Willamette Valley News, Wednesday 7/27 – Fire Crews Stop 2 Alarm Apartment Fire In Eugene, Court Affidavit Shows Timeline For Kendra Hanks Murder

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Fire Crews Stop 2 Alarm Apartment Fire In Eugene

Eugene Springfield Firefighters responded to a reported apartment fire in Eugene’s Santa Clara area early Wednesday Morning.  Arriving crews found heavy fire on the exterior and in the attic of the building.

Firefighters were challenged by access and a downed power line.  There were no reported injuries to residents or firefighters.  Red Cross will be supporting residents in need of shelter.  EPD and EWEB assisted on scene.   

Court Affidavit Shows Timeline For Kendra Hanks Murder

A court affidavit signed by a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office detective for probable cause determination has provided new information in the case of Kendra Hanks, who officials say was murdered on July 7.

After Kendra Hanks, 18, of Winston did not return home from work on July 7, she was reported missing on July 8 and a public call for help finding her was issued on July 12. A body that was later identified as Hanks was found on Cow Creek Road on July 14. Douglas County sheriffs investigated the case and identified Troy Phelps, 39, of Riddle as a suspect in the case. Phelps was arrested on July 21 and remains in custody.

A court affidavit signed by a DCSO detective provides a timeline of the investigation: Court documents say the detective was informed of the case on the morning of July 11. The court documents say on July 13, a woman’s body was found near Cow Creek Road with puncture wounds on the chest and neck. The affidavit says the description of the body as well as clothing and a cell phone found nearby helped deputies identify the body as Hanks.

Court documents go on to say that the medical examiner believes that Hanks died from the puncture wound to the neck, and that her death was the result of a homicide.

Detectives say Hanks left work at 3:30 p.m. on July 7, and security camera footage shows her walking home. They add that a burgundy Saturn Outlook – which detectives strongly believe was owned and operated by Phelps — is seen on camera footage circling the neighborhood where Hanks lived at about 4 p.m. that day. Court documents say the driver of the Saturn made contact with Hanks, and she got into the vehicle at about 4:13 p.m. The DCSO detective’s signed affidavit does not specify whether or not detectives believe Hanks entered the vehicle voluntarily.

The affidavit states that Hanks can be seen in the passenger seat of the vehicle through a rolled down window at about 4:16 p.m., apparently in distress. Documents state that when the Saturn is next seen on security camera footage, at about 4:18 p.m., the windows were rolled up. The affidavit goes on to say the vehicle is seen at about 4:35 p.m. head west on Riddle Bypass Road, towards where Hanks’ body was found. Detectives say that cell phone data shows Hanks was in the vehicle at the time.

According to court documents, at about 5:30 p.m. the Saturn was seen driving through Riddle towards Pruner Road, where Phelps was known to have lived. Detectives say that a man matching Phelps’ description can be seen driving the car.

Court documents say that Phelps was arrested at his home on Pruner Road at about 3:35 p.m. on July 21. Phelps is facing charges of first- and second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and resisting arrest. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday, July 29.

Suspect Arrested After String Of Burglaries In Eugene

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office announced that the man suspected of a string of burglaries in Eugene was arrested.

A man, police identified as Jason Matthew Bowen, has been arrested after three burglaries in Eugene. July 26, 2022 (courtesy Lane County Sheriff’s Office).

Officials said police were dispatched to a home near Coburg Road after a reported burglary on Thursday. According to LCSO, the victim returned home after placing her mother on hospice and found her front door shattered. She then discovered jewelry and family heirlooms were stolen.

Police said a majority of the burglary was captured on the victim’s Ring Camera.

Deputies said they found the suspect — identified as Jason Matthew Bowen of Eugene — and stopped him in his vehicle.

Shortly after his arrest, police identified Bowen as a suspect in two other burglaries along Lorane Highway in Eugene. Officials noted some of the burglary victims were visiting for the World Games.

LCSO said they found jewelry and other property from the three burglaries after conducting a search warrant at a home where Bowen reportedly stayed. Bowen was lodged at the Lane County Jail for several crimes including three counts of first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools and identity theft.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office is Currently Hiring Dispatchers

May be an image of screen and text that says 'NOW HIRING DISPATCHERS Base Salary $24.72 $33.10 0000 2E55 SHERIFF NE OF See Link Below To Apply'

The open position is listed under ‘Communications Officer’. Other open positions include records officers and facility support officers. Contact 541-682-4069 for more information.Visit https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/lanecountyor? to apply!

Extreme Heat | PublicAlerts.org

The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting temperatures to climb into the 100s across many parts of Oregon this week.Heat-related illness can happen indoors or outdoors in as little as 10-15 minutes. Keep your community safe by learning the signs of heat-related illness and what to do if you see someone with these symptoms: http://ow.ly/CFGO50K3KI2

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/6zaZ50K4Vta

May be an image of ‎text that says '‎Oregon's COVID-19 Update 7/25/2022 CASES cases 7-day avg. 1,366 average 1,263.1 Health 2,000 Newly reported deaths with COVID-19 Total cases 1,000 846,692 Opera HEALTH CARE 8,043 Current COVID-19 positive patients Opera 400 Hospitalized 424 in 200 Emergency department itsforCOVID-19-like beds 6.0% 45 Updated weekly HOSCAP 4.0% TESTING Jul11 Date ofhospitalization Oregon Test positivity 14.2% Jul11 ۔ 10.0% 5.0% Variants Tests reported 10K- Omicron (BA.2) 6,951 Source: Date 12,145 3,307 (Ba.2.12.1) 1,463 233 375 Source: GISAID public health Omicron VACCINATION Vaccination coverage, statewide people 100% One dose 84.6% 50% Boosted dose 47.4% 1/31/2021 4/25/2021 7/18/2021 10/10/2021 1/2/2022 .ekofvaccination 3/27/2022 6/19/2022‎'‎

Recent Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) COVID-19 modeling estimates the current COVID-19 wave peaked July 13. The model expects the infection rate to decline over the next six weeks.
As of July 20, there were 424 COVID-19-positive patients in Oregon hospitals.
Wastewater surveillance data collected through July 14 shows viral concentrations have stopped increasing in most regions, and are either flat or declining.
Along with staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, wearing well-fitting masks, particularly when you may be around others in indoor or crowded outdoor settings, can help protect you and those around you.
If you need help finding a vaccine or booster, visit http://ow.ly/qRJt50K4Z8p.
To read the full report, visit http://ow.ly/1vMb50K4Z8r.

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Governor Brown Declares State Of Emergency In 25 Counties Amid Heat Wave

Governor Brown declared a state of emergency in 25 counties Tuesday as the Northwest U.S. swelters under a brutal heat wave. The declaration was made to “ensure additional resources are available to respond to forecasted excessively high temperatures.”

According to the governor’s office, multiple days of extreme heat with little or no cooling overnight may also impact critical infrastructure, causing utility outages and transportation disruptions.

With many parts of Oregon facing a high heat wave, it is critical that every level of government has the resources they need to help keep Oregonians safe and healthy,” said Brown. “I encourage everyone to take proactive steps to keep themselves and their families safe, including drinking plenty of fluids, taking advantage of cooling centers, and checking in on neighbors, friends, and loved ones.”

Officials say the governor has directed the Oregon Department of Emergency Management to activate the state’s Emergency Coordination Center to coordinate essential protective measures. She has also directed state agencies to provide any assistance requested by OEM to support response efforts.

The state of emergency will extend through July 31.

The Biden administration also on Tuesday unveiled a federal website, heat.gov, that federal officials hope can help people and local governments beat the heat and keep it from becoming deadly.

From the Pacific Northwest to the southern Great Plains to the heavily populated I-95 corridor, more than 85 million Americans woke up Sunday to excessive heat warnings or heat advisories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking these steps to stay cool and safe:

  • Limit your outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest.
  • Pace your activity. Start activities slowly and pick up the pace gradually.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more. Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling device during an extreme heat event
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Limit use of the stove and oven—it will make you and your house hotter.

Wildfire Arson Suspect Busted by Locals Who Tied Him to a Tree Until Police Arrived

A man wanted by police after allegedly starting two wildfires in Oregon on Monday was handed over to cops when three locals spotted the suspect and tied him to a tree, authorities said.

Trennon Smith, 30, was caught after residents noticed that he matched the description given by a witness of a man seen starting the fires in southwestern Oregon.

The blazes were quickly contained, burning less than an acre, and authorities quickly set about searching for the suspect. But it was three locals from Curry County who spotted Smith walking on a road near the fires. “The suspect became very combative with the three residents and had to be tied to a tree to subdue him,” Sheriff John Ward of Curry County said in a statement. Smith also received treatment from an ambulance crew for injuries sustained from “falling down.” He was charged with two counts of arson and one count of reckless burning.

Fire Danger Level Raised to EXTREME in South Eastern Oregon

Beginning today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lakeview District, Fremont-Winema National Forest, Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and all private, county, and state wildlands protected by the Klamath-Lake District, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) will be raising the Fire Danger Level to EXTREME.   

With the progression of summer conditions and continuous drying of forest fuels, local fire danger levels have reached “EXTREME.” Fires starting in these conditions have the potential for rapid fire spread and significant damage.  

Additional fire prevention requirements have been placed on industrial forest operations. High-speed rotary saws and tracked felling/skidding equipment are required to shut down between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. High-speed rotary saws are also REQUIRED to have an “operation area observer” visually inspecting the area worked in and additional fire equipment. These are in addition to the normal requirements listed in “A Guide to Legal Requirements for Prevention and Controlling Fires in Operations On and Near Forest Land in Oregon.”   

The “Fire season in effect” declaration on June 6 put regulations restricting debris burning and timber harvest operations. Wildland and structural fire protection agencies in Klamath and Lake counties have agreed to prohibit all outdoor debris burning. Forest operations that require a permit to operate power-driven machinery are required to have fire tools, on-site water supply, and watchman service on privately owned forest land. 

The release of sky lanterns is prohibited at any time of the year. The discharge of exploding targets and the discharge of tracer ammunition are not permitted during the duration of the fire season. 

Meantime, the Modoc National Forest will impose fire restrictions beginning at 12 a.m. on July 25th and continuing until November 30th. It is imperative that these precautions be taken in light of the increase in wildfires throughout the western United States.

In accordance with this order, campfires will no longer be permitted in forest areas except in Designated Recreation Sites. These activities are prohibited:

– Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, or campfire, anywhere other than in the designated recreation sites…..

-Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or a building, within the Designated Recreation Sites, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material……

-Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame…..and, operating an internal combustion engine, except on National Forest System roads or trails, or within the Designated Recreation Sites

Group Sending Out Fear-Based Messaging Anti-Democratic Mailers and Web Ads

Earlier this month, some Oregon voters began receiving glossy mailers blaming Gov. Kate Brown and the “Democrat-controlled state Legislature” for “soaring gas prices” and the “out-of-control cost of living.”

website with two short videos claiming policies passed by legislative Democrats led to increases in crime and inflation went live around the same time.SponsoredSkip Ad

The mailers, the website and the ads were all paid for by the Coalition for Safe, Healthy and Prosperous Communities – but that coalition doesn’t exist in state campaign finance or business records.

The mysterious mail and online ads come after a national Republican group named the Oregon Legislature one of its top targets. Oregon remains a Democratic stronghold, but Republicans view this year as their best chance in more than a decade of taking control of a legislative chamber.

The organization is all but untraceable, though it shares a name with a newly-formed national nonprofit started by three prominent Republicans with ties to the oil and gas industry. Its failure to disclose its funding and spending could mean it’s violating the spirit, if not the letter, of state campaign finance laws.

“There are some groups that will do messaging work, often under a 501(c)3 designation or maybe a (c)4 where they say it’s not technically about an election or doesn’t technically fall within the campaign finance rules,” said Ben Morris, a spokesman for the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.  “It’s more just issue advocacy, which there are different rules for. So it’s possible that would be their argument if they’re not registering as a political action committee reporting stuff.”

Organizations that spend money on political ads generally have to file records with the Secretary of State’s Office showing how much they raise and spend and who benefits. Rules differ depending on what type of organization it is, Morris said.

Political action committees raise and spend money to support or oppose a candidate, ballot measure or political party. Within three days of their first contribution or expenditure, PACs have to file a statement of organization with the state’s campaign finance database, ORESTAR, that includes their purpose and contact information.

Organizations that don’t seek contributions but spend money supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot measure are independent expenditure filers. They aren’t allowed to coordinate with campaigns, and they must register in ORESTAR within seven days after spending more than $250.

In a gray area are groups that say they’re doing general issue advocacy, or spending to support a cause but not something directly tied to an election.

After reviewing the mailers, Morris said the Secretary of State’s office would need more information to know where the coalition falls.

Jason Kafoury, a Portland attorney and one of the leaders of an effort to strengthen state campaign finance laws, said the coalition could be blurring the lines of issue advocacy. Nonprofits with 501(c)3 status can’t get involved in politics, while those registered as 501(c)4s can advocate on issues but not for or against candidates.

“‘These politicians aren’t doing X’ sounds like the message, which is a cute way of dealing with it,” he said.

A ballot initiative Kafoury and other campaign finance reform advocates proposed this year would have required every group sending political mail to list its top five donors on the advertisement. It didn’t make it to the ballot, but supporters plan to try again in 2024.

Whoever is behind the mailers and video ads have made themselves difficult to find. The mailers list an address, but it’s a postal annex in Portland where anyone can pay to rent a mailbox.

The website doesn’t have any contact information listed. The whois search engine shows that someone named “Jim Balentine” who works for a company called “MWP” in Atlanta, Georgia, registered that domain on July 12.

The Georgia Corporations Division doesn’t have any records of a Jim Balentine. It lists a number of businesses that use the acronym “MWP,” including painters, photographers and property management companies.

But only one, Atlanta-based MWPolitical, fits the bill. It’s a political digital strategy firm founded by Jim Valentine.

Valentine supports Republicans, according to his social media postings. And SEAL, a political action committee that backs conservative veterans, paid his firm more than $1.8 million in 2020.

A political action committee supporting Oregon Republican Knute Buehler during his 2020 run for Congress also paid MWPolitical $500, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jessica Gomez received a nearly $20,000 reimbursement in March for a canceled ad purchase, according to state and federal campaign finance records.

Valentine did not return a call or text message on Thursday.

The coalition shares a name with Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)4 that opened last year, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS doesn’t yet have any available copies of the organization’s Form 990 returns, the documents tax-exempt nonprofits must file every year.

But the D.C. corporation registry lists the organization and three directors, all of whom are longtime Republican operatives with ties to the oil and gas industry.

Jeff Berkowitz, the only one with publicly available contact information, was formerly the chief researcher for the Republican National Committee and now runs his own opposition research firm. His spokesman did not respond to an email on Thursday.

Alby Modiano, another director, was the president of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association from 1993 until at least 2018, though he now describes himself as the former president. And the last director, Marc Himmelstein, is a longtime lobbyist for the energy industry.

Oliver Muggli, executive director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, called the mystery mailers “pretty disturbing.” The Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, a political action committee that supports Democratic state senators and candidates for Senate, discloses its fundraising and spending, as do other political action committees.

“I think they’re counting on Oregonians being fooled by that sort of spending, and I think that Oregonians won’t be fooled by D.C. corporate interests disguising themselves to try to appear more grassroots,” he said.

Federal Law Enforcement Partners Encourage Community Reporting of All Hate Crimes

Earlier this month, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission released its third annual report reviewing the state’s recent bias crime and non-criminal bias incident reporting data. Among many concerning findings, the report noted that calls to the Oregon Department of Justice Bias Response Hotline increased by 53% from 2020 to 2021.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon and the FBI Portland Field Office commend individuals who have courageously come forward to report hate-related incidents and activity. With these incidents continuing to increase in Oregon and throughout the United States, federal law enforcement leaders in Oregon encourage anyone with information about hate crimes to call Oregon’s Bias Response Hotline, their local law enforcement agency or the FBI directly.

The Justice Department is committed to supporting victims of these crimes.

“Violent acts motivated by hate have no place in our shared community. The FBI is working with our law enforcement and community partners to hold those accountable who are so callously targeting innocent people,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Portland Field Office. “Even as we are seeing some increased reporting of hate crimes, we know the vast majority of these incidents are still going underreported and we need your help. If you’re the victim of a hate crime or know someone being victimized, please contact law enforcement and the FBI.”

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Combatting hate crimes is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI. These crimes have a devastating impact on families and communities.

If you are concerned about your safety, please call 911 immediately.

If you or someone you know was the victim of or witnessed a hate-related crime or incident, please contact Oregon’s Bias Crime Hotline by calling 1-844-924-BIAS. Trauma-informed operators are available from 9am to 5pm Pacific time, Monday through Friday.

These crimes and incidents can also be reported to the FBI directly by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or submitting a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.

Signs Warn Of No Swimming: A universal sign which aims to prevent drowning in natural water

Oregon State Police is part of the Columbia Gorge Safe Kids Coalition, which is part of the greater Safe Kids Oregon organization. They have developed a universal sign which aims to prevent drowning in natural water.

The sign, which is available for use throughout Oregon, warns visitors of places they should keep clear of when looking to cool off. The message reads, in both English and Spanish, “Dangerous Area – Do Not Swim”, and depicts a red circle backlash symbol over the icon of a swimmer. Betsy Hartner, the State Coordinator of Safe Kids Oregon, conducted research to ensure the sign adheres to national and international standards. 

The first of these signs was placed in cooperation with Oregon State Parks near the Deschutes River & White River Falls along the White River. The signs were posted within days of yet another near drowning near the falls, where thankfully a man was rescued and revived using CPR. “Although another tragedy was avoided, we are hoping these signs will make a difference and keep people from getting into these situations in the first place”, said Senior Trooper Holloran of the Oregon State Police. 

There are plenty of places to swim safely in Oregon, and there are life jacket loaner stations available throughout the state which can be found online on the Oregon State Marine Board’s Life Jacket Loaner Station Map: https://www.oregon.gov/osmb/boater-info/Pages/Life-Jacket-Loaner-Stations.aspx. Life jackets are always recommended for children, teens, and adults while swimming in natural water and for all persons when boating. 

The summer heat is upon us, so please be mindful of designated swimming areas and never leave children unattended. Here’s to a safe summer on Oregon waterways!

The template for the sign is available for any organization or group that would like to warn the public of unsafe areas in natural water. To receive the template free of cost, email your request to safekidscg@gmail.com.

The Columbia Gorge Safe Kids Coalition is made up of multiple partners such as the Oregon State Police, the Washington State Police, the Oregon Department of Human Service, Next Door Inc., Wasco/Sherman Public Health Department, Providence Hood River, Good Shepard Hermiston, and Mid-Columbia Medical Center, to name a few. To find out more about Safe Kids Oregon, visit http://www.safekidsoregon.org/

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Women Missing Since May 1st 2022 between Medford, Grants Pass and Roseburg per Oregon State Police

MAKENNA KENDALL                                   5/3/2022
ERICA LEE  HUTCHINSON                          5/26/2022                          
MARIAH DANIELLE SHARP                          6/12/2022          
KAITLYN RAE NELSON                                  6/14/2022                 
BROOKLYN JOHNS                                     6/14/2022
DONNA LEPP                                               6/27/2022  
BARBARA  DELEPINE                                    7/4/2022                     
****KENDRA MARIE HANKS                              7/7/2022 FOUND MURDERED 7/21/2022
CORI BOSHANE MCCANN                             7/8/2022
RAVEN RILEY                                                7/13/2022
TAHUANA RILEY                                        7/13/2022

Women Missing Since May 1st 2022 in Lane County per Oregon State Police

BREISA RAQUEAL SIKEL                            5/3/2022
HANNAH MARIE RHOTEN                             5/17/2022
MARISSA ALEESA DAMBROSIO                  5/18/2022
LOUISA DAY AVA                                           5/28/2022             
AMY CHRISTINA SULLIVAN                          6/1/2022
NIKKI ELIZABETH  ZEREBNY                              6/6/2022
SHADOW STAR SEVIGNY                               6/17/2022
SHAUNA LEAH HOGAN                             6/17/2022
AIRIONNA CHEALSEY RHODES                    6/27/2022           
KARISSA RENEE ADAMS                                7/6/2000
VERONICA ESSYNCE DELERIO                    7/6/2022
AUBRIE HANNA STEPHENS                           7/10/2022     
LARA IVEY STEINMETZ                                 7/11/2022
SARA LINDSAY SCHAEFER                            7/12/2022

As of today, 7/6/2022, there are now 37 women missing between Medford and Eugene. Sadly Kendra Hanks has been found murdered, though that takes her off the list. We send thoughts and prayers to her family as well as the families of all missing people in our area.

37 women missing in less than 3 months. That averages out to a little more than 12 missing per month. Something needs to be done.

This is just a small compilation of missing women’s pictures in the area. There are of course women missing all over Oregon and men and children missing. Sadly most of them never get any attention. Family and friends must keep any information going and lead investigations so that they aren’t just forgotten. https://www.oregon.gov/osp/missing/pages/missingpersons.aspx

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