Judge sets August trial date for Colorado machete attack
A deputy driving down Swan Mountain Road in the early morning hours discovered a man stumbling in the dark, bloody, with deep gashes to his face and hand.
“Please help me. They’re trying to kill me,” Jadon “JJ” Jellis said as he waved down the deputy, claiming he was attacked by two men in the woods. He knew one of them — Tyrus Vanmatre — a 20-year-old man Jellis met weeks before the alleged attack on June 17, 2014.
During an April 13 pretrial conference, Judge Mark Thompson set a trial date for Aug. 24 through Sept. 4, giving the defense time to acquire transcripts of the testimonies of Jellis and 17-year-old Brodi Olson, who allegedly served as Vanmatre’s accomplice. The original May 4 date will be used to address remaining motions related to the case, and a second pretrial conference is set for July 27.
Vanmatre’s defense attorney said he hoped to produce 35 witnesses for the trial. Vanmatre faces charges of second-degree attempted murder and first-degree kidnapping, first-degree assault and second-degree kidnapping, with 10 charges total. Olson will be tried separately, following a January ruling that transferred his case back to juvenile court.
Having lived in Summit County for a year, Vanmatre played on Summit High School’s hockey team before moving to Littleton and trying to launch a modeling and acting career.
According to court documents, Jellis came to Denver from Thermopolis, Wyoming, with $50,000 he made from selling a house. Jellis told detectives he was “partying” and “blowing money” when he bought marijuana from Vanmatre, a friend his brother met through a talent agency.
Jellis claims Vanmatre said they were going to a party when they drove up to Summit County with Olson. He said they parked Vanmatre’s Chevy Blazer at the Sapphire Point trailhead, just off of Swan Mountain Road, before hiking off into the woods in search of a man that would give them a handgun for a planned robbery.
“This seems like the perfect spot,” Vanmatre said, according to court documents, just before Olson allegedly tried to tase Jellis with a stun gun. Jellis claims Vanmatre struck him across the face with a machete, leaving a scar above his left eye and nose. As he tried to block another attempt, the blade slashed his hand. He also remembered Olson struck him with something on the side of the head, a wound which would later require 16 staples to close.
Jellis said he fought back using two knives he grabbed from the car when he thought the situation was “kind of sketchy.” The two assailants fled, and Jellis made for Swan Mountain Road, where he was later found.
Vanmatre was admitted to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco with a punctured lung he said he had gotten from falling out of a tree. Jellis was in the same hospital before he was airlifted to St. Anthony Hospital in Denver. In Frisco, hospital staff made the connection to the crime, when Jellis mentioned he was attacked by a man named Vanmatre.
While he was still hospitalized, investigators interviewed Vanmatre about his intentions. Audio recordings of the interviews that were released last fall show Vanmatre changed his story several times. He first denied even being in the county at the time of the incident. Then, he claimed the three of them got lost while driving to a party in Silverthorne, and Jellis hit him from behind while they were walking through the woods.
Finally, he explained that he and Olson had planned to give Jellis a scare, by taking acid, shocking Jellis with a taser and tying him to a tree. He said they wanted to “mess with him,” but not kill him, but their plan went awry when they discovered Jellis was also armed.
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