By RYAN PFEIL
Residents in an east Medford neighborhood are on edge after a man forced his way into a Hillcrest Road home early Tuesday morning, used a stun gun on a 72-year-old woman and repeatedly struck her 77-year-old husband in the head before making off with some cash.
The man, Brenton Allen Morrow, 25, of Medford, was arrested after crashing his getaway car while trying to avoid capture, said police, who also reported he was under the influence of methamphetamine and heroin.
On Tuesday, Morrow was being held in the Jackson County Jail on more than $4 million in bail. His charges included two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree assault and first-degree burglary.
It was the fourth home break-in in recent weeks and at least two of the other incidents also occurred while occupants were in their homes. That has put a chill into some in the neighborhood.
“I don’t feel safe at all,” said nearby resident Kris Connor.
Another neighbor, Bob Gartner, said he has firearms to protect himself and his family. He also said the spate of break-ins suddenly has him thinking about installing an alarm system.
“This hasn’t been happening,” Gartner said, adding that funding increased law enforcement also is key. “It’s been the last month, month-and-a-half.”
Police said in this case Morrow targeted the victims intentionally, as he knew them and believed they had money. Police declined to comment on how they knew each other.
Authorities said the woman cracked open the door to her home in the 4700 block of Hillcrest Road at 4 a.m. after a man knocked on the door.
The man wore a ski mask and forced the door open, then attacked the woman with a stun gun before turning on the 77-year-old man, whom he punched and elbowed in the head several times.
The woman called 911, but the intruder knocked the phone out of her hand. The line, however, did not go dead and dispatchers on the other end could hear the ongoing armed robbery while the man held both residents at knifepoint.
“It appeared that the victims called 911 and intentionally left the line open,” said Lt. Mike Budreau.
“The suspect was not aware of that. It was a very smart call on the part of the victims to do that. Everything that we could hear was being recorded, and that’s going to give us vital evidence down the road.”
The intruder left the home after several minutes. Police responded to the home at 4:05 a.m. and a police sergeant en route to the scene spotted Morrow’s car as it headed west on Hillcrest. Police tried to pull the vehicle over near the intersection of Hillcrest and Mariposa Terrace, but said Morrow drove away at a high rate of speed, heading down Hillcrest Road toward the center of town. He crashed near the intersection of Hillcrest and Sunrise Avenue, jumped from the car and tried to run from police, but officers caught up and arrested him. They recovered an undisclosed amount of cash he allegedly had stolen during the robbery.
Morrow does not appear to have a criminal history, police said.
“Which is odd,” Budreau said. “Usually when we see a crime of this caliber, you would see behavior preceding it that would indicate criminal activity. You’ll build up to something this big.”
Both robbery victims were taken to Rogue Regional Medical Center after the attack. The man’s right ear was severely damaged and had to be surgically repaired, police said. The assault also caused bleeding on the man’s brain and his wife suffered from several contusions. Police recovered the knife and stun gun at the home.
It was the fourth such break-in in the hilly east Medford neighborhood in three weeks, though this is the only one of the four in which victims were injured. Earlier this month, burglaries were reported in the 4700 block of Cloudcrest Drive, and in the 6000 and 6300 blocks of Hillcrest Road. Suspects in those cases made off with about $2,000 in property at the Cloudcrest home, while the two Hillcrest attempts were foiled by homeowners who caught the suspects in the act and chased them off. Police have not made any arrests in those cases but don’t believe they are related to Tuesday’s break-in.
The string of incidents have left some in the area suddenly feeling less secure.
Nicole Dahl, who lives just up the road from the crime scene, said she had been victimized in a burglary before moving to the neighborhood about six years ago. On that day, she came home to find property strewn about the house.
“To know there are robberies close to home again is unnerving,” Dahl said. “It’s been uneventful for the most part the last six years.”
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.