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MailTribune.com
  • An 'unconscionable' crime is punished

    Tears flow among the relatives and friends of Jessica Bethany as Jeffrey Wheeler gets life in prison for killing her in 2011
  • A Central Point man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death and tried to set her corpse and her apartment on fire has been sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.
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  • A Central Point man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death and tried to set her corpse and her apartment on fire has been sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.
    Muffled sobbing filled the packed Jackson County Circuit courtroom Monday afternoon as Judge Tim Gerking sentenced Jeffrey Wayne Wheeler, 37, to life in prison for the September 2011 murder of Jessica Bethany. Under state law, he will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.
    The emotional crowd of friends and family of the 32-year-old woman spilled from the courtroom as the sentence was handed down.
    Wheeler, red-faced and with his head down, apologized to those who knew and loved Bethany.
    "I want to take full responsibility for her death," Wheeler said, noting he had relapsed into drug and alcohol use at the time of the murder.
    Wheeler, who on Nov. 16 pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and arson, said he would not have committed the crime had he remained sober.
    "I lost my mind and completely shut down," Wheeler said.
    Before the sentencing, prosecutor David Orr laid out a gruesome scene in which Wheeler stabbed Bethany 22 times in the neck while their 11-month-old daughter was inside the one-bedroom apartment.
    Wheeler, who had recently returned to the area from California, became enraged when Bethany told them they were finished as a couple. He managed to enter her Central Point apartment shortly before 2 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2011, and then attacked her, Orr said.
    After the murder, Wheeler tried to hide his crime by pouring lighter fluid on Bethany's corpse, turning on the gas range, removing the smoke detector and setting lit fuses, Orr said.
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