MEDFORD, Ore. – A man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and trying to set her apartment on fire is now pleading guilty. Jeffrey Wheeler changed his plea in court Friday and admitted to killing Jessica Bethany in September 2011. Wheeler could end up spending the rest of his life in prison.
It’s been 15 months since 32-year-old Jessica Bethany was found dead in her apartment in Central Point. Her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Wheeler was arrested for the murder and originally pleaded not guilty. Friday morning, Wheeler appeared in Jackson County Court and changed his plea to guilty on charges of murder and arson.
Prosecutors said Wheeler had stabbed Bethany to death, then tried to set fire to her apartment. Wheeler also pleaded no contest to charges of abusing a corpse and criminal mistreatment. The mistreatment charge comes from Wheeler leaving their 1-year-old daughter with a neighbor. Prosecutor David Orr says he is relieved in the change in plea, because it means the family won’t have to relive the facts of the case.
Wheeler was not sentenced Friday. Prosecutors said the state is recommending life in prison, with the chance to apply for parole in 25 years. The district attorney’s office is waiting to set a date for a sentencing hearing, they want to make sure Bethany’s family is able to attend.