Friday, November 16 2012, 01:02 PM CST
Evidence revealed in Bethany murder
MEDFORD, Ore.-- New information in Jessica Bethany's death was revealed in court Friday as prosecutors laid out the evidence that led Jeffrey Wheeler to change his plea.
Wheeler was arrested in Sept., 2011 after Bethany's body was found inside her Central Point apartment. He originally faced 10 charges, however six were dropped before Wheeler changed his plea Friday. All six of the dropped charges are related to arson.
The four charges that were not dropped include Murder and Arson, for which he pleaded Guilty, and Criminal Mistreatment and Abuse of a Corpse which ended in no contest pleas.
In court Friday, prosecutors outlined the evidence which led to the no contest pleas. They said there's proof Wheeler stabbed his ex-girlfriend 22 times in the neck, then used lighter fluid to try to set her body on fire. Several areas of Bethany's body were burned.
Wheeler chose to plead no contest to Criminal Mistreatment after learning the evidence the state had against him in regards to the daughter he shared with Bethany. Attorneys said the toddler was in the home at the time of the murder and contend Wheeler took the girl to a neighbor after Bethany's death with the intention of abandoning her.
During the investigation, attorneys said the neighbor told them Wheeler intended to leave the child with her "for a couple of days" and also left diapers. Another witness was quoted as saying Wheeler asked about ways to get a plane ticket without a driver's license. Attorneys argued that showed intent to leave the child for a longer period of time.
Both sides of the case discussed the change in plea with Bethany's family before it was entered into court Friday. They said the family agreed to the pleas to avoid a painful trial.
Sentencing in the case has not been scheduled.