MEDFORD, Ore. – An emotional Jeffrey Wheeler speaks out for the first time as he is sentenced for murdering his ex-girlfriend.
Wheeler was sentenced to life in prison for killing Jessica Bethany in September 2011. A judge handed down that sentence in Jackson County Court earlier Monday afternoon.
In November, Jeffrey Wheeler pleaded guilty to stabbing and killing Bethany at her home last year.
Monday, family and friends packed the courtroom to hear his fate. Judge Tim Gerking sentenced Wheeler to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
The family was very emotional as Assistant District Attorney David Orr laid out the facts of the case. He said Wheeler came to Bethany home after she had gone on a date with a man earlier that night. Wheeler stabbed Bethany multiple times, then tried several times to light the apartment on fire. While all this was happening, their 11-month-old daughter was in the apartment. After failing to light the fire, Wheeler abandoned the girl at a neighbor’s, and was later arrested.
In the courtroom, family and Wheeler both spoke about the little girl.
“She was meant to die that day and it’s only through he grace of God that little girl is living and breathing and laughing and loving,” said Anita Miller, a family friend.
Jeffery Wheeler was emotional as he addressed the family. He said he took responsibility for Bethany’s death, blaming it in part on his addiction to drugs and alcohol. He added that it was never his intention to harm his daughter that night.
“I didn’t try to hurt or kill my daughter,” he said. “I don’t understand. That’s something, that’s a mistake.”
Bethany’s parents did not speak on camera. The Jackson County D.A.’s Office says Wheeler will be transported to a facility in Salem for 30 days, where it will be decided which prison he will serve his term.