Murder scene was familiar to police

A Central Point woman and her former boyfriend accused of murdering her had a history of violence and police run-ins prior to the discovery of her body Sunday.

Jessica Bethany, 32, was jailed in December 2009 on charges of misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and harassment for allegedly attacking Jeffrey Wheeler, 36, who remained jailed Monday accused of Bethany's murder according to court records.

Those charges eventually were dropped before her scheduled trial, court records show.

Wheeler's no stranger to the Jackson County Jail either and was convicted of identity theft in 2006 and eventually graduated from the Jackson County Drug Court in 2007.

Police say that before responding to the location Sunday morning on a welfare check, they had responded to Bethany's apartment at 745 E. Pine St. for past incidents but would not go into details.

At about 7:30 a.m. Sunday they responded again and Bethany was found dead with what appeared to be trauma on her body. Wheeler was arrested in Medford that day.

"Sounds like there was a breakup of some kind" said Central Point Police Lt. Chuck Newell. "We have been to that residence for different cases."

As of early Monday evening the apartment still was surrounded by yellow police tape and patrol cars were posted at the scene. Central Point Police Lt. Jeff Britton said that detectives had been working at the scene over the Labor Day weekend and hoped to have Oregon State Police forensic investigators on the scene today.

The couple's year-old child who was dropped off with a neighbor by Wheeler prior to police responding to the apartment was with family as of Monday afternoon Britton said.

At least one neighbor said that he knew the couple had a stormy relationship, but didn't think that it would result in murder.

Cory Newkirk said that he had seen the two arguing in the street prior on Saturday evening.

"I saw them going at it, but I never thought it would end like that," Newkirk said.

Britton said that the investigation is ongoing and that an autopsy on Bethany's body should be completed by tomorrow evening. Wheeler was still being held in Jackson County Jail on a charge of murder without bail Monday evening.

Mat Wolf is a reporting intern from the University of Oregon. Reach him at 541-776-4481 or by email at mwolf@mailtribune.com.


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