By Whitney Clark/KTVL.com
MEDFORD, Ore. – Jeffrey Wheeler
said few words in court Friday morning, besides good morning and guilty.
Wheeler changed his plea to guilty, admitting he killed his ex-girlfriend Jessica Bethany. It happened at
her apartment in Central Point last September.
In court Friday, Wheeler pleaded
guilty to murder and arson charges. He also pleaded no contest to abuse of a
corpse and criminal mistreatment. The plea comes after both sides, including
Bethany’s family, decided it would be the best resolution.
Prosecutor David Orr says
there is evidence that shows Wheeler stabbed Bethany 22 times in the neck, before pouring
lighter fluid on her and setting her on fire. Orr says parts of Bethany's body
The criminal mistreatment
charge, Orr says, comes from the way Wheeler is accused of handling his daughter who was in the home when Bethany died. Orr says a neighbor, who has since died,
told investigators Wheeler dropped the baby off with a bag of diapers. Orr said
Wheeler told the neighbor he would be back in a few days.
Another witness told
investigators that wasn't Wheeler's plan. Orr said that witness says Wheeler
asked him how to catch a plane without a driver's license.
The details not released
in the case are even more disturbing, Orr says, and it’s those details Bethany’s
family can now avoid hearing.
“In a trial obviously we
would have had to, especially because the charge of abuse of a corpse, we would
have had to present some very explicit evidence that would have not been
pleasant for anyone to see,” Orr said.
Bethany was a popular and
loved bartender at Howiee's on Front. Her friends and co-workers are
relieved they won't have to sit through a trial.
“It’s a lot of stress off,”
said Howiee’s manager, Lance Goodrich. “It's nice to know everyone, especially
her family, isn't going to have to go through that. And that's really what I
would be concerned with.”
While Wheeler could face
life in prison, Goodrich says Bethany will always be missed.
“It’s nice to know that at
least we get some form of closure out of it,” Goodrich said. “Whatever he has
coming is never going to make up for what he's done.”
A date for Wheeler’s
sentencing has not been set. Orr says Bethany’s family will help set a date.
That hearing will be a chance for both
Bethany’s loved ones and Wheeler to address the courtroom.