Alleged machete attack victim testifies at trial
Jadon Jellis, the alleged victim of a machete attack last summer, was presented as the first witness of the day by the prosecution during the trial of Tyrus Vanmatre, who is charged with second-degree attempted murder and nine additional counts.
Jellis appeared in court Wednesday morning. His testimony started from the beginning, when he first arrived in Colorado from Wyoming. He had sold his father’s house for $50,000 and moved out to Denver with the money.
He first met Vanmatre through a connection with his older stepbrother. Jellis became friends with Vanmatre, and stayed on a futon in his garage at the time. The two even started to look for apartments together, Jellis said.
“Vanmatre talked about wanting to make money with modeling, hockey, so we agreed to get an apartment together,” Jellis said in response to cross-examination by defense attorney, Douglas Romero. “I was searching for a job. Well, not really searching for a job; I was feeling out my options. Tyrus was going to introduce me to an acting or modeling coach.”
He added that they never got to the point of signing a lease and never told Vanmatre’s mother to, “sign the (expletive) lease” — following a line of questioning by Romero. He also said he did not remember Vanmatre saying he would attempt to procure a lease for an apartment using a paystub.
After buying a motorcycle, Jellis drove back to Wyoming to visit friends and family. But, he left his car parked outside of Vanmatre’s house, which he said contained a lockbox that held a significant amount of his savings.
“I found the money missing when I got back,” he said, adding that while he had given Vanmatre his car keys, he noticed forcible entry into the lockbox.
Another day, the morning of the incident, Jellis said he left his wallet on his motorcycle in Vanmatre’s garage while he showered. He estimated that the wallet contained roughly $3,000.
“I was positive, I set it down, went and showered, and when I came back, it was gone,” he said. “It’s hard to accuse somebody of stealing your wallet when you’re staying in their house.”
Romero questioned Jellis on the amount of money he claimed was lost. He said there was $20,000 in his lockbox, around $7,000 in the car itself, and about $3,000 in his wallet.
“You didn’t call the cops?” Romero asked.
“With what proof?” Jellis responded. “I was sticking with Tyrus, so I could figure out how to get the money back.”
He added that Vanmatre offered to help look for the wallet, but it was never found.
Later that afternoon, the day of June 16, Jellis said that Vanmatre asked him if he wanted to go up in the mountains for a party. Vanmatre drove up to Summit County from Denver with Jellis and a 16-year-old, who Jellis described as being “on (Vanmatre’s) hip” and “would do whatever Tyrus told him to do.” Jellis added that Vanmatre said he would visit someone named John to get a handgun for a “job” with a $90,000 payoff.
“Tyrus talked a lot about the stuff he wanted to do, and the stuff he had done before,” Jellis said. “I just thought, ‘Whatever man, drop me off at the party.’”
Romero asked him why he would think there would be a party on a Monday.
“You’ve obviously never been to a good party,” Jellis said. “I’ve been to a lot of good parties on Mondays.”
Jellis maintains that he never consumed any alcohol or drugs that day. He fell asleep in the car and woke up at the Sapphire Point parking lot, just off of Swan Mountain Road. As he got out of the car, Jellis said, his phone died.
Vanmatre and the 16-year-old boy proceeded to arm themselves with machetes that strapped over their backs, “to protect us from wildlife,” Jellis said. He was told not to bring his phone in case they were tracked.
“They told me ‘You don’t need anything,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t need anything; I’m going to a party,’” he added. “It just sketched me out — it just kind of scared me, I guess.”
He quickly mentioned “Oh, I forgot something” and returned to the car, pocketing one or two throwing knives that Vanmatre kept in the console before hiking up the steep hill. There was no trail; just a steep incline with several fallen trees along the way that passed a small shack.
“He was like, ‘It’s over this hill right there; you’ll see them. You’ll hear them soon,’” Jellis said. “There was talk about going to a house. But, going up the mountain, I was like, ‘What the hell, there’s no house up here.’”
Then it happened.
According to Jellis, Tyrus said, “This looks like the perfect spot.”
“I felt a jolt of electricity on my left side,” Jellis added. “Everything happened so quickly.”
He said he remembered Vanmatre and the 16-year-old drawing both of their weapons. Moments after he was stunned, Jellis says he lunged at Vanmatre, tackled him and the two rolled across the ground.
“I’m actually a really good wrestler, and I think it saved my life,” Jellis said. “I started to swing to the best of my ability, hitting Tyrus. I think the knife fell out of my hand two or three stabbing motions in. I kept punching Tyrus while (name omitted) was above, swinging.”
Jellis had three gashes on his face; two above his left eye and one on the right side of his head. In court, he took a moment to compose himself before identifying the wounds in a photo of his face.
He also had a large cut to his left hand, between his thumb and index finger. He believes the gash on his head and above his eye were inflicted by the 16-year-old, and the one on his hand was from blocking his attack. But, he thinks one of the two gashes above his eye was from Vanmatre.
He thought he remembered one or both of them saying, “We’re going to kill you.”
Romero asked if — while they he and Vanmatre struggled on the ground — Jellis said “I’m gonna slit your (expletive throat).”
Jellis claimed that his words were directed at the 16-year-old: “If you swing again, I’m gonna kill (Vanmatre). If you swing again, I’m gonna slit (Vanmatre’s) throat.”
“There was a swing at you that time,” Romero responded.
“Did I slit his throat?” Jellis shot back.
Struck again by a machete, he instead dashed away without a flashlight.
“I was thinking, ‘What the hell is going on? I need to get out of here now,” he said. “I looked behind me, and, from what it felt or looked like, they were following me with flashlights.”
pieces of evidence
Sprinting downhill, he shed his sweatshirt and used his flannel to bandage his thumb, which was cut deeply and bleeding profusely.
“I thought my thumb was gonna fall off. I thought I’m either gonna die or lose my thumb,” he said.
He caught his breath a few times along the way before he reached the road. Finding a small stream of water, he tried to drink out of it and collapsed into the water.
Jellis started walking down the road, when he saw a car approach. Found by a Summit County sheriff’s deputy, he was taken away by an ambulance.
The court reviewed items found by detectives when they investigated the crime scene after the incident. They found a pair of motorcycle gloves that Jellis said Vanmatre lent him, a black hat that Jellis wore and another beanie that Jellis identified as Vanmatre’s. The glove had a slit in the hand, and the hat was slit as well.
A throwing knife was also presented as evidence. Romero asked Jellis if it was the knife he used to stab Mr. Vanmatre. Jellis simply responded, “This is the knife I used to defend myself.”
Despite an objection by the defense, the evidence was admitted.
The afternoon concluded with several questions from the jury, including why Jellis thought Vanmatre and the 16-year-old wanted to kill him.
“Well, at first, I thought it was just for the money and just getting rid of me,” Jellis said. “The more I find out, the more I listen, the more I observe (name omitted) and Tyrus’ behavior, I feel like Tyrus wanted an experience killing someone, and (name omitted) was along for the ride.”
The court was put on recess for a brief session while Fifth Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson diffused a continuing banter between Jellis and Romero, with additional statements by Jellis regarding previous claims by Vanmatre.
“I have to be very sensitive to what the jury does and does not consider,” Thompson said. “I want this to be a fair process. I don’t want to do it again.”
The court will reconvene on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 8:30 a.m.
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