Murder charged in death of child

A Medford man will face murder and assault charges — including specific murder charges related to children that prosecutors haven't used in Jackson County before — in the death of a toddler, who succumbed to brain injuries after life support was removed.

Kacy Sue Lunsford, who would have turned 3 next week, was injured on the night of June 11, by Benjamin James George, 29, her mother's boyfriend, police have said.

She was taken to Providence Medford Medical Center when it became apparent that she was seriously hurt, and medical professionals treating her called police at 5 a.m. June 12.

She was flown to Doernbecher's Children's Hospital in Portland with subdural hematomas, bleeding on the brain that can be caused by shaking or a blow to the head, and died there June 15 after life support was removed.

After hearing testimony Tuesday, a Jackson County grand jury indicted George on charges of felony murder, murder by abuse and first-degree assault, District Attorney Mark Huddleston said in a news release.

"This is the first time using these," Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe said of the felony murder and murder by abuse charges.

"This is an unusual case," he said, noting that the circumstances fit the legal definitions set out in the statute.

Although he declined to discuss the facts of an open case, he explained how the law applies.

A charge of felony murder applies when a person causes a death in the course of committing another serious crime, in this case, the first-degree assault of a child younger than 14, he said.

A charge of murder by abuse applies when a person, recklessly or "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life," causes the death of a child younger than 14 either in a pattern of abuse, torture or neglect. Under that law, torture is defined as intentionally inflicting intense physical pain upon an unwilling victim for no reason other than causing pain.

One or more previous incidents of abuse or causing pain to the victim or another child would show a pattern or practice as required under the law, Hoppe said. The specific incidents don't have to be described in the initial accusation, the law notes.

The two murder charges were included in an amended indictment that also included a first-degree assault charge. The initial indictment of George on the assault charge was returned June 15, shortly before Kacy died, Hoppe said. He reconvened the group this week to re-evaluate the case.

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

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