Machete attack trial: Detective addresses concerns with Vanmatre’s recorded interview
The jury listened intently as Tyrus Vanmatre explained again, and again, what happened the morning of June 17. The story shifted several times as the recording played in the Summit County District court.
Vanmatre is being tried for attempted second-degree murder after Denver resident Jadon Jellis survived an alleged machete attack in Summit County involving both Vanmatre and a juvenile, who was 16 at the time.
After authorities located Vanmatre at Lakewood’s St. Anthony Hospital, both Summit County sheriff’s sergeant Wes Mumford and detective Kris Brady questioned Vanmatre, who slowly led up to his most recent rendition of the events. Thanks to statements from Jellis, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office had located the crime scene prior to the interview with Vanmatre.
Brady, the lead investigator for the case, testified before the jury on Friday, explaining the interviewing process. He noted the differences in Jellis’ and Vanmatre’s conditions during their respective interviews. While Jellis was groggy with medication, fell asleep at times and was lying down in pain, Brady said that Vanmatre was sitting upright, answered questions coherently, did not complain of pain and asked to turn on the TV during the interview.
“It was a series of stories that had slowly changed as different lies were found,” Brady said.
Private defense attorney Douglas Romero pointed out that Vanmatre was also on painkillers at the time of the interview, though Brady did not discover this until later. The two-and-a-half-hour interview that continued until about 1 a.m. started with Mumford, until Brady came in later with a different approach.
“Mumford had taken more of a slow, calculated approach,” Brady said. “I went in with more of a rapid-fire approach to see if he could continue with that story.”
As the recording of Mumford’s interview played, Vanmatre first testified that he was never in Summit County the night of June 16; he was in Lakewood, with his friend Henry Nelson, and was hospitalized after he fell out of a tree.
He told Mumford that Jellis was staying at his house, but left that night with a friend to get a job at a brewery. He added that he had lent Jellis a jacket and two hats. He repeated the story twice, until Mumford stopped him, unconvinced.
“The only one that can help yourself is you,” Mumford said. “What happened, Tyrus?”
The story changed. Vanmatre said he was in Summit, and that he, Jellis and another friend had parked at Sapphire Point to walk to a party just on the other side of Swan Mountain. They had weapons in case they encountered animals.
“All I know is it was dark. And fists started flying. And I got hit with something, so I swung… I swung once and we rolled down the hill,” Vanmatre said.
He added that he was going to his friend’s house for a party, but could not name the town where the house was located. Mumford noted that it was several miles to the next neighborhood from Swan Mountain.
“I smoked a little bit of marijuana and was very high,” Vanmatre responded.
Unable to provide a phone number for this friend, John, Vanmatre changed his story. He said the three went to Swan Mountain to do acid, and that they “were tripping” when he felt something on his back, was stabbed, and swung. At first, Vanmatre said Jellis provided the LSD, but later said he brought it himself.
“I was scared, yes I was very scared,” Vanmatre said, crying. “I didn’t wanna look like I was a drug addict.”
Finally, after a break in the recording, the testimony took another turn.
“We were just gonna tie him up and tase him a little,” Vanmatre said. “I just wanted to see what it was like to scare somebody. I did not want to hurt this kid.”
He confirmed that he and the 16-year-old had come up with a plan the day they left for the mountains, around noon. Vanmatre would say, “this is the perfect spot,” before the juvenile tased Jellis, then they would tie him to a tree and scare him. He also said they brought LSD with them.
“You were gonna high five him when you’re done?” Brady asked.
“I was being stupid and I was on drugs,” Vanmatre said. “I was bleeding and I just wanted to leave. I was scared and everything went horrible.”
Vanmatre denied telling Jellis not to bring a cell phone, and said he offered Jellis a knife that would strap to his leg. He also claimed he did not follow Jellis, and confirmed that he never called the police.
Brady addressed several issues the defense had expressed about the recording and interview process, including allegations that the recording was tampered with. Testing revealed no tampering, but the most concerning allegations addressed a 12-minute gap in the recording, during which the device was stopped and switched on again.
According to Brady, Vanmatre had asserted that while the tape was stopped, Mumford “had gotten into his face and threatened him,” that he had threatened to arrest his mother, and that he had told Vanmatre that if he told them what they wanted to hear, “all of this will go away.”
Brady said Mumford never threatened Vanmatre, and explained the recording was originally stopped because they thought the interview was concluded. But as he was packing up to leave, Brady noticed a pair of bloodstained pants in the corner of the hospital room. This was significant because a belt was found at the crime scene, with no signs of wear or damage, that Jellis said he saw Vanmatre carry at one point.
“Up to that point it was assumed that (Vanmatre) was wearing jean-type pants. This type of pants had no belt loops,” Brady said, adding that Vanmatre had noted multiple time throughout the interview that he was wearing the belt, and that it had come off during a scuffle with Jellis.
Vanmatre said he wore the belt around the sweatpants because the drawstring did not work. Testing the drawstring, Mumford noted that it did work.
“At that point, he started talking again,” Brady said, noting that he started recording at that point.
In a later search of Vanmatre’s car, Brady noted that it had not been registered in Colorado, and that the license plates had been reported stolen by the 16-year-old’s older brother prior to the incident. He listed off several weapons found inside: The two machetes, pocketknives, several throwing stars, a knife with a leg holster and a stun gun. One of the machetes was not sheathed; both were bloodstained.
Brady also noted that they found marijuana, pipes and lighters, but no trace of LSD.
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