Before diving into the title of this piece it should be noted that there is another important race besides county commissioner coming up on the primary ballot and that is for the district attorney. Coos County DA Paul Frasier has chosen to retire and as of this writing, only his Chief Deputy DA Jody Newby has filed for the job. Based solely on news reports there is no indication that despite Newby being a woman, crimes against women will be treated any more seriously than under Frasier.

Prosecutors rely heavily upon local law enforcement to gather evidence and investigate crimes before taking a case to trial. Failures or errors in this early phase can result in a failed prosecution or a determination not to prosecute at all. Even if all goes well for the policing agencies, prosecutors can still deny victims the justice they are entitled to through error or indifference.

Case in point. Valerie Smith filed a complaint against Jason Snelgrove with the Coos County Sheriff’s Office alleging rape in June 2023. The allegation stemmed from an incident on the 18th at Snelgrove’s Coquille area home where Smith had been invited to play cornhole. Smith and Snelgrove had run into each other at the Eagles Club and she followed him from Coos Bay in her car.

It’s important to note that Snelgrove is innocent until proven guilty but here is Smith’s account (abbreviated here) of what happened.

Snelgrove mixed drinks in a blender and served them in a red solo cup. According to Smith the cup was half full and she completed one and then was handed a second drink. Smith now believes the drink was laced with something because she suddenly felt very woozy and disoriented.

The next thing Smith knew Snelgrove threw her down on the ground and was on top of her on the grass and penetrating her. She begged him to stop but he would not. Finally, she asked him to at least use a condom. Miraculously, he complied pulling a condom from his pants pocket and stopping long enough to apply it before resuming. According to Smith, the alleged rape, including the pause to apply a condom, lasted no more than four or five minutes.

To add insult to injury, Snelgrove, once satisfied and despite her altered state put Smith into her car and sent her along. She only remembers finding herself already on the road driving towards home. Using an app on her phone, Smith was able to determine that from the time she began following him from Coos Bay, including a stop at a Safeway store before arriving at his home and enduring the alleged rape at his home, until she made it home was barely two hours.

Smith reported the alleged rape via a call to 911. She submitted to a three-hour-long SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) test at the hospital and documented everything as well as possible, all of which she has provided. Eventually, she encountered Deputy Adam Slater.

Slater, some of you will recall, is the deputy who attended the crash fatality of Shayleen Schaffer in 2006. The family contends Slater’s investigation into the cause of death was inadequate and demonstrated a rush to judgment on the deputy’s part. We will be doing a deep dive into this case in the weeks to come.

As if what Smith appears to have gone through isn’t bad enough, Slater makes errors in his report. One such error, “Valarie indicates she drank several alcoholic drinks with Jason…”  has the potential to skew the opinion of anyone reading it, against the victim. Smith claimed she had at most two drinks, not several, and she believes they were laced with some sort of date rape drug. None of this makes it into Slater’s report.

Slater also indicates that Snelgrove wore a condom but doesn’t mention in the report it was only after Smith implored him to do so. There is nothing in the report about her having to drive home after allegedly being drugged.

According to a supplemental report, Slater claims he could not locate Snelgrove during the weeklong time frame allowed for a probable cause arrest and the matter would now have to go before a grand jury for an indictment to obtain a warrant for his arrest. He does claim to have spoken briefly with Snelgrove by phone who referred him to his attorney. Slater advised Smith he would be meeting with the accused and his attorney soon but there is no indication this meeting ever happened. The matter was referred to the district attorney ten days after the alleged assault and assigned to Deputy DA John Blanc where it has languished ever since.

Efforts by Smith to follow up with DA’s office have proven futile. Blanc seems no more interested in upholding the law than Slater who couldn’t locate the accused even after Smith called to alert the agency of his location. Blanc even snapped at Smith once for calling his office to check on the progress of the case.

Yeah, thanks to local law enforcement, someone can get away with rape in Coos County.

Unfortunately, Smith’s experience is not uncommon and is one of the reasons contributing to why many women do not report rapes or sexual assault. Frustrated by the lack of regard from law enforcement, Smith turned to social media in the hopes of warning other women.

A woman claiming to have had a similar experience with Snelgrove reached out to her. “Hey, I saw your post. I had a similar incident happen to me with him. So where did he do that to you?!!!”

When I contacted this woman to hear her story she changed her tune. “I’m not interested! He’s a good guy, things happen and drama got started with her.”

Her reply indicates she may have spoken with Snelgrove. Men often revert to “drama” as a defense of their actions against women. Sadly, this attitude by a potential victim is why so many rapes go unreported, and the rapist is free to rape again.

These types of failures… where the accused never even has to face questioning by law enforcement force victims to turn to civil courts to try and bring some accountability upon the perpetrator. Meanwhile, Smith has to manage on her own and sought counseling to help her deal not only with the alleged assault but the further insult perpetrated on her by an uncaring and inadequate justice system in Coos County.


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