Prosecution highlights discrepancies in machete attack suspect’s testimony
Tyrus Vanmatre concluded his account of the alleged machete attack that took place in Summit last summer, following a detailed cross-examination by the prosecution Wednesday afternoon. Vanmatre is charged with second-degree attempted murder after Jadon Jellis, a Denver resident, was found wounded near Swan Mountain Road in June of 2014.
Vanmatre maintained throughout his testimony that he never planned to attack Jellis, though he admitted to lying to police in previous interviews.
“I struggled with one lie, and one lie led to the next. I just got caught up in the lies. I didn’t know what to do,” Vanmatre addressed the jury. “My family knows who I am, and I wanted to testify today because I wanted them to know the truth of what happened. Truthfully, if I was in your shoes, I would have a hard time believing me, too.”
He resumed his story, from the Sapphire Point parking lot, where he, Jellis and a 16-year-old boy had parked the night of Monday, June 16. They were going to hike up Swan Mountain to “drop acid,” according to his previous testimony. However, Vanmatre maintains that he never consumed LSD, nor did he witness either of the others consume it.
The stun gun that was allegedly used by the juvenile to stun Jellis was presented before the jury. Vanmatre demonstrated a flashlight feature that he said they used to hike up the mountain. He also claimed that he offered Jellis a strap-on MTech knife, which he says Jellis wore despite never seeing him put it on. Vanmatre and the juvenile armed themselves with short swords that strapped over their backs, and Vanmatre demonstrated how he wore a plain, brown belt like a bandolier crossing over his shoulder.
In a cross-examination, deputy district attorney John Franks asked Vanmatre why the MTech knife was found in Vanmatre’s car if Jellis had it, having never returned to the car since the incident. Vanmatre said that he had two identical knives, one that was given to him free after purchasing the first.
As they hiked up, he said they stopped several times to let Jellis catch his breath. At one point, Jellis did not want to hike any further, so Vanmatre said, “ok, this seems like a good spot,” adding that he took off the belt to set it aside.
“He was agitated. He wanted to rest,” Vanmatre said. “I looked to my left, and Jadon Jellis was coming at me, and he had his hand up. I did not see the knife in his hand at the time.”
He claimed that Jellis hit him twice, before Vanmatre turned around and swung back with his machete. Vanmatre then presented the red shirt he was wearing at the time of the attack to the jury, with a hole in the fabric.
He added that Jellis caught his blade at one point and tugged on it, resulting in the large gash between Jellis’ left thumb and index finger and possibly a gash on the right side of his head.
Franks pointed out that these two cuts would have been on opposite sides of Jellis’ body. While Vanmatre said that he only swung twice, Franks counted four cuts: Two above Jellis’ left eye, one on his hand and one on the top of his head.
“He just came forward, and he grabbed me. He tackled me, and we rolled down the hill,” Vanmatre said. “He said ‘Give me the keys’ and I said ‘JJ, what are you doing?’ And, he stabbed me two times in the chest.”
Vanmatre added that he then saw the 16-year-old run toward them with his knife, and Jellis put his knife to Vanmatre’s chin, saying “put that down, or I’ll slit his (expletive) throat right now.”
At that moment, Vanmatre said he swung at Jellis, hitting him in the face, and Jellis ran away. He added that at that time, he could not and did not want to pursue Jellis.
“I got hurt. JJ got hurt. I should have just called the cops. I wasn’t thinking right,” Vanmatre said, voice breaking. “I didn’t know what to do.”
When his short sword was presented to him and the jury, Vanmatre started crying. Private defense attorney Douglas Romero asked Vanmatre why, and he responded: “I don’t even like looking at it anymore. I never wanted to harm anybody.”
Throughout his testimony, Vanmatre maintained that the juvenile never harmed Jellis, and that he lied about the events of that night because he did not want Jellis to get arrested for something he did while high on LSD.
Romero changed the subject of his examination, turning toward the night when Vanmatre was in the hospital, with four stab wounds and a punctured lung and was interviewed by Summit County sheriff’s deputies.
“I wasn’t really aware of much. I was confused, and I believed that I was a victim,” Vanmatre said.
He added that he was not aware that he was being recorded at the time and could not remember signing a form explaining his Miranda Rights, despite the form with a corresponding signature being presented as evidence.
Vanmatre said he did not realize he was a suspect at the time and claimed he did not recall a full understanding of the charges against him.
“I gave (Jellis) my clothes. I wouldn’t assume I would hurt anybody in my own clothes,” Vanmatre said.
At one point, the audio recording of the interview is paused and restarted as Sheriff’s officers believed they had completed the interview, only to find a piece of evidence in the room, the pants Vanmatre wore at the incident, so they started recording again with a different testimony from Vanmatre.
But, according to Vanmatre, during that pause, one of the officers told him that he “needed to tell my mom I was the reason she would go to jail.”
Vanmatre claimed that, at the time, he had believed the officers could arrest his mother, so he began to testify and agree with the narrative they suggested: That Vanmatre and the juvenile had planned the attack ahead of time, to drive Jellis to the forest, stun him, tie him to a tree with the belt and scare him.
“They just kinda pushed me because, obviously, they knew I was lying,” Vanmatre said. “They didn’t physically harm me; they didn’t hurt me, they just talked about my mother and that I might face charges for this.”
Franks, however, called out a discrepancy in Vanmatre’s testimony. In a jail phone conversation with his mother, Vanmatre claimed that the recording was turned on and off multiple times to get a confession.
“I may have exaggerated,” Vanmatre said. “There’s times where I’m angry in here. There’s times where I’ve said mean things about some parties in this case.”
Franks then asked, if Vanmatre was not aware that he was being recorded, how did he know that the recording was being paused?
Vanmatre responded that he had later conversed with a lawyer from Romero’s office, who said the conversation was probably being recorded.
Franks mentioned another inconsistency from Vanmatre’s testimony on Tuesday.
“One of the stories you kept getting confronted about was that you had a friend named John. You couldn’t find his house,” Franks said, referring to a point in the interview where Vanmatre had claimed they were going to walk to John’s house over the mountain to a party.
Vanmatre responded that he was referring to a shanty partway up the mountain that he and John had visited several times.
“Didn’t you tell Summit County Sheriff’s officers that you were going to his home, that it was three stories tall, had two decks and a castle-like tower?” Franks asked.
Vanmatre said that was a description of John’s residential home, located in Summit Cove.
The testimony concluded that afternoon with questions from the jury. With the defense’s case at a close, closing statements and jury instructions will begin on Thursday.
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