Police suspect woman was abducted, sexually assaulted

Police suspect an Ashland woman who was found unconscious and suffering from hypothermia on Clear Creek Drive on New Year's Day had been abducted and sexually assaulted the night before.

Detectives are searching for clues in the abduction, which they believe occurred after the woman left a small party at a house in the hills above downtown at 2 a.m. Friday.

"She has no memory of what happened," said Sgt. Jim Alderman with the Ashland Police Department. "So there's a 10-hour window where we don't know where she was."

The woman was seriously injured in the incident, but has been released from Rogue Valley Medical Center, police said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, police had no suspects in the case, Alderman said.

"We're working this case pretty vigorously," he said.

Police have been hesitant to release information about the victim, to protect her identity, but say she is approximately 30 years old and does not remember anything that occurred between the time she left the party and woke up in the hospital more than a day later.

Alderman declined to comment on whether police believe alcohol or drugs are involved in the case.

The victim told police she left the party alone and on foot, "walking downhill," presumably toward downtown, Alderman said.

A passerby discovered the woman at noon Friday and called 9-1-1. According to police reports, the victim was laying on the sidewalk at the dead-end portion of Clear Creek Drive, off North Mountain Avenue, a semi-rural area near railroad tracks and a construction project.

The woman appeared to be near death when officials arrived on the scene Friday, Alderman said.

"When she was found, this was life-threatening at that point," he said. "The hospital did an awesome job of saving her, I think."

The woman was likely outside on Clear Creek Drive for some time before she was found, because of the extent of her hypothermia, Alderman said. Temperatures were hovering around 34 degrees at the time the she was found.

Based on the nature of the woman's injuries, the time frame of the incident and police investigations, officers suspect she was sexually assaulted.

Detectives are asking people to help them trace the woman's path after she left the party early Friday.

"We're looking for people that might have seen her or recognized her," Alderman said.

She is described as approximately 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 100 pounds, with shoulder-length light brown hair. She was wearing a bright green ski jacket, blue jeans and gray boots, and was carrying a green cloth purse with a sequin design on one side, police said.

The Ashland Police Department is asking anyone who might have seen or come in contact with a woman matching that description to call Alderman or Detective Rick Spence at 482-5211.

Police are also seeking the assistance of businesses in the downtown area and the Railroad District that might have video surveillance from Friday morning.

Detectives are conducting forensic testing on evidence in the case, but it could be days before they receive any results from the tests, Alderman said.

"All that CSI stuff, we're doing it," he said. "It just takes a while."

Because no one has been apprehended for the abduction, police are advising Ashland residents to be cautious when out at night.

"If women — or anyone, but especially women because of the victim in this case — are out walking around late at night, they just need to be aware of their surroundings and what's going on," Alderman said.

"Bad things happen in safe towns and people just need to remember that."

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

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