Juliaetta man pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter

Jared Mendez

MOSCOW — The Juliaetta man who killed Christopher Vessells, 48, also of Juliaetta, with a baseball bat in April pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter Monday in Latah County 2nd District Court as part of a plea agreement.

The man, Jared Mendez, 26, is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 15.

Mendez pleaded not guilty in May to a count of felony voluntary manslaughter and a count of felony destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.

If Judge John Judge sentences Mendez according to Monday’s plea agreement reached between the prosecution and defense, Mendez would receive the maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter, which is 15 years in prison.

The recommendation is five fixed years and 10 indeterminate years. A $15,000 fine is the maximum fine that could be imposed.

The count of destruction of evidence — and a sentencing enhancement that would have allowed Judge to add an additional 15 years to the sentence — would be dropped if Judge accepts the agreement.

Judge accepted Mendez’s guilty plea Monday after an emotional statement from Brenda Vessells, Christopher Vessells’ widow. Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson said Christopher and Brenda Vessells were married but separated for several years.

Brenda Vessells, who shed tears during her address to the court, said Mendez’s act completely changed her life and the life of Cody Vessells, the couple’s son.

“He (Mendez) gets to see his mom, he gets to see his kids, he gets to see his girlfriend,” Brenda Vessells said. “Well, because of this irrational decision, we don’t get those anymore. My son will never have a grandpa for his kids — ever.”

She said she was not pleased with the plea agreement.

Mendez addressed the court and at the end of the proceeding. He looked directly at Brenda Vessells and apologized for his actions.

The incident occurred shortly after midnight April 11 on the 200 block of Main Street in Juliaetta when Christopher Vessells reportedly showed up at Mendez’s home.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Mendez was upset Vessells allegedly assaulted Mendez’s mother.

Mendez told the court Monday he did not intend to hit Vessells in the head. He administered first aid and CPR on Vessells after the strike.

“I can’t take back what I did, your honor,” Mendez said. “And if I could, I would. ... Unfortunately, I made a very rash decision.”

Thompson said a forensic pathologist indicated Vessells’ head injuries were likely caused from a single bat strike and the back of his head probably fractured after it hit the ground.

Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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