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Transient arrested after unprovoked attack at Gresham MAX station

Gresham victim, 84, home from hospital
by: Contributed photo Cordarius Deshaun Jeffreys

Her eyes are black, her nose fractured and her hair still matted with blood where doctors inserted three staples to close a head wound.

But the spirit of Muriel Morgan, 84, a life-long Gresham resident, is not broken.

'I'm going to be fine, that's all there is to it,' she said, joking about her ruined perm while relaxing in her recliner.

Such remarkable resolve from a woman who just two days earlier nearly died at the hands of a stranger on a Gresham MAX platform.

It was 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, July 27. Morgan's next-door neighbor drove her to the Cleveland Avenue MAX station at Northeast Eighth Street and Cleveland Avenue so she could catch a bus to Central Oregon to visit her daughter.

Her neighbor offered to wait with her until the bus arrived, but she declined.

'There are two nice ladies there on the bench,' she told him. 'It's a beautiful day and the bus will be here any minute.'

Besides, her neighbor works graveyard shift, and she wanted him to get some sleep.

'I'm just fine,' she said and settled onto a metal bench facing the parking area.

Then, one of the women on the bench disappeared, followed by the other woman. Gresham police say the suspect - Cordarius Deshaun Jeffreys, 19, a transient from Tennessee - assaulted one of the women, Lieng Nguyen, 56, of Portland, punching her once in the face without provocation. She ran away eastbound across the platform.

Morgan didn't realize what had happened. But suddenly, the man was standing in front of her, looking her straight in the eyes.

She remember thinking, What are you doing, what's wrong?

'He never said a word,' Morgan said. 'He just balled up both of his fists and hit at me.'

She tried to avoid the blows, but couldn't. After he repeatedly punched her in the face with both of his fists, she crouched down, still seated on the bench in a fetal position to protect her head.

The man continued punching her 'with both hands as hard as he could,' she said. Only now the blows landed on the back of her head.

'I know that if I got one more hit from him I would die. I was sure of that. I couldn't have stood one more. I had blood all over me, but that didn't bother him at all.'

Eventually, the man stopped. By then, witnesses estimated he'd punched Morgan about 20 times.

TriMet transit police apprehended him after he'd walked off the platform and was westbound on Eighth Street, said Sgt. Wally Coon, Gresham police spokesman. When Jeffreys resisted arrest, police used a Taser to apprehend him.

He did not appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, Coon said.

'He was incoherent and rambling, wasn't normal,' Coon said, adding, 'It doesn't appear that he had all of his wits about him.'

Medics treated the first victim, Nguyen, at the scene.

They also tended to Morgan, who remembers her bus arriving just moments after the attack. Morgan recalls the bus driver trying to comfort her and Morgan telling her, 'I'm sorry I can't go with you to Redmond.'

Morgan was then transported to Oregon Health and Science University hospital.

Witnesses did not intervene or try to stop Jeffreys - who is 200 pounds and 5-foot-11-inches - from beating Morgan, who stands 5-foot-5-inches tall and is 140 pounds. They did, however, call 9-1-1 for help, Coon said.

Morgan is not bitter about people not coming to her aid.

'He was a big, big person,' she said. 'And it happened so fast.'

Jeffreys is being held on accusations of attempted second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, as well as interfering with public transportation, at the Multnomah County Detention Center on $10,000 bail.

When asked what she would tell her attacker if she could, Morgan paused.

'If he's a sick, sick person I hope you get help,' she said. 'And if you're not, then you're going to end up in jail.

'And you belong there.'