Man found not guilty of murder in Wimer bayonet homicide
A jury Monday acquitted 21-year-old Brendan Rex Stansell of murder in a September 2020 stabbing, but he's not entirely off the hook.
The Jackson County Circuit Court jury voted 11-1 to acquit Stansell of second-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Matthew James Joseph Stephens. The jury deliberated for more than four and a half hours Friday, and for another four hours Monday.
During the deliberations, the jury considered manslaughter charges, but told the court they did not believe they could reach a unanimous conclusion, according to Jackson County Judge Lorenzo Mejia.
Mejia thanked the jury for their “considered, deliberate decision.”
Under Oregon law, at least 10 jurors must be in agreement to acquit a suspect, and all 12 jurors must be unanimous in order to make a conviction.
Stansell showed little emotion as the jury delivered its verdict.
Deputy District Attorney Lucy Durst asked that Stansell remain held in the Jackson County Jail.
Mejia set bail on the manslaughter charge at $20,000. Should Stansell post 10% bond, he’ll need to be monitored with an ankle bracelet and was ordered not to contact witness Natasha Carson, 25.
The next court appearance on the manslaughter charge will be Jan. 3. Under Oregon’s Measure 11 law, manslaughter in the second degree carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 75 months.
Stansell testified last week that he was asked to drive Carson and the alleged homicide victim to an abandoned trailer in the Elderberry Flats area, but claimed that a struggle ensued when they tried to take his truck from him in the woods.
The attack with a 26-inch long Steampunk Gun Blade Sword reportedly occurred while Carson and Stephens were stopped in his vehicle preparing to shoot up methamphetamine.
Stansell’s defense lawyer, Peter Carini, argued that his client was justified because, “You have a right to fight off your attackers.”
Durst argued that Stansell acted “with intent,” and brought up a prior sexual relationship with Carson as a possible reason why he only attacked Stephens.
About a half dozen members of Stansell’s family attended the verdict hearing. No relatives of the homicide victim attended.
Stansell’s father, Rex Stansell, said outside the courtroom that the prolonged hearing — which required two juror polls over confusion of needing to vote “yes” — was tough to watch.
“It made my heart sink — I was worried,” Rex Stansell said.
Rex Stansell said the family is ready to post the $2,000 bond right away so his son can be released from jail.
“I ain’t seen him in a year and a half,” Rex Stansell said.
Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.