Central Point man enters plea of not guilty in murder

CENTRAL POINT — A man accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death at her home in Central Point earlier this month has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, arson and abuse of a corpse.

Jeffrey Wayne Wheeler, 36, of Central Point, entered his pleas Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

He is charged with murder, five counts of first-degree arson and first-degree abuse of a corpse in the death of 32-year-old Jessica Bethany, a mother and a popular bartender who worked in Medford.

The murder charge carries a minimum 25-year prison sentence and a maximum life sentence, under Oregon law.

Wheeler's next court appearance is a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Dec. 19, according to Circuit Court records.

Homicide detectives believe Wheeler confronted Bethany inside her apartment on East Pine Street in Central Point.

During a violent domestic dispute between the two, Wheeler stabbed Bethany multiple times, police allege.

Police found Bethany's body inside her apartment near Abby's pizza after a male caller reported "a possible deceased adult" at about 7:36 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 4.

Wheeler was identified as the primary suspect and was later detained by police in Medford.

Bethany was well-known throughout Medford, having worked as a bartender at Howie's on Front downtown for several years.

Wheeler and Bethany have a 1-year-old daughter. The pair also have children from previous relationships, according to people acquainted with them.

Bethany's children are staying with relatives, police said.

Friends and co-workers of Bethany have said that Wheeler exhibited threatening behavior toward her preceeding her death. Howie's staff at one point banned Wheeler from entering the bar.

A fundraiser for her children is scheduled for this evening at Howie's. Today would have been Bethany's 33rd birthday.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.