Three weeks ago Walter Earl Jaffke pleaded guilty to the — 1993 slaying of Ed Krahel in the first of three trials for Ashland murderers — this year.

In July, Leora Rae Seward will be tried for murder and — manslaughter for the Nov. 30, 2004, stabbing of Samuel Steven Rath and, — later in the year, David Michael Jurich will face charges before the Jackson — County Circuit Court for the Oct. 29, 2004, bludgeoning death of David — Evan Rice.

Ashland residents were taken aback by two murders in five — weeks last fall. The first killings to occur in the city since 1996, the — eight-year absence of homicides were more of an anomaly than two murders — occuring back-to-back.

"You have to understand, these type of things can happen — anywhere," said Ashland Deputy Chief of Police Rich Walsh, who remembers — when the city averaged one murder approximately every 18 months. "You — can never fully get away from it."

Longtime APD detective Len Parlette can recall the details — of each murder the squad has worked on during the 28 years he has been — with the force. The Krahel case is one that sticks in his mind because, — for 12 years, it went unsolved.

Krahel, 44, was found dead in his home on Mead Street — after a fire in the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 1993. An autopsy revealed — blunt force trauma to the head was the cause of death and that Krahel — had died before the fire started. Krahel, a town eccentric who had a life-size — train collection on his property, didn't work and once ran for mayor of — Ashland in 1980. Because he socialized with transients, was known to invite — home people he met in bars and seemed to know everyone in town, police — had a difficult time narrowing the suspect list.

"We put so many hours into it," Parlette said. "Like I — said, it was a cast of thousands and this guy's name never popped up on — that radar screen."

Jaffke, now 34, offered information to a California Highway — Patrol officer when the officer pulled over a big-rig truck for a traffic — violation in February 2004. Jaffke was a passenger in the vehicle and — listed as an endangered missing person at the time of his confession.

"If it weren't for that, it wouldn't have been solved," — said Parlette, who wanted the case closed before he retires at the end — of April and happened to be the officer in the office when CHP called. — "Fortunately, I was the one who answered the phone .... I knew immediately — it was our guy."

Jaffke was a 22-year-old Southern Oregon State College — student at the time of the murder. The two men met in a bar just hours — before Krahel's death and, according to Jaffke, Krahel asked him back — to his Meade Street house where they got into an argument. Jaffke hit — Krahel over the head with a wine bottle, then set the curtains on fire — with a piece of cardboard lit on the kitchen stove. After he killed Krahel, — Jaffke dropped out of school and left town. He was never a suspect because — Jaffke had no known connection to Krahel.

On March 14, the Jackson County Circuit Court found Jaffke — guilty of first-degree manslaughter for the death of Krahel based on his — mental diagnosis; Circuit Court Judge Bill Purdy also ruled Jaffke was — insane and suffering from schizophrenia when the murder occurred. Jaffke — never explained what provoked him to kill Krahel and has said he didn't — even realize Krahel had died. Jaffke will spend his 20-year sentence at — the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, under the review of the state's Psychiatric — Security Review Board.

"When we start talking about moving it from the criminal — world to the psychiatric world," Walsh said, "it's fine, as long as they're — kept for such a period of time that's warranted."

A second Ashlander accused of murder will also use a insanity — defense. Leora Rae Seward, 28, has been charged with murder and manslaughter — in the stabbing death of her friend and apparent lover, Samuel Steven — Rath, 23, at the Tudor Square Apartments in November. Earlier this month, — Seward was arraigned for attacking a sheriff's deputy in the Jackson County — Jail.

"She's got issues," Walsh said. "I'm sure she's going — to get charged in that (attacking the deputy)."

Seward's attorney has said she will claim mental disease — or defect at her July 12 trial. Her family said she left a state-run mental — health facility in Napa County, Calif., less than a year ago and her sister — has said Seward should have never been released.

A month prior to Rath's death, David Michael Jurich, 24, — allegedly bludgeoned, a 68-year-old transient, to death in room at the — Relax Inn on the south end of town. The victim, David Evan Rice, was classified — as a predatory sex offender by parole officers. Jurich, a transient, then — fled to Reno, Nevada after the Oct. 29, 2004 altercation, where Reno police — officers arrested him in connection with the murder on Nov. 2.

"We were able to track him," Parlette said.

"It was real slick police work," Walsh added.

Jurich was indicted for a single count of murder on Nov. — 9 and, if convicted later this year, would spend a minimum of 25 years — in prison, but could be incarcerated for life.

Prior to Rice's death in October, the last homicide in — Ashland occurred on Oct. 11, 1996, when the body of 46-year-old Phylliss — Golding was discovered in a condominium on Lori Lane. Police suspected — her husband, Robert Golding, of killing his wife and attempting to dismember — her body. He had cut off her head and put it in a suitcase, but left the — rest of her body in the condo and fled Ashland. His body was found two — days later in a Los Angeles-are shopping center parking lot. He apparently — committed suicide by killing himself.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 — x 3019 or