North Medford High School senior Jase Philby holds the broken driver-side window to his 1989 Chevy Silverado. The truck was stolen over the weekend and later found crashed into a tree. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell

Senior project stolen, trashed

Jase Philby of Central Point had spent six weekends doing bodywork on his 1989 Chevy Silverado pickup for his senior project at North Medford High School, and by last weekend he was ready to give it a final coat of paint.

Then it was stolen in the wee hours of Sunday morning by joy riders and trashed.

Philby, about to go into the Air Force, where he hopes to work in law enforcement, wanted the truck to be there after basic training as his "lifetime project."

"I love the thing, and as soon as I heard it was stolen, I couldn't keep my mind off the idea they would probably wreck it," he said.

They did, breaking out the driver-side window and trashing the steering column with a hammer so they could hot-wire it. They raced another stolen car with it (including racing past the Philby home twice), raked the undercarriage on rocks, tore off the front bumper, drove it down a long, muddy driveway, backed it into a tree and abandoned it.

Philby's pickup was one of five vehicles — all Chevy pickups — stolen and dumped in Central Point and Medford early Sunday morning — along with several attempted thefts in which windows were bashed out and ignitions ripped apart, said Central Point Police Capt. Chuck Newell. Police have no suspects and are working with Medford police on the spree.

"We all feel so violated," said Jase's father, contractor Vince Philby. "It was his senior project, and he put the most work into the tailgate (a 1965 Chevy gate, welded to the frame, with Model A taillights replacing stock lights), and that's what got destroyed. It's spring break, and we were going to finish it this week."

His mother, Kathi Philby, said police told them the vehicle was one of several that were hot-wired and "jacked" in the same few hours around 4 a.m. She said the crime awakened the family with the "bang" of the breaking window at 3:47 a.m.

"It roared through here about 4, and the deputy who lives down the street thought it was me and called it in," said Jase. "But he found out it had already been reported stolen. I'm extremely disappointed. It's still got good money in it. I would love to raise the Titanic, but it's hard because we spent all this time and money, and it's not like it wouldn't just happen again."

Jase is concerned he may not get credit for his senior project, which is due April 7, Vince Philby said.

"Jase is really down and was in tears about it. What's so hard is, he loved it. It was his brother's truck," said Vince, "and he was trying to finish it before going in the Air Force in August."

The crime, Jase notes, has given him new enthusiasm for a career in law enforcement.

"I hope I can get some people off the street who do this kind of thing," he said.

Jase said he had planned to keep and coddle the old truck all his life — and now comes the hard part, deciding whether to go back to square one and start the whole project over.

"I think," he said, "that she will rise again."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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