Timber from clearcutting 49 acres of the 355-acre parcel of land because of the impacts to threatened marbled murrelets.
“Today’s ruling is groundbreaking because it holds a private timber company accountable for plans to destroy habitat essential for imperiled wildlife in Oregon,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “This ruling establishes that private timber companies can no longer violate the Endangered Species Act with abandon.”
Marbled murrelets are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The Act strictly prohibits “take” — which includes harming, wounding, harassing or killing — of protected species. Marbled murrelets are sea birds with unique nesting requirements. They lay a single egg high in horizontal branches of old-growth trees within 40 miles of the coastline and make daily trips to the Pacific to bring fish to their young once they’re hatched.
Murrelets were documented in the stand proposed for clearcutting more than 200 times by both Coast Range Forest Watch, a group of citizen scientists who conduct murrelet surveys out of concern for their survival, and the logging company’s own contractors. This led the court to find that logging would harm murrelets “through the destruction and degradation of occupied murrelet habitat” and thereby impair the seabird’s ability to nest for “100 years or more.”
“I love marbled murrelets and I’m thrilled they got a little more protection from logging,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “The state of Oregon, private timber companies, and all of us share a responsibility to stop extinction and protect forests. This decision is good news not only for murrelets, but for hundreds of other species and future generations.”
In July of 2021, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife up-listed the murrelet’s state protected status from threatened to endangered under Oregon’s Endangered Species Act. In response to a 2016 lawsuit, the Oregon Board of Forestry is in the process of developing rules to protect murrelet sites on state and private timber lands, but the board has dragged the process out for more than five years and has yet to propose final rules. When presented with this lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to take up the case.
“Since their listing 30 years ago under the ESA, marbled murrelets have moved even closer to extinction in Oregon in large part because state and federal agencies have not done enough to protect and preserve the older forests on which they depend,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for Portland Audubon. “Hopefully this win and others that preceded it will encourage state and federal agencies to more aggressively pursue their responsibilities to protect and recover this amazing seabird that depends on Oregon’s older coastal forests to nest.”
The Benson Ridge parcel was acquired by Scott Timber as a part of the state of Oregon’s efforts to sell the Elliott State Forest in 2014. Cascadia Wildlands, Audubon and the Center challenged those land sale efforts in state court in order to keep the much-loved forest open to the public. In 2019 the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the state’s efforts to sell the Elliott were illegal and that the state’s understanding that these lands needed to be managed to maximize revenue was misplaced.
The court’s ruling builds on recent successful efforts to permanently protect the remainder of the Elliott State Forest. This past legislative session, the Elliott State Research Forest was created, severing the link between old-growth timber sale revenues and public school funding in Oregon. The new research forest retains the forest in public ownership, creates a 34,000-acre permanent reserve on the west side of the forest to benefit murrelets and other imperiled species, protects nearly all of the remaining mature and old-growth forest left on the Elliott, and meaningfully engages western Oregon Tribes in its management.
The organizations were represented by attorneys for Cascadia Wildlands, the Center, attorney Daniel Kruse and the law offices of Charlie Tebbutt.