Ashland last to learn of New Year's Day rape

Ashland Assistant Police Chief Rich Walsh, like most of Ashland, learned of a New Year's Day rape at Emigrant Lake after reading an article in Sunday's Mail Tribune.

The Emigrant Lake area falls under Jackson County Sheriff's Department's jurisdiction. Investigating detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said the woman, in her early 20s, was writing in her journal when the man snuck up and sexually assaulted her.

The suspect is described as a white man in his 30s, with shoulder-length dark hair and a thin build. The victim said he was wearing a wedding ring on a finger and a gold chain around his neck.

After reading the article, Walsh said, "I thought, 'Huh, how come I didn't know about this?'"

Walsh said when he went to work Monday, he asked his detectives if they knew about the rape. "One said he found out about it a couple days ago and one said he saw a flyer dated Jan. 10," Walsh said. "The people of this town should have been made aware of this."

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters and Sgt. Fagan both say that Ashland police were contacted.

"We notified Ashland Police detectives right away so that they could help us get the word out," said Fagan.

Walsh said he looked at the briefing logs. "There's nothing in the teletype to indicate that [Jackson County] contacted us."

Sheriff Winters said he was shocked to learn that the Daily Tidings didn't receive a press release. The Daily Tidings did not republish the story from the Mail Tribune because Daily Tidings' subscribers received the Sunday edition of the Tribune. The Daily Tidings does not publish on Sunday.

"We began looking into the story on Monday," Daily Tidings Editor Andrew Scot Bolsinger said. "Obviously, we're concerned that a sketch of the assailant was not given to us immediately, both in terms of public safety and to help bring about an arrest."

Winters said he leaves it to his detective's discretion about whether the press is notified about a crime. "Maybe the detectives thought there was a reason they shouldn't release this. But we wouldn't intentionally put the public in harm's way."

Where case stands

Winters said his department has gotten some leads.

"We had a person of interest, but nothing came of it," he said.

Retired Medford police officer Chuck Steinberg provided a sketch of the suspect based on the woman's recollections.

Sgt. Fagan told the Mail Tribune that the woman said it was "chilling how much the sketch looked like the man."

"But realistically, that composite looks like a lot of people," Fagan said.

Fagan said stranger-on-stranger rape is rare in Jackson County, adding that most sexual assaults happen between people who know each other.

Winters and Walsh said there haven't been any recent cases of stranger-on-stranger rapes in the area, a fact Bolsinger said contributed to the public concern about the incident throughout the week.

"We received several calls and letters expressing alarm over the news," Bolsinger said. "It hurt the entire community that we weren't given the information early on."

Winters said his department is stepping up patrols in the area.

"We're out there on a daily basis anyway," he said. "But we've been searching bike paths and working transient camps out in that area. But it hasn't yielded anything yet."

Anyone with information should call Fagan at 774-6815 or Crime Stoppers of Southern Oregon at 800-3-DETECT (800-333-8328).

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x226 or .

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