MEDFORD, Ore. – On the first day of a Medford man’s murder trial, witnesses described the attack of Maria Rodriguez, who was stabbed several times and killed outside her Medford apartment in September 2013.
Jose Valencia-Gaona is charged with her murder. He was arrested three days after the attack.
Neighbors who lived next to Rodriguez on Table Rock Road described her attack in detail in court Tuesday.
One neighbor, Ursula Brackett said she spoke to Rodriguez just a few minutes before the attack, and said Rodriguez seemed concerned. A few minutes later, she heard Rodriguez scream, and saw a man holding her by the throat.
Brackett called for her boyfriend, Roderick Hawkins, who testified he ran out and saw Rodriguez being attacked. Hawkins said the man then came at him with a big knife and took a swing at him. Hawkins said he ran away to protect himself. As he ran, Hawkins said the man caught up to Rodriguez and continued attacking her.
Both witnesses said they did not identify the attacker’s face, but described him as a Hispanic man with black hair and a stocky build.
In opening statements, prosecutors said evidence will point to Valencia-Gaona being the killer, and said DNA found from blood on the knife matches that of Rodriguez, and DNA on the knife handle belonged to Valencia-Gaona.
Defense attorneys for Valencia-Gaona said prosecutors are missing several pieces in the case, which will be apparent as the trial progresses.
In court, Rodriguez’s family and friends wore T-shirts with her name and picture on them, and said they wanted to show their support.
“It’s very important, we want to express and show that she had a lot of family that loved and cared for her,” said Erin Carillo. “She’s always going to be alive in our hearts.”
The trial continues Wednesday.