Fight leads to murder charge

Fight leads to murder charge

A Medford man faces a murder charge after the death of a man he allegedly stabbed in an early morning fight at a Bessie Street home on Friday, Medford police said.

Police reported that Joseph Mathew Ziegler, 23, died at 4:12 a.m. Friday at a local hospital.

Daniel Tony Lawrence, 19, of the 3000 block of South Pacific Highway, was lodged without bail in the Jackson County Jail on a murder charge.

Both men were visiting a home in the 300 block of Bessie Street, where people had gathered for a party, Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen said. Only four people were left at the house when a fist fight broke out and Lawrence apparently grabbed a serrated kitchen knife similar in size to a steak knife, stabbing Ziegler, Hansen said. Ziegler was stabbed multiple times, police said.

The stabbing was reported just before 3 a.m., and police and emergency medical crews rushed to the home. After initial treatment there, crews whisked Ziegler to Rogue Valley Medical Center, where he died a little more than a hour later, Hansen said.

Investigators spent Friday morning interviewing witnesses.

People at the house had been drinking prior to when the conflict broke out, police said.

"We're not entirely sure on the motive yet," Hansen said Friday afternoon. "It was a fistfight and then it went beyond that."

Investigators said the violence wasn't gang-related, but alcohol was a factor.

Technicians from the Oregon State Police crime lab continued to collect and evaluate evidence from the house on Bessie Street through much of the day Friday. Crime-scene tape wrapped bushes around the property on the narrow residential street not far from Hedrick Middle School.

Jackson County sheriff's deputies, the Oregon State Police, the Ashland Police Department and the district attorney's office all are working on the case.

Both Ziegler and Lawrence have past felony convictions.

Ziegler's criminal record dated back to 2005, when he was convicted of felony attempting to elude police in a vehicle and recklessly endangering another after a high-speed chase in southeast Medford with a group of other teenagers in his car. He also was convicted of first-degree theft in 2008, according to Jackson County Court records, which also show several evictions last year, a small claims case and a restraining order against him in March by a former girlfriend.

Lawrence pleaded guilty to third-degree robbery in March, and third-degree theft and disorderly conduct charges from the same case, dating to November, were dismissed. That case listed his address as Palm Springs, Calif.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail

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