Murder Suspect Changes Plea to Guilty

, Written by Travis Koch, Posted: Fri, November 16 2012 at 6:39 PM, Updated: Fri, November 16 2012 at 7:07 PM

Jeffrey Wheeler admitted to killing his ex-girlfriend Jessica Starr Bethany last year and setting her apartment on fire.

The change to a guilty plea comes after more than a year and its not known why Wheeler changed his mind. His defense attorney isn't saying either. It may be because of a surprise witness who would have testified had he gone to trial. A witness that lead prosecutor says he talked to after committing the crime. He apparently had plans to leave town and asked how he could get a plane ticket not having an Oregon drivers license.

Wheeler pleaded guilty today to the murder and arson for setting the house on fire but plead no contest to abandoning the child they supposedly had together and no contest to abusing a corpse. He will likely spend a minimum of twenty five years for the murder, consecutive to the other charges. He hasn't been sentenced but should be sometime this month.

Nearby, friends and co-workers of Jessica Bethany say justice, in this case will never be enough to replace what he took away.

About the Author

Travis Koch

News at Sunrise Co-Anchor Travis Koch started his career as a filmmaker. He wrote and directed documentaries about traveling and extreme sports.

Among his many life experiences, he was a dog musher in Alaska and a baker in Minnesota. Travis began his career at NBC5 News as a weekend photographer and has continued to follow his dreams in television broadcasting and multimedia.

Catch Travis co-anchoring with Jennifer Elliott weekdays on NBC 5 News at Sunrise starting at 5:30am.

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