Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety
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News Releases
Bryce Sams
Bryce Sams
Missing 11 year old (Photo) - 02/23/21


Sams, Bryce A.  11 Years old

WMJ, 4'10", 145, Brown Hair, Brown Eyes.  

Last seen wearing: Green camo fleece sweatshirt over black Nike hoodie with gold lettering. Black cutoff sweat pants and a backpack.


Officers and detectives are currently in the area of the 1300 block of George Tweed looking for missing 11 year old Bryce Sams.  Bryce left his residence after an argument with his parents.  He was last seen leaving the residence on his scooter.  If anyone has seen him or knows his whereabouts, please contact the Grants Pass Police at 541-450-6260. (See attached photo)

With the assistance of a citizen, Mr. Sams was located near the corner of NW 6th Street and NW Midland at approximately 22:41 hours.  Mr. Sams was returned home without further incident.  

Attached Media Files: Bryce Sams
Suspect arrested on 18 charges following Feb 2nd crime spree (Photo) - 02/17/21

On February 2, 2021 at around 9:00 am, the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) received a report of an unarmed robbery which occurred in the parking lot of Umpqua Bank, 117 NE F St. The suspect pushed the 73-year-old victim and stole money from his hand. Fortunately, the victim was not injured during this incident. Numerous officers responded to the scene but were unable to locate the suspect at that time.

Later that morning, GPDPS received numerous reports of thefts from motor vehicles and burglaries which occurred on Scoville Rd and NE Scenic Dr. Several officers responded to investigate the crimes that occurred at five properties in the area. During the course of the investigation, it was determined the suspect unlawfully entered two residences, one outbuilding, and at least five vehicles, committing thefts at most locations. The suspect also stole a vehilce from one property, but abandoned it after getting it stuck.

After reviewing surveillance videos and other evidence recovered from the crime scenes, officers discovered the suspect in the robbery was also responsible for the thefts and burglaries. The suspect was identifed as 39-year-old Michael Gemar-Rickards of Washington.

On February 15, 2021, Gemar-Rickards was arrested by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) on unrelated charges. JCSO coordinated with the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety and when Gemar-Rickards was released from their custody on February 17, 2021, he was arrested by GPDPS and transported to the Josephine County Jail. Gemar-Rickards was lodged on the following charges:

  • Robbery in the Third Degree
  • Harassment
  • Burglary in the First Degree (2 counts)
  • Burglary in the Second Degree
  • Unlawful Entry into a Motor Vehicle (5 counts)
  • Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle
  • Theft in the First Degree
  • Theft in the Second Degree (5 counts)
  • Theft in the Third Degree

Associated case numbers: 21-4898, 21-4916, 21-4920, 21-4929, 21-4930, 21-4964

Attached Media Files: Gemar-Rickards
Caregiver Arrested for Murder II, Criminal Mistreatment I (Photo) - 02/10/21

On January 24, 2021, a nursing supervisor at Three Rivers Medical Center (TRMC) contacted the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) to report a patient in their facility with suspicious injuries believed to be caused by neglect. The patient, 59-year-old Martha M Vencill, was in critical condition due to the extent of her injuries. Prior to admittance to the hospital, Vencill had been receiving full-time in-home care due to developmental disabilities. 

During the course of the investigation, Page E Backus was identified as Vencill's caregiver, whom Vencill had lived with for nearly 10 years. She and another resident received fulltime care from Backus. On January 9, 2021, Vencill suffered a fall in her room. Backus was unable to assist Vencill back into bed and left her on the floor for nine days, until January 18, 2021. By January 23, 2021, Vencill's injuries were so severe she was transported by ambulance to TRMC. 

The extent of injuries were determined to be a result of Backus' failure to provide care or seek medical attention for Vencill. On January 26, 2021 at 11:44 am, GPDPS Detectives arrested Backus for Criminal Mistreatment in the First Degree. The other resident for whom Backus was responsible was removed from her home and placed in a safe location.

On January 26, 2021, Vencill died from her injuries. After an extensive investigation, Backus was indicted by the Josephine County Grand Jury on February 9, 2021. On February 10, 2021, GPDPS Detectives again arrested Backus and lodged her at the Josephine County Jail on the listed charges.

Arrestee: Page Elizabeth Backus, 58 years old

Charges: Murder II, Criminal Mistreatment I

Victim: Martha M Vencill, 59 years old

The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety was assisted in this investigation by Three Rivers Medical Center, Josephine County District Attorney's Office, Community Living Case Management and Adult Protective Services. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call GPDPS at 541-450-6260. 


Attached Media Files: Backus
UPDATE: Sex Offense Arrest (Photo) - 02/10/21

UPDATE: Grand Jury Indictment

Following Jay Reese's arrest on February 2, 2021, a search warrant was granted and served on Reese's cell phone. Two images were located consistent with child sexual exploitation. One image depicted a toddler-aged female and one depicted a prepubescent female; both images included an unknown adult male subject engaged in sexual conduct. Based upon this evidence, Reese was lodged on the addtional charges of Encouraging Child Sexual Abuse I (two counts) on February 3, 2021.

On February 9, 2021, this case was presented to the Josephine County Grand Jury. Reese was indicted on the following charges:

  • Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree (three counts)
  • Encouraging Child Sexual Abuse in the First Degree (two counts)

This case remains under investigation and anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety at 541-450-6260.



Jay Edward Reese, 60 years old

Grants Pass Resident


Sex Abuse II x 2


Juvenile Female, 17 years old

Grants Pass Resident


On January 29, 2021, officers with the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) received a report of a sex offense involving the 60-year-old suspect, Jay Reese, and a 17-year-old female victim. The juvenile reported she met Reese at Wal-Mart on January 28, 2021. From there, Reese took the victim to lunch and then to his residence. The juvenile stayed with Reese overnight and, during that time, Reese is alleged to have subjected the victim to sexual contact without her consent. 

On February 2, 2021, at 12:45 pm, GPDPS detectives arrested Reese and lodged him at the Josephine County Jail on the listed charges. This case is still under investigation and additional charges may be pending.

Due to the nature of this case, there is concern there may be other victims. Over the past several years, Reese has been associated with various school district sports programs in Oregon and Northern California. If anyone has any information about this or a similar case, please contact Det Heather Yerrick at 541-450-6260, case #21-4447.

Attached Media Files: Reese
Braeden Laahs
Braeden Laahs
Domestic Menacing with Shots Fired (Photo) - 02/10/21


On Wednesday morning at about 1:30 A.M., the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety received multiple 911 calls of a domestic disturbance in the 1100 block of SW G Street. It was reported a male and female were arguing, and subjects were running back and forth from a vehicle to a residence. As police units were responding, 911 callers reported hearing gun shots, and seeing a dark colored SUV leave the scene at a high rate of speed. 

When police arrived, a perimeter was established around the residence. Police contacted the occupants of the apartment and requested they exit.   Two females were initially detained until police could ensure nobody was injured inside, and there was no immediate danger to the public. Police collected evidence outside that confirmed gun shots had been fired. Through the investigation that followed, one of the females at the apartment was determined to have been the victim of domestic menacing with a firearm. The suspect, who was known to the victim, was located by police near his home in the 200 block of SW High St. The suspect was taken into custody and identified as 18-year-old Braeden Laahs.  The ensuing investigation revealed a firearm and other related items that were seized for evidentiary purposes. Laahs was later lodged at the Josephine County Jail on the following charges. 

1. Unlawful Use of a Weapon (Firearm)

2. Felon in Possession of a Firearm

3. Domestic Menacing

4. Pointing a Firearm at Another

5. Disorderly Conduct

Upon completion of the investigation, further charges may follow.  If anyone has information related to this incident, we ask that you please call the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety at (541) 450-6260 and reference Case # 2021-6275. 

Attached Media Files: Braeden Laahs
Brannaman, Grant
Brannaman, Grant
Arson (Photo) - 02/09/21

On February 8th, 2021 at approximately 2116 hours, the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety received numerous 911 calls from the 1200 block of NE Grable Drive. Callers reported vehicles being set on fire by a male suspect with a gas can. GPDPS Police and Fire/Rescue units were immediately dispatched to the area. The male suspect reportedly fled the area on foot shattering windows of other vehicles as he ran. Additional callers reported their car tires had been slashed while parked in the area of NE 12th Street and NE Meier Drive.

As Police units were arriving into the area, they observed citizens chasing the male suspect near the corner of NE D Street and NE Beacon Drive. The male suspect was placed in custody without further incident. The suspect was identified as 36-year-old, Grant Brannaman who has a listed Portland Oregon address. Grants Pass Fire/Rescue arrived and assisted with the fire clean-up as the fire had been extinguished prior to their arrival. One vehicle sustained heavy damage from being lit on fire. Brannaman was later lodged at the Josephine County Jail on the charges below. 

1. Arson in the Second Degree

2. Criminal Mischief in the First-Degree x 2

3. Criminal Mischief in the Second-Degree x 3

4. Felon in Possession of a Restricted Weapon

5. Disorderly Conduct

It is possible there are other victims of this incident. If you are a victim, or have further information please call the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety at (541)-450-6260 and reference Case # 2021-6043. We would also like to the thank the alert citizens who assisted in apprehending the suspect. 

Attached Media Files: Brannaman, Grant
Robbery - 02/02/21

On February 2, 2021, at about 0901 hours, the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) received a report of a robbery in the parking lot of Umpqua Bank, located at 117 NE F Street.  

It was reported the suspect, a white male pushed the victim and stole money from the victim's hand.  The suspect then fled the scene.  No one was injured and no weapons were brandished.

GPDPS police officers and other Department personnel responded to the scene and searched for the suspect.  Members of the public called in tips, each of which was responded to by officers.  The suspect was not located during the initial search.  A bank camera captured the suspect on video.  

This case is still under investigation.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident, can identify the suspect, or has information relative to the investigation is encouraged to contact Officer Kasen Perkins of GPDPS at 541-450-6260.  Please do not approach the suspect if you observe him; call GPDPS and report his location.

Attached Media Files: 20210202_092228.jpg
Auto vs Pedestrian Crash on Williams Hwy - 01/27/21

On January 26, 2021 at about 1910 Hours, the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS) Dispatch received numerous 911 calls of a male subject being struck by a vehicle on Williams Hwy near New Hope Rd. Personnel from the GPDPS Police, Fire/Rescue, AMR and Rural Metro Fire responded to the scene. The male subject was located near the "A" lane of the highway and the scene was secured, which involved the closure of Williams Hwy from W. Harbeck to New Hope for over 4 hours. 

Lifesaving measures were attempted, but the male was pronounced deceased at the scene. The driver of the vehicle that struck the male subject remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation.

The deceased male is a 20 year-old from New York whose name will not be released at this time, pending next of kin notification. 

GPDPS Traffic Team members and Detectives responded to the scene and continued the investigation. At this time it does not appear there was criminal conduct by the driver of the vehicle.  Anyone who may have witnessed this event is asked to please call the GPDPS at (541) 450-6260 and reference case # 2021-3965.