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County's 2003 murders avoid Springfield.

Byline: Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard

No one was murdered in Springfield last year, making 2003 the city's third consecutive year without a homicide.

"I think we've just been lucky," Springfield police Sgt. Rick Putnam said. "We've definitely had scenarios where a homicide could have easily occurred, but fortunately they haven't."

In fact, Springfield has had only one murder in the past five years - something other local police agencies might envy.

Countywide, police agencies investigated the deaths of nine people killed at the hands of another. In all the cases, a suspect was arrested or committed suicide after the crime.

The total is up slightly from the six murders investigated in 2002, but down from the 10 investigated in 2001.

Five people died in Eugene, two in the county, and one each in Oakridge and Florence.

All of the victims knew their killer. Six of the nine people were killed by a spouse, lover or family member, a statistic that did not surprise Margo Schaefer, community outreach coordinator for Womenspace. She said one in two murdered Oregon women is killed by a husband or boyfriend, and domestic violence is the second-most common crime in the United States. Only petty theft is more popular.

"Your risk is greater from someone you know than someone you don't know," Schaefer said.

The county's first murder of 2003 - and the first homicide in Oakridge in 12 years - occurred Jan. 21 when Brandon Wayne Hall, now 21, forced his way into Dolores Klupenger's Oakridge home, robbed the 60-year-old widow and beat her to death with a crow bar and tire iron before driving off in her car. Hall, who had done some yardwork for Klupenger in the days before the killing, was sentenced in September to life in prison without parole.

All was quiet until May 14, when Edwin James Ross, 21, fatally shot Forrest Rain Sedia, 19, inside Ross' apartment at The French Quarter, 1101 W. Sixth Ave. in Eugene. After the shooting, Ross called Eugene police from a neighboring apartment and turned himself in when officers arrived. Ross pleaded guilty last month to the second-degree murder of his friend and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Oregon State Police helped Florence police investigate the year's third killing July 12. Truet John Watts, now 18, was arrested for allegedly stabbing to death Randy Shane Wilkins, 44, a family friend, in his parents' backyard on Pioneer Road in Florence. Watts was found mentally incompetent to stand trial and was sent to Oregon State Hospital for treatment, said Mike Pugh, Lane County deputy district attorney.

The Lane County sheriff's office took on its first homicide investigation on Aug. 1 in a Creswell area mobile home park, when Zayne Scott Hardman, 52, fired two .38-caliber bullets into the head of his roommate, Randall George Kardong, 59, who had been accused of molesting a neighbor child. Hardman then turned the gun on himself.

On Sept. 6, Lucas Baldwin Gibbons, 22, shot and killed his lifelong best friend, Skye Forrest Balkwill, 23, and seriously injured Kimberly Ann Nixon, 25, in Nixon's Taylor Street apartment. Gibbons then shot himself. Gibbons was apparently distraught that his ex-girlfriend, Nixon, had begun dating his best friend.

The body of Linda Janine Cropp, 54, was discovered Sept. 24 inside her Antelope Way home after neighbors called Eugene police for help. Detectives soon named Cropp's missing son, 24-year-old John Paul Cropp, a suspect in her death. The California Highway Patrol arrested John Cropp on Nov. 21 near Los Angeles. He was extradited to Eugene, where he awaits trial on a felony murder charge in the Lane County Jail.

Natasha Linn Puls, 31, was found dead Nov. 6 at the bottom of a flight of stairs in her Junction City area home. Her husband, a captain with the city fire department, said she fell down the stairs, but a medical examiner's investigation determined that she had been murdered. Christopher Puls, 36, hanged himself at a Benton County park Dec. 11.

The final killing of the year occurred Nov. 28 at Alpine Court Assisted Living and Memory Care Community in the Bethel area, when Frank Kuykendall, 86, shot Joe Bruscia, 80, in the face before killing his wife, Ruby Kuykendall, also 86, and turning the gun on himself. All three dementia patients died of their wounds.

Although not included in the countywide homicide tally, investigators also handled two fatal traffic incidents that resulted in criminal charges.

Gary Lee Noll Jr., 23, was sentenced to five years in prison for driving a borrowed pickup truck in a way that killed 17-year-old North Eugene High School student Lindsay Mae Tracey as she walked home from school March 13.

And 17-year-old Andrew Ginder faces three charges of criminally negligent homicide for the deaths of three of his teenage Elmira High School soccer teammates when he lost control and crashed his car near Veneta in November.

Also killed in 2003 was Guy Einer McClure, 25, who was shot to death Jan. 18 following an overnight standoff at his Creswell trailer. McClure was shot 25 to 31 times by a group of Eugene police officers and Lane County sheriff's deputies when he stepped out of his trailer with a .44-caliber Magnum pistol in his right hand and approached officers. A review panel ruled the shooting justified. It was the first fatal SWAT-involved shooting in 27 years.

WHO TO CALL

The number for the Womenspace domestic violence crisis hot line is 485-6513.
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Title Annotation:Crime; No one in the city is killed during a year that sees nine Lane County slayings with suspects identified for each
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 7, 2004
Words:909
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