Rape suspect arrested

Ashland police arrested a suspected rapist Thursday, but detectives do not believe the case is related to a string of sexual assaults earlier this winter.

Blake Michael Minard, 36, was arrested on charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse and lodged in the Jackson County Jail. His bail was set at $2 million.

Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said the case does not appear to be connected to a series of sexual assaults that has set the community on edge this winter.

"This is in no way related, to best of our knowledge, to the other rapes that have gotten everybody concerned," Holderness said.

The victim, an adult female, had known Minard for about two weeks when the rape occurred on Jan. 8, Detective Rick Spence said in a media release.

As Minard and the victim were driving from Medford to Ashland, the victim lost consciousness, possibly as a result of prescription medication she was taking, and was raped, police said.

She woke up a few hours later in the vehicle, which was in an area she described to police as being similar to Lithia Park, Spence said.

The exact location of the assault is still unknown, police said.

On Wednesday, the Oregon State Police Forensic Laboratory notified Ashland police that Minard had been confirmed as the suspect in the rape through DNA testing, Spence said.

Police do not believe this case is related to the other recent sexual assault cases in Ashland — at least one of which involved a stranger — in part because Minard and the victim were acquainted. Minard also does not match any of the suspect descriptions from the other cases, police said.

Anyone with information about any of the sexual assault cases is asked to contact the Ashland Police Department at 482-5211.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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