Homeless man arraigned on Plaza arson, theft charges

A homeless man accused of setting a fire that damaged businesses in Ashland Plaza early Monday morning screamed incoherently during his arraignment hearing Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court as prosecutors addressed the judge about their concerns for the defendant's mental health.

Raymond Lee Wilson, 37, could be heard yelling that he didn't want to talk to anyone before Jackson County sheriffs deputies tried to seat him in front of the video camera that feeds to Judge Lorenzo Mejia's courtroom.

Once in the chair, with his hands cuffed behind his back, Wilson grew red-faced and began crying. Leaning toward the camera, Wilson shouted repeatedly for an attorney. As his screams grew louder and his statements became less intelligible, Mejia turned the volume off and disconnected the video feed.

"Obviously Mr. Wilson has serious mental health issues," said Jackson County prosecutor Adam Peterson.

Wilson should be taken to the psychiatric ward at a local hospital for evaluation and treatment, he said.

Wilson faces 13 charges, including five counts of first-degree arson, one count each of criminal mischief, second-degree burglary and theft, two counts of second-degree criminal mischief, menacing and three counts of reckless endangering. Peterson anticipates six additional endangering charges will be added following an upcoming grand jury hearing because further investigation has discovered more potential victims from the fires Wilson allegedly started, he said.

Wilson remained in the Jackson County Jail late Tuesday on $200,000 bail.

The fire was spotted at about 2:50 a.m. Monday by a passing police officer who saw flames licking up a stairwell between Gold & Gems and the storefront that previously housed American Trails, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Dave Shepherd.

Police helped the residents of two upstairs apartments escape the flames by climbing out back windows and crossing rooftops to reach the back deck of Alex's Plaza Restaurant.

No one was injured, Shepherd said. The fire was contained in about 10 minutes.

Investigators believe the fire originated in or near the stairwell, which leads to the Ashland Painters Union gallery and apartments that sit above the vacant store and Hana Sushi.

Police suspect Wilson broke two windows and slashed the tires of a truck parked at Evo's Coffee Lounge shortly after the fire.

Daniel Goines, who lives in the truck, said he called police when a man started smashing its windows with a rock and threatened to kill him. As police were speaking with Goines at about 3:30 a.m., they received a report of an alarm at the Stop and Shop Market at 110 Lithia Way. Someone had broken the store's glass door with a rock and stolen energy drinks, tobacco products and glass pipes, which police said they later found on Wilson during his arrest.

Two other members of the homeless community, who did not want to be named, said Wilson is mentally ill and that someone over the weekend had stolen his backpack containing his medication.

Rick Medina, a homeless man who lives in Ashland and Medford, said Wilson showed up in Ashland about three weeks ago.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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