Jayse Taylor Damon

Accused burglar faces stark decision

A man who allegedly ransacked several homes, including one belonging to a retired Medford police officer, has days to decide whether he'll accept a 7½-year plea offer or risk more than three decades in prison.

Jayse Taylor Damon, 26, of Central Point, has until Friday to decide whether he'll accept prosecutors' 90-month plea offer for a string of felony burglary, aggravated theft and firearm-possession charges stemming from May burglaries in Central Point and June burglaries in east Medford.

At a hearing Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, Deputy District Attorney Alyssa Claseman said prosecutors will seek a 400-month sentence if Damon takes his case to trial. Claseman argued that her case is "very strong" — including one residential burglary where police caught Damon red-handed stealing firearms, detailed forensic evidence and admissions in other Medford cases — and many victims who are willing to testify.

The hearing had been scheduled as a plea-change and sentencing hearing, but Damon said in court that he needed more time to think.

Among the victims listed in Damon's case are retired Medford police Sgt. Jerry Burchfiel and his wife, Medford crime analyst Sue Burchfiel, who lost four handguns and jewelry from a safe. Fingerprints tying Damon to the crime were found at two entryways and inside a closet in the home, Claseman said.

Circuit Judge Tim Barnack rescheduled the hearing for Friday because Damon's court-appointed defense lawyer gave Damon only an hour of notice about the offer. Barnack told the victims he understood their perspective, but expressed concern that the appeals court could determine Damon was pressured into a plea.

"I don't want this coming back," Barnack said.

Two victims, concerned they wouldn't make it Friday, were allowed to give their statements to the court Wednesday.

Damon broke down in tears as one east Medford victim, who'd lived in her home for 19 years, described the broken glass, emptied coin drawers and disarray to which she came home in June.

She lamented about the stolen items that can't be replaced, including her husband's gold pocket watch that once belonged to his great-grandfather, Native American jewelry, and a ring her mother received for her years of service working as a judge in Arizona.

"Every piece he stole had a story of its own," the victim said. "Jayse Damon took my mother's and my heritage so he could buy drugs."

Both victims who spoke expressed frustration that even after Damon was caught "red-handed" by Central Point police May 12, he spent only a night in the Jackson County Jail before being released and committing three more burglaries, despite a criminal history that included a 37-month prison sentence for burglary.

Damon was lodged in Jackson County Jail June 23, where he remains held on $250,000 bail.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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