Prosecutor in Summit County machete attack case pushes for stiffer charges
At a court hearing on Monday, deputy district attorney John Franks revealed statements from a friend of Tyrus Vanmatre that alleged premeditation in the June attack on 18-year-old Jadon Jellis. The prosecutor called for stiffer charges against Vanmatre in light of the statements. Vanmatre’s defense attorney dismissed the friend’s statement to investigators as just talk.
Vanmatre, 20, a Longmont resident who once attended Summit High School is accused of attacking Jellis last summer with a machete in the woods north of Swan Mountain Road, while a 17-year-old accomplice allegedly tased and stabbed Jellis. In recent interview, Henry Nelson, a close friend of Vanmatre’s, told detectives he encountered both men on June 17, 2014, the same day as the alleged attack.
Franks said that Nelson’s staments also suggest that Jellis, who had recently come into money around the time of the attack, had accused Vanmatre of stealing his wallet after he left it on his motorcycle. Vanmatre denied taking the money.
“I think there’s reasonable evidence that Mr. Vanmatre, confronted with the substantial thefts of Mr. Jellis, wished to silence Mr. Jellis,” Franks said.
Vanmatre’s defense attorney, Douglas Romero, dismissed the statement, saying “Jellis has given inconsistent statements over time” regarding the amount of stolen money. Just three weeks before the alleged attack, Jellis arrived in Denver from Thermopolis, Wyoming with $50,000 he had made from the sale of a house.
Franks said several additional statements relevant to the case emerged from the detective’s interview with Nelson. Nelson reported that Vanmatre bragged about robbing his stepfather’s home and stealing a handgun in 2012, a statement that matched police reports, though Vanmatre was never charged. This is significant, Franks said, because Jellis claimed Vanmatre said they were going to pick up a gun in the woods for a robbery the night of the alleged attack.
Franks added that Nelson said, “Mr. Vanmatre told him if he were going to kill somebody, he would take them up into the mountains where he could take his time and hide the body.”
“It’s just talk, judge. There’s no factual basis to it at all,” Romero rebutted Franks’ claims. “I think this is just a mish-mash of aspersions to show that he [Vanmatre] has bad character.”
According to Jellis’ testimony, Vanmatre reportedly drove him and 17-year-old Brodi Olson from Denver to the Sapphire Point parking lot, just off Swan Mountain Road. Vanmatre said they were going to a party, but first were going to pick up a gun for a planned burglary in the forest up the hill. While Vanmatre’s car contained a variety of weapons, Jellis claims Vanmatre and Olson both armed themselves, telling him they would give him his weapon at the top, and not to bring his cell phone because they didn’t want to be tracked. Suspicious, Olson pocketed two knives before following them uphill.
“This seems like the perfect spot,” Vanmatre said. Jellis claims upon those words, they attacked, slashing and stunning him until he started stabbing Vanmatre in return before fleeing.
Sheriff’s deputies later found Jellis with several deep gashes to his face and hand.
Vanmatre currently faces 10 charges, including second-degree attempted murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree assault and second-degree kidnapping. Originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, a class-two felony, the charge was bumped back to attempted second-degree murder during a pretrial conference.
Franks motioned to return the charges back to attempted first-degree murder or attempted second-degree murder after conspiracy, which would add six years’ jail time to Vanmatre’s mandated 10 to 42 years, if found guilty.
Jellis claims both Vanmatre and Olson told him they were going to kill him that night. But Vanmatre claimed that they wanted to “mess with him,” not kill him, when they were surprised to find that Jellis was armed. In previous statements, Vanmatre denied being in the county at the time of the incident, then claimed the three got lost driving to a party in Silverthorne, and Jellis hit him from behind while walking through the woods.
“That cascading confession never got to a stage where they said, ‘we plan to kill him,’” Franks said, pointing to witness statements and the nature of the attack as probable cause of intent. “Not only was the attack prolonged, but the only reason it stopped was because Jadon Jellis stabbed this defendant with a weapon he didn’t know he had.”
Vanmatre’s next hearing is schedule for July 27, at 9 a.m., with a trial date set for August 24. Judge Mark Thompson said he would consider Franks’ request regarding the severity of the charges against Vanmatre, but will take time to review evidence and prior cases before making a written decision.
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