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26 November 2020

Accused killer's ex remembers 'the monster' who terrorized her


Robert Keegan – Courtesy JCSO

By Brad Smith

ASHLAND, Ore – Some people aren’t shocked by Robert Paul “Bob” Keegan’s arrest after he allegedly shot a young Black man on Nov. 23.

His ex-wife Amy Jo Hoppins is one of them.

While a GoFundMe account in Keegan’s name proclaims that he’s a kind and loving man, a good father – Hoppins and others say otherwise.

“Bob’s a violent man. Violent, manipulative, abusive and cruel,” she said. “Everyday I was with him, I felt threatened. I was strangled, suffocated and hit. I lost count the number of times he threatened to shoot me. He even drugged me from time to time. And, even worse, was how abusive he was to my son. One time, he even lit a torch and threatened to burn my home. Yes, he’s that crazed. He was a monster.”

A son that Keegan had custody of at the time of the shooting. Keegan and his son were staying at the Stratford Inn after claiming he’d lost his home during the Almeda Fire. While media reports stated Keegan was from Talent, Hoppins said her ex’s last known address was on the 300 block of Kent Street in Ashland.

At around 4:20 a.m. Monday, Keegan, allegedly shot and killed a young Black man named Aidan Ellison, 19, Ashland. Ellison was reportedly in the Ashland's Stratford Inn parking lot and listening to music. Cops said that Keegan was not happy about the loud music and -- armed with a concealed handgun -- went outside to confront Ellison. An argument ensued and Ellison was shot. Keegan was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm (Keegan didn't have a concealed weapon permit) and recklessly endangering another person. As of press time, Keegan is in the county jail and held without bond.

While it has been reported that Keegan didn’t have a criminal record, Hoppins stated that in 2012 she got a restraining order against him when they lived in Coos County. However, she claimed that Keegan routinely violated the restraining order and the physical and emotional abuse continued.

“He’d force his way into my home and take my phone and car keys,” she said. “And, when I did make a report – nothing was done. Bob had a way of convincing people that he was the good guy. He’s still good at it.”

One anonymous source claimed they knew both Hoppins and Keegan when they were together.

“Amy was always terrified,” they said. “Not only of Keegan but his goddamned family. Some of them threatened her on a number of occasions and she didn’t know what to do.”

Hoppins said in January 2015 Keegan left with her son. She has been waging a fight to get custody of her son and, ever since, the threats have continued.

“At one point, my lawyer said it was a good idea to leave,” she said. “So, I did. I’m in another part of the country and I’m still afraid. My son, when we do talk, has told me about Bob and his family talking about what they want to do to me. Yes, I’m scared as hell.”

The anonymous source said it was possible that Keegan supposedly had his records expunged – explaining why nothing is on record.

“He’s just the sort of slime who would do that,” they said.

Hoppins said she’s contacted the Ashland Police Dept. and told them about her past with Keegan. She has also doubled down on her efforts to get custody of her son.

“I don’t think he’s safe with (Keegan’s) family,” she said. “They’re just as bad as he is. He needs to be somewhere safe from them.”

Hoppins said Keegan might have a bail hearing next month and that bothers her.

“I’m worried that he will come after me next,” she said. “Bob thinks he’ll get away with murdering this young man and he’ll be emboldened after this. I worry about what he might do to my son. He’s that dangerous.”

Hoppins said she “grieves” over Ellison’s death.

“He’s dead and my ex is responsible for it,” she said. “I’m so sorry for his family and friends and I wish I could do something for them. That young man didn’t deserve that. And his loved ones don’t deserve this pain and suffering now. No one does. I want them to know that they’re in my heart and prayers. I just wish I could do something for them.”

She hopes Ellison’s loved ones will find justice.

“I hope they lock up (Keegan) for life,” she said. “I hope the investigation will reveal other things about him and what he’s done. What he did to Aidan – that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m certain of it. That’s why I’m hiding from him and his family.”

16 November 2020

Whiterwater park opponents in for big surprise


By Brad Smith

GOLD HILL, Ore.  – Those opposing a proposed whitewater park near Gold Hill are in for a surprise: It’s been a part of the city’s parks master plan since 2015.

May 18, 2015, to be exact. That’s when the city council passed and adopted the parks and open space master plan: Councilors Doug Reischman, Gus Wolf, Margaret Dials, Karen Baker and Donna Silva voted their support for the plan and Chris Stanley was against it. Then mayor Jan Fish and city manager Rick Hohnbaum signed off on it.

Over the last several months, Councilor Danielle Hinkley said she’s been in touch with citizens who say they have concerns about the whitewater park project, which has been spearheaded by Stephen Kiesling. Hinkley said some locals felt their “concerns” about a whitewater park were ignored and felt the city shouldn’t be involved or backing it.

However, it is in the parks and open spaces master plan – and there was plenty of public input.

Hohnbaum said the process putting together the master plan was very thorough.

“We had a series of whitewater park meetings with at least two large intergovernmental ones with tribes and four small group ones with county and local so I would say six (meetings),” he said. “In addition, Molly Bradley, our AmeriCorps intern,  had organized some park trail meetings. There was a lot of input and support from (Gold Hill) residents.”

Richard Hart, a Gold Hill resident who’s been active in previous park projects, was involved in the process leading up to the master plan’s finalization.

“Meetings? There were a lot of meetings and the public was right there,” Hart said. “We reached out to many in the community, even kids – kids are our future and we wanted to hear what they had to say, what they wanted. As for the actual meetings, they were well attended.”

Hart said it’s frustrating because over the last five years, some residents have developed “selective amnesia.”

“Some have said Gold Hill residents were left out of the whitewater park discussions,” he said. “Some have said it was never talked about publicly. That’s not true. There were meetings and the public was there. Those are on record. Some have claimed the tribes were shut out and environmental issues were ignored. That’s nonsense: (Kiesling) included the tribes in the process and many environmental agencies were brought in. Were the i’s dotted and t’s crossed? Yes, they were.”

Hart feels that a number of local “negative elements” are playing on people’s fears and stirring up rumors and misinformation.

“They know about the whitewater park’s inclusion in the master plan,” he said. “They know – but it’s my view that they’re misleading others in order to stir up trouble. These people don’t want Gold Hill to prosper. They want it to be a dead-end bedroom community that has nothing to offer. No growth. No jobs. Nothing.”

One source said that social media has been a problem with some people pushing fake narratives and those narratives have found their way into city council meetings.

“When (Hinkley) brought up the Ventura story, well, that was embarrassing,” the source said.

In a social media post, an individual claiming to be from Ventura, Calif., said they didn’t want Gold Hill to be like their hometown. “Ventura used to be a sleepy little town until tourism ruined it,” they said. Hinkley would use that very phrase during a city council meeting.

“They don’t want that to happen to Gold Hill and I don’t want to see that happen either,” she said.

The problem was that Ventura was never a “sleepy little town.”

By the 1930s, Ventura had a population of more than 11,000 people and over 14,000 within a decade. Along with an oil boom and lucrative fruit produce businesses in the area, Ventura was always known for its tourism trade. Hart grew up in the area and laughed at the social media post. “Ventura has always been a booming place,” he said. “It was never a small town like Gold Hill. However, someone made a comment on social media and people believed it, not bothering to check it out.”

Which circles back to the whitewater park, he said.

“You have people making some wild claims about the whitewater park and how people weren’t aware of this or that,” Hart said. “We know that’s not true. There was a very thorough, well documented process involved and it was never underhanded. It’s all there in the master plan.”

The anonymous source said they were “perplexed” by Hinkley bringing up misleading social media posts during council meetings.

“You would think a councilor would take the time to fact check social media posts before saying something on the record,” they said. “I’ve talked to her a number of times. She’s smart but she should have checked things herself. I have to wonder if someone is feeding her misinformation and she blindly accepts it. Now, I have to wonder: ‘Is this the sort of person I want representing my best interests?’ No.”


13 November 2020

Commissioner Colleen Roberts is an idiot

If you look up the definition of moron in the dictionary, here's the picture you will find beside it.

MEDFORD, Ore. – Face it, Jackson County: You have some goddamned idiots for county commissioners.

Colleen Roberts is one of the dumbest politicians ever to be in office. She makes Trump look like Einstein at times.

Earlier this week, Roberts – along with Rick Dyer, who’s also an idiot – pushed back against County Administrator Danny Jordan’s suggestion the commissioners release a statement supporting mask-wearing, social distancing and washing hands. Roberts, instead, said an announcement saying using vitamins to boost people’s immune systems was better. She opposed any sort of “government mandate” regarding masks because it should be a person’s choice to wear one or not.

Roberts, along with Dyer, felt Covid-19 restrictions were harmful to personal freedoms and businesses. And she was concerned about kids not being able to play sports.


Money and somebody’s crotch urchins not being able to play football are more worrisome to Roberts than people’s lives.

Late this spring, Roberts spoke at an anti-lockdown rally in Medford. Before speaking, she urged people to ignore social distancing and crowd in closer to the stage area. As it was, many of those people were not wearing masks. Roberts was upset that people couldn’t go to church but a woman could still get an abortion.


She went there.

That’s the mentality of this woman. If you ever have a face to face talk with Colleen Roberts, as you look into her eyes – you might as well be looking into a bottomless pit. If there was ever a zombie apocalypse, she’d unfortunately survive because she’s brainless. If you listen to her speak, it’s like fingernails scratching a blackboard.

That’s the caliber of our “leadership” here in Jackson County.

All of Oregon is undergoing spikes of new cases and there are a few outbreaks in the county, one at a healthcare facility. It’s not looking good.

And Commissioner Colleen Roberts thinks “taking your vitamins” is the message people need to hear.

Jackson County is so screwed.

04 November 2020

Convicted child abuser member of RV Salt Shakers hate group

This is Trevor Emptage's Facebook profile picture. In March 2012, Emptage held a small child under scalding hot water.

By Brad Smith

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. – A convicted child abuser is a member of the hate group, RV Salt Shakers.

Last week, Salt Shaker leader Jon Clement and another member Ryan Clark were arrested by Grants Pass police after illegally firing shotguns as their pontoon boat drifted down the Rogue River near some public parks. It would seem the RV Salt Shakers attract a certain criminal element.

Case in point: Trevor Maurice Emptage.

On March 4, 2012, Rogue Regional Medical Center ER doctors contacted law enforcement after seeing a 1-year old girl with first and second degree burns to her feet. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies conducted an investigation and found that her foster father, Emptage, was angry after the child had defecated in the bathtub – there was evidence showing the child was held in scalding hot water by force.

Emptage would later plead guilty to second-degree assault as additional counts of first-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment were dismissed in a plea agreement. While second-degree assault is a Measure 11 offense, Emptage received a sentence of 34 months rather than the mandatory 70 months due to having no criminal record. Emptage’s wife and members from his church wrote letters asking for no jail sentence. He was ordered to turn himself in by July 2, 2013.

It wasn't Emptage's first arrest. According to Grants Pass police, he was arrested for fourth degree domestic violence in 2008.

Emptage was seen on video recordings harassing people outside of the Medford Planned Parenthood clinic on Nov. 3. When Pepper Shaker counter protestors confronted Emptage about his child abusing past, he countered that he’d “found Jesus and was saved.”

Evidently, while being in church, he hadn’t found Jesus before.

Emptage, 37, now works tech support for Burning Diode Technology Services in Central Point.

It's not clear if having a criminal record is a prerequisite for RV Salt Shaker membership.

01 November 2020

Racism. It's acceptable at the Sportsman Tavern in Cave Junction, Ore.

 From a reader:

"So this dude decided to dress up in Confederate/Trump gear and wear black face for Halloween in Cave Junction where he enjoyed his night at the Sportsman Tavern in CJ without being kicked out or even called out for his costume.  

"Just a heads up to any of my friends who may be in CJ looking for a drink. Stay away from Sportsman Tavern."

Do you want to do business with the Sportsman tavern?

31 October 2020

Hate group's FB page vanishes after leader arrested

 By Brad Smith

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A southern Oregon’s hate group Facebook page disappeared from the social media platform shortly after their leader was arrested by Grants Pass police earlier this week.

Jon Clement, 61, and Ryan Clark, 43, both of Grants Pass, were arrested on Oct. 26 by Grants Pass police after the pair were allegedly shooting at birds from a pontoon boat drifting down the Rogue River. According to press releases, the two men fired shotguns as their boat drifted near both Tussing and Reinhart Volunteer Parks. Some witnesses reported they heard pellets pass overhead.

Clement and Clark were taken into custody sometime after 5 p.m. and were booked into the Josephine County Jail. Both were charged with unlawful use of a weapon and reckless endangerment.

Clement is the leader of RV Salt Shakers, a hate group that’s operated throughout southern Oregon for the last few years. Clark is allegedly a member as well. The Salt Shakers have been known to picket area Planned Parenthood clinics and harass patients and others using PP services. The Shakers have also been a nuisance at many local events, ranging from Pear Blossom to Ashland’s holiday parade. A number of groups have taken measures to bar the Salt Shakers from their events. They have also targeted the LGBTQ and immigrant communities.

Clement’s group has been accused of using fear tactics and even intimidation.

“(Fear tactics) are sometimes necessary to further our message,” he said in 2019. “If it helps our cause, we’ll do it.”

Word of Clement and Clark’s arrests spread like wildfire through social media and it wasn’t long before the group’s page was hit by trolling.

The Salt Shakers have been scaling back their weekly harassment of Planned Parenthood clinics since counter protestors – some calling themselves the RV Pepper Shakers – have appeared.

Clement was contacted by the Rogue Free Press. He did not respond.

18 October 2020

SOEquity feeding Hawthorne homeless

 By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – Despite last month’s police crackdown on Hawthorne Park’s tent city and its homeless population, some are still doing what they can to help.

Prior to that, Clarence Carr was spearheading daily free meals and helped pull together mutual aid program helping the homeless and those displaced by the Almeda Fire. Since the Medford police’s sweep, Carr has been working with others to establish a nonprofit group focused on helping the homeless. As he’s been getting the paperwork together, Carr said he’s working with the Mother Teresa Genesis Home nonprofit.

 “It’s going to take some time but everything starts small in the beginning,” he said.

In the meantime, someone is stepping up. Earlier this month, the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity announced that it would be helping with volunteer efforts feeding and aiding the homeless. Emily Mann, SOEquity’s social media director, said their role is a “logistical one.”

“We are organizing/scheduling volunteers/ordering meals/accepting donations,” she said. “Everyone agreed that having an entity with some of the supportive tools we have – scheduling software, fiscal sponsorship – would ensure sustainability in the project. We are in this for the long run. We are doing lunch daily and dinner three times a week. We are able to give out about 60-75 individual meals each time we serve.”

 Mann said SOEquity volunteers go through about $100 of snacks and drinks a day. Their meals are delivered through Rogue Food Unite. “They’ve been awesome to work with and provide such an incredible service to the community,” she said.

Little Caesar’s Pizza, bagels, fruit and snacks are the typical fare, along with bottled water. Mann and other volunteers network via Facebook on a regular basis and, so far, it’s been working.

 People – people who would probably starve – are getting fed.

 Last month, Melissa Mayne, executive director of the Compassionate Highway Project, took to social media and made a number of outrageous, unsubstantiated claims that Antifa agitators were being bussed in from Portland and even outstate. She also claimed that Black Lives Matter supporters were involved in criminal activities and, along with Antifa, had something to do with last month’s fires. She made similar claims at a Medford city council meeting too.

Despite Mayne’s group claiming to help the homeless, both Mann and some volunteers said that that they haven’t seen CHP volunteers in the park.

 “It’s odd, since we both help the same group of people,” Mann said. “We haven’t seen much from them.”

 A number of homeless after the Medford Police Dept. sweep relocated to a section of the Bear Creek Greenway many call “Paradise.” Mann said SOEquity volunteers distribute food to them once in a while when they have a few mobile volunteers.

 Some volunteers help in many ways. Melissa Jones said she helps deliver and serve food and drinks to the homeless. “When I can, I bring harm reduction supplies – needle exchange, safe sex, Narcan/opiate overdose prevention, things like that. I do what I can,” she said.

 Mann said SOEquity is committed to helping.

“We aren’t positive when Clarence will be taking over. We definitely want work with his 501 c3 when it’s up and running,” she said. “Overall, things are going well. We haven’t had much issue with rumors. Honestly, we haven’t really had any negative run ins with unsupportive community members or the police so far. It’s going smoothly, very smoothly.”

12 October 2020

Ghosts on the SOU campus and not everything is paranormal

 Photo by Jr Korpa

Ghosts haunt Ashland and the surrounding area – it’s a place rich in paranormal lore.


Southern Oregon University has a few stories. From the Ghosts and Critters website, here’s a rundown of its most notable stories:

Southern Oregon University’s Plunkett Center has been put to many uses since the University acquired the old building in 1966. It has been alumni and development offices on its second floor and the first floor is used as museum displays by the local historical society. This building is also known as the Swedenburg House, taken from its former tenant, Dr. F. Swedenburg. Swedenburg was a prominent local physician who lived in the house from 1919 until he died in 1937. 

Since the University purchased the property there have been ghost stories surrounding it. Some skeptics believe the stories get more elaborate year after year. Believers who counter this opinion included a University professor and the head of campus security. 

Joey Ngan began his experiences with the Swedenburg house when he was a junior campus security guard. Ngan had the graveyard shift when he started out working for security. He always felt as if he was being watched when he went onto the second floor. He would announce himself and explain that he was just there to check out the building. If he did not do this he always felt as if something did not want him there. 

The house was restored in the early 1980s and a new security system was installed. Ngan and another officer had just finished checking the building and ensuring that the alarm system was operational. Later they drove by the house and saw a woman illumined by the porch light. She was sitting beside a window in a first-floor office. They saw her for a second and then she was gone. They entered the building and searched it for her. The door was locked and the building was empty. 

Political Science Professor Bill Muelemans came to the University in the early 1970s and collected several of the stories over the years. In 1973 the building was closed down and the electricity was turned off. Muelemans, a security guard and three students decided to hold a vigil in the house. They went to one of the second story rooms with candles, flashlights and a Ouija board. The board spelled out messages, including a statement that one of the students had tried to commit suicide in the past. This was true, though no one besides the student knew this. The board began moving and seemed to jump in the air about 18 inches. 

At that point they ran out of the building. The security guard was the last one out. As he was locking the door he felt as if his hand was frozen to the doorknob for about 30 seconds before he could break free. Many visitors have seen another specter. A young girl dressed in an old-fashioned pinafore dress with her hair in pigtails has been seen by many unrelated visitors. She is usually seen out of the corner of the visitor's eyes and only for a few seconds. There are rumors of burglar alarms going off and glowing apparitions seen by students late at night. It is hard to pin them down to a definite location.

There are a few other stories, buildings haunted by long dead janitors, teachers and students. Universities and colleges have those kinds of stories, ranging from botched hazings to distraught students dying by suicide. And, some of them are urban legends: The same basic story transferred from one school to another, with some details changed to fit local history or what have you.

Think about it: How many hotels or other places have stories of the jilted bride who killed herself? Yes, at some point, it happened . . . . And then a slightly altered version of the story found its way attached to another hotel or well-known resort. Then, it spreads from there.

Then, you have some local folklore altered into a ghost story.

Tunnel 13 is a good example.

It was called the last great train robbery of the American West. On Oct. 11, 1923, the DeAutremont brothers – twins Roy and Ray along with their younger brother Hugh – robbed the Oregon–California Express as it was on its way to San Francisco. During the robbery, four men were killed and the brothers fled empty handed. Thanks to the efforts of a Berkeley chemistry professor name  Edward Oscar Heinrich and his forensic skills, the DeAutremont brothers were eventually captured and sentenced to prison.

Since then, many have claimed Tunnel 13 is haunted. People claim to have felt cold spots as they walk through the tunnel – well, it’s a tunnel. It’s a tunnel with a violent past and it’s like the funhouse effect, as some of us paranormal investigators call it. It’s like when people look at a spooky old building and think it’s haunted.


Because it looks spooky.

It’s the same with Tunnel 13. It has the right perquisites for a haunted location. Remote, foreboding, violent history and – most importantly – it has the number 13.

It has to be haunted.

I love history, crime stories and forensics; so the Tunnel 13 story has plenty of hooks for me as it is. And, yes, as a paranormal investigator, I’d love to check it out but I feel that there isn’t enough documentation to say there’s any paranormal activity at the location. There’s a lot to assume and the YouTube videos I’ve seen . . . well, I’m not impressed. Anecdotal evidence might be an interesting hook but it’s not real evidence.

Now, if someone has a different view or even evidence – please, let me know. As Mulder’s poster so famously says, I want to believe.

09 October 2020

Talent: Say "No" to Timen.

Talent doesn't need Ron Timen.

After being devastated by the Almeda Fire, Talent is on the long road to recovery and rebuilding -- and it needs strong leadership.

Good leadership from good people.

No. You won't find that from Ron Timen.

Timen on his campaign Facebook page touts himself as being just the good, decent guy Talent needs on its city council. Like so:

Nice and perfectly smarmy, yes?

From Ryan Pederson Yes. That Ryan Pederson:

A little civility from our politicians is a welcome thing but I doubt people will get it from Timen. We don't need gaslighting. See. This is civility from Pastor Ron's wholesome and personal Facebook page:

No. No, Talent doesn't need Ron Timen. Just perusing his page, his likes, Timen is a right wing crank of a wolf in sheep's clothing. One of his favorite ministers is a guy who rants about the evils of George Soros and the like. It's bad enough that John Harrison refuses to crawl back to the gutter and wants another term as councilor. Talent doesn't need someone else like him on the council. No, Timen is not the person for the job.

As stated before, Talent is in the process of recovery and rebuilding. The Almeda Fire devastated the entire community and people's lives. Strong yet compassionate leadership on the council is what Talent needs. Not someone like Timen. 

Just say "No" to Timen.

08 October 2020


Greg Roberts posted this a few weeks ago. Despite numerous press releases from the FBI and local law enforcement agencies debunking these conspiracy theories, Roberts continued to push them.

Contact his paid sponsors and ask if they support these conspiracy theories.


07 October 2020

The Ghosts of Ashland

 Image by Stefano Pollio.

Ashland is home to a number of ghosts and here are few of their stories.

Spanning more than 90 acres, Ashland’s Lithia Park is the city’s largest park, with famed landscape architect John McLaren overseeing a number of improvements. One of the park’s most well-known ghosts is the Blue Lady or Blue Girl. According to the accounts, back in the 1880s, a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered. Since then, many witnesses have reported a mysterious blue light – or a glowing mist – floating throughout the park, particularly the duck ponds.

Always at night, of course.

The Blue Lady, in her mist form, has been known to move out in front of moving vehicles or seemingly appear out of thin air. In these accounts, as the vehicles pass through the blue mists, the occupants are hit with a cold chill.

Then, the cold goes away along with the mist.

Another story has it that a logger was killed during an accident. According to some accounts, the ill-fated logger used a drinking jug as a musical instrument . . . witnesses claim to hear strange musical sounds as they walk through the park at night.

Where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Theatre now stands, nearly a hundred years ago, there was a large parking lot (an automobile dealership would later take its place). During the day, a young man – called Dog Boy or Dog-Faced Boy due to an accident that scarred his face – would sell pencils out of a tin cup; at night, he would break into parked cars or burglarized nearby businesses. However, local vigilantes, according to one story, caught Dog Boy in the act and beat him to death.

Ever since, Dog Boy has been seen the in the area, looking for another vehicle to rob or maybe even seeking shelter from vigilantes.

Famed stage and film actor Charles Laughton went to the OSF in the early 1960s and enjoyed the shows he saw. It’s been said Laughton had always wanted to play King Lear at the OSF and, supposedly, the deal was made. However, Laughton died . . . stories have it that whenever Lear is produced at the OSF, Laughton or some shadowy figure can be seen in the audience during rehearsals or his footsteps can be heard backstage.

In the town’s old railroad district, what’s now the Peerless Hotel was once a boarding house for railway workers and is rumored to be haunted by a ghost prostitute who visited the men.

It should be noted that these stories are based on various accounts and urban legends. Each story probably has several different versions – that’s the nature of folklore.

Happy Hallowe’en . . . .

04 October 2020

A specter is haunting Rock Point Cemetery

 Yes. This is one of the headstones at Rock Point Cemetery. They certainly had a sense of humor.

A few miles west of Gold Hill, Ore., right off of Rogue River Highway, is Rock Point Cemetery.

According to locals and a number of paranormal investigators, it’s haunted.

There was once a small community call Rock Point and it had a post office along with a train station. Some buildings reportedly still stand but the cemetery remains. Rock Point Cemetery is more that 26 acres in size and has an Independent Order of Odd Fellows section and the rest, in the past, has been called the Pioneer Cemetery. IOOF members maintained their section while the rest of it fell into a state of disarray. Eventually, Gold Hill citizens banded together and started cleaning the cemetery.

Over the years, a number of stories about paranormal activity have swirled around the cemetery, even to the point that paranormal investigators and curiosity seekers from all over the state have come to visit.

One of the most well-known accounts is about a hooded figure, carrying a lantern and sometimes bathed in green light, that roams the cemetery. When people approach the hooded figure, it vanishes into the night. There are a pair of crypts located in the cemetery and there are stories of both surrounded by green mists or even green fire. Strange lights, eerie sounds and – again – that green mists were experienced by nighttime visitors . . . typically, local young people who went to the cemetery as a dare or even for teenaged romantic escapades.

As I was working on my first Rock Point article, I discovered that a common dare was for someone to lie across one of the crypts and wait for the green fog or flames to happen. Some stories have it that as young people drove through the cemetery, their car windows would crack or shatter due to an unseen force.

Both sextons and members of the Gold Hill Historical Society claim that people wearing Victorian era clothing have been seen wandering the cemetery – then disappearing. One such spectral figure, a woman, is usually accompanied by the strong fragrance of lilacs.

It is a beautiful place during the fall and spring, thanks to the local cleanup efforts. A number of the gravesites are fenced off and have been decorated with ornaments and toys.

As I researched Rock Point’s history, I discovered who the hooded figure was.

At some point in the late 19th Century, a Civil War veteran moved to the Gold Hill area. On some nights, he would put on his military longcoat, grab a lantern and go to the cemetery. He would visit the gravesites of other veterans, checking on them and even talking, as if having a conversation with the dead.

Many years after his death, it appears that the old veteran still patrols the cemetery grounds.


30 September 2020

Disgraced former GH city councilor fires back

 Some GH residents say they're tired of her lies and bullying

By Brad Smith

GOLD HILL, Ore. – In typical fashion, Gold Hill’s ex-city councilor and self-styled cyberbully Christine Alford took to social media in an attempt to explain her reportedly unhinged behavior at a Dollar General store last week.

According to a number of sources, including city manager Jessica Simpson, a city employee was at the store sometime around 5 p.m. last Friday when they were reportedly accosted by Alford. She accused the employee of stealing more than $60,000 from city funds and, at one point, said she “wanted to kick (their) fucking ass.” The employee never said anything to Alford, who was admonished a number of times by both shoppers and store employees to cease her behavior and not use “harsh language” in the presence of families.

Alford later reportedly called city hall and informed Simpson that the city employee had been the one who verbally assaulted her.

“I spoke with the store manager and the employees,” Simpson said. “All of them told me our employee remained silent the whole time and (Alford) instigated the incident and was asked to leave.”

On a Facebook page administered by her, Alford said the article initial Rogue Free Press “didn’t have all the facts.” She claimed the employee had indeed said some things.

“(They) acted like a snake and was sniveling,” she claimed. “I know what they said.”

However, no one else heard it.

Alford also used her rumormongering Facebook page to attack city councilor Ron Palmer – she claimed that Palmer was, in part, responsible for the missing money.

A local source – who has never worked for the city nor has served on the council or committees – found the accusation “unfounded and a typical Christine deflection.”

“The truth is Christine got caught causing problems and now she’s trying to make herself look good. It’s not the first time she’s done this but it’s one of the few that has been outed in the public,” the source said. “Of course, her little band of supporters will give her pass but the rest of town add this to their list of her stupid blunders.”

They weren’t surprised by the attack on Palmer.

“A few years ago, when (Chris) Stanley was mayor and running the city into the fucking ground, city hall was a shit show,” they said. “More than three or four city recorders resigned or, I think, were fired in a year or so. Everything was fine until a recorder would ask questions about the books – then Stanley and some said (ex-councilor Donna) Silva or Alford made their lives a living hell. They left and Palmer got pissed about it. He spoke out about it and he’s been very vocal about keeping Alford from serving on another committee. If you want a Gold Hill that’s a place for everyone, you need to keep Alford and those other miserable harpies out of City Hall.”

They hoped the city residents will ignore Alford’s “bullying antics and lies.”

“A lot of us hope she’ll leave,” the source said. “At this point, I’ll be happy if a house fell on her, just like Wizard of Oz. That would make a lot of us very happy.”


29 September 2020

DEVELOPING STORY: Former Gold Hill councilor verbally attacks city employee in ‘unhinged’ rant

 Cops investigate missing money as Christine Alford harasses innocent employee in public

By Brad Smith

GOLD HILL, Ore. – A former Gold Hill councilor accused a city employee of theft in a local store last Friday night.

During their Sept. 28 meeting, city councilors and Mayor Pro Tem Brad Studebaker took phone calls during the public comments segment after the meeting started. There were two callers and both had questions about allegations regarding more than $60,000 reportedly taken over the last few years. Both Studebaker and city manager Jessica Simpson said they couldn’t comment on the situation due to an ongoing investigation conducted by law enforcement.

“Yes, there’s an ongoing investigation and beyond that – I can’t tell you much,” Simpson said. “I first learned about it in February of this year. It appears that over a period of time, someone stole over $60,000 from the city. When it was discovered, we contacted the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office then said it would be a conflict of interest for them to investigate us, since we have a contract with them to provide law enforcement. The Sheriff’s office then said they would have the Oregon State Police handle the investigation.

“However, it was turned over to the Medford Police Dept. Since then, we haven’t heard any status updates on the case. They haven’t said anything to me.”

Simpson said the suspect or suspects no longer work for the city.

“As I said before, this happened over the last few years. The truth is that the city hall office was in a serious state of chaos for a while,” Simpson said. “It’s possible that an individual – or individuals – took the opportunity to steal from the city’s coffers."

Which isn’t the case now, she asserted.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on the books and others have been helping me,” Simpson said. “We’re in very good shape now and the people working here now are very good. I trust them.”

However, there was a recent incident involving a city employee and a resident that she had to look into.

One of the callers last Monday night was Christine Alford, a former city councilor and one-time member of the budget committee until she was removed. While Alford portrays herself as a concerned citizen watching out for the community, several in Gold Hill know her better as a rumormongering, hateful person who’s not above launching into personal attacks both in public and online.

The Rogue Free Press received emails about the incident early Tuesday morning and Simpson confirmed the incident happened. The emails were from individuals who reportedly saw what had happened or had firsthand information.

According to Simpson and the emails, at around 5 p.m. last Friday, Alford reportedly confronted the city employee at the local Dollar General store. According to all accounts, Alford accused the employee of stealing the $60,000 – then she wanted (the employee) to go outside with her so she could “kick his fucking ass.”

Simpson heard about the incident from other people. Alford, she said, never called her.

“I called the store and spoke with the manager and the employees,” she said. “They told me that (Alford) had started the entire incident and our employee never said a word and they never did anything to her.”

This isn’t the first time Alford has attacked people in a reportedly vicious manner – she has a history of seemingly unhinged behavior.

In late 2014, West and former city recorder Mary Goddard accused then-city manager Rick Hohnbaum of harassment and inappropriate behavior. During the investigation, Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) Community Development Coordinator Molly Bradley was asked several questions. Her answers went directly against the narrative that Alford pushed for on social media. Irate, Alford went on her group's page and called Bradley “a rat” and made other negative comments about her.

Alford has claimed that she attacked Bradley personally because “she was after the city recorder’s job. She wanted it all for herself.”

However, that wasn’t the case. Once Bradley finished her internship at Gold Hill, she worked some time at Rogue River as city planner/public works assistant, then a planner for Central Point and is now working up in Clackamas County. Evidently, being a city recorder for Gold Hill was never part of her plan.

“That’s behind us now,” Simpson said. “That employee had nothing to do with the money taken and I don’t know why (Alford) did what she did. Frankly, I just want this whole thing resolved and the real culprits punished. Other than that, I have a city to run and people to help.”

Attempts to contact those who sent the emails have not been successful. The article will be updated when new information is available. 

27 September 2020

Hawthorne Park volunteers deny city allegations

Volunteers counter that Tent City was always clean not a mess

By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – While both the city and Medford Police Dept. claim that the few acres of Hawthorne Park occupied by over 100 homeless individuals created a mess – it appears to be a lie.

And the MPD staged photos of a trashed-out park.

Since the MPD’s Sept. 22 sweep through the park – which resulted in a few reporters and a number of volunteers arrested – local media has played up the city’s narrative that the Tent City occupants made a mess at Hawthorne Park. However, according to Randi Vigil, who was one of the Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid group’s media representatives, that wasn’t true.

The MPD Livability Team asserted that human waste and needles were everywhere. Vigil denied that allegation.

“Between the community staying and the community helping, the park was cleaned every day,” they said. “There were people that would come to help in the morning and evening, that would spend time cleaning up, and many days where people staying in the camp would pick up around the community and personal areas. Every single night a houseless member, Mike, would separate all the trash and make sure everything was bagged and prepared nicely for whoever was to pick it up.”

Vigil said there was a chunk of time where the City of Medford had lessened their trash pickup schedule in the area and many members of the community pulled together to do dump runs for Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid. The Way Medford Family Church was a great help in this matter.

The park’s bathrooms and the trash bins were a mess before Tent City opened up, Vigil said.

“Before people started arriving at Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid, the bathroom doors were broken and one of the bathrooms – the one facing the parking lot of Hawthorne Park – was clogged for multiple days before a volunteer fixed it themselves,” Vigil said. “The trash bins were very sparse and thinly dispersed at the beginning. As Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid grew, trash increased but was manageable; there were donations of garbage cans which helped immensely with organization and presentation. The presence of trash should not be an excuse to degrade or trample on human rights.”

According to crime mapping reports, there were little or no incidents reported. Vigil said both volunteers and Tent City inhabitants were able to mitigate incidents as a community through problem solving, de-escalation, and group accountability. Having volunteers awake and available at all times helped provide a sense of security to the camp. The community continuously self-regulated and residents were committed to the longevity of the camp, they added.

“Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid received donations, services, and volunteers from partnering groups, local nonprofits and churches daily,” Vigil said. “However, Officer Mike Wulff and the MPD Livability Team were not helpful.”

The Rogue Free Press was at Tent City the day before the forced evictions happened. The park area was devoid of trash, hypodermic needles and human waste. In fact, Tent City residents were seen cleaning and keeping the area clean.

In short, there was no problem with trash or human waste.

Hours after the MPD made its sweep, sources contacted The Rogue Free Press and reported that MPD officers used confiscated tents and other items to stage photo ops for the press – who were out of sight at a staging area.

“Why do you think that JPR reporter and those volunteers were treated like shit and arrested,” the source said. “(The cops) were afraid they would have caught them in the act. That’s why they went after all of those people. The people at that park worked hard to keep it clean. Sure, who knows what happened in the tents but none of that shit happened in public. The city and the cops wanted to make these people look bad.”

It should be noted that The Rogue Free Press attempted to contact the source for more comments but there was no response.


24 September 2020

Medford cops double down efforts driving homeless out of city

 By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – Homeless and displaced people are on the verge of being cast aside again by Medford and its police department – in particular, by Medford Police dept.’s much-lauded Livability Team.

On Sept. 20, MPD officers rolled through Hawthorne Park’s makeshift tent city, inhabited by over 100 people displaced by the recent fires and handed out eviction notices. They had a week to leave.

For over a week and half, the tent city had been a refuge for those both living along the Bear Creek Greenway and those who had lost their homes. A group of volunteers calling themselves Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid provided food, laundry services and other services for the displaced people. But Medford officials weren’t happy with the situation and eviction notices went out that Sunday.

However, on Monday morning, MPD officers appeared again with eviction notices. They claimed there was a “typo error” and Tent City inhabitants now had 24 hours to leave.

“It’s bullshit,” volunteer Clarence Carr said. “At Hawthorne, these people were safe. They had a safe place to sleep, no worries about being raped or beaten up, we had medics – it was a safe environment.”

Tuesday morning started with cops sweeping through the tent city, threatening volunteers and harassing onlookers. The normally clean Tent City was turned into a chaotic mess and the perfect photo op both the city and MPD needed to push their narrative that the displaced people were creating a hazard at Hawthorne.

JPR reporter April Ehrlich, as well as another reporter and a number of volunteers were taken into custody and held for several hours under what some called inhumane conditions. It should be noted that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is already facing one lawsuit for abusive behavior exhibited by their corrections staff.

As for the Tent City inhabitants, many fled to the Mayette Street area along the Greenway. According to Carr, it’s Bureau of Land Management land and people are allowed to camp, without permits, for up to two weeks. Carr said he not only found many of the hundred or so Tent City campers that had been at Hawthorne, but another 200 or more campers as well. Carr and others started feeding them and helping.

“It’s a large community and we’re talking families, too” he said. “They all bonded together and formed a community and it’s working for them.”

They have to since they have little options elsewhere.

Most of the so-called “alternatives” the MPD Livability Team gave the campers didn’t pan out. Most of the shelters and select campsites are already full. Shelters operated by religious groups require people to sign a contract – which, Carr and others feel, is discriminatory and violates the campers’ rights. Rumors are still going around that the Expo is shutting down soon and there’s very little for people to turn to.

Carr took the issue up with Officer Mike Wulff of the Livability Team. After an exchange lasting several minutes, Wulff reportedly said, “Look, if they can’t find anything here then they have to go elsewhere. Just get out of town and go elsewhere.”

“We got it on video,” Carr said. “That tells me that the city doesn’t give a fuck about these people and they want them out of town. That’s the truth, I feel.”

Wulff and other MPD officers arrived at the Mayette Street location late Thursday afternoon and refused to say what they were doing. Carr and others speculated that the cops would post “No Trespassing” signs and, maybe in the next day or so, go after the campers again.

“It’s fucking sad what this city is doing to these people,” he said. “Some of these people, their families have lived here for years. This is their home. You can’t treat people like that. But that’s been the American way for a long time now, ain’t it?”

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