Trip to Summit was to drop acid, Vanmatre testifies
Tyrus Vanmatre stepped to the witness stand Tuesday afternoon. Charged with second-degree attempted murder, he testified to the events leading up to an alleged machete attack in June of 2014, that severely injured Jadon Jellis and left Vanmatre wounded, as well.
His mother testified earlier that afternoon, following motions instructions by Fifth Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson. Vanmatre and his mother’s narratives overlapped at several points but differed at a few key junctures.
Vanmatre, now 21, choked up at the beginning of his testimony. He said that he wanted to tell the truth “because it’s the last thing that my family hears from me.”
“I just got to hold my baby brother. For the first time,” he added, softly. “I would say it’s been a traumatic experience for a lot of people.”
Vanmatre steadied as he recounted the rest of the details leading up to the incident. He had spent his senior year playing hockey for Summit High School but did not finish his high school degree.
He started taking modeling classes but did not make any money. He did work for Cutco, selling knives, as his mother testified previously. Later that year, he said his stepfather sent him $11,000. His mother mentioned this in her testimony as well.
But, Vanmatre said he did not use the money to pay for his modeling classes, claiming his agent said he did not have to pay for classes at the time, and they would just take funds out of his future income.
Vanmatre also played for a hockey team, which he said provided him gas cards and a card to pay for hockey clothes.
Vanmatre met Jellis through Jelllis’ older brother and offered to host him, with his mother’s permission. Her testimony corroborated his, as she recalled Vanmatre explaining that Jellis had no place to stay.
“He explained to me that they were fast friends,” she said. “Tyrus was working at a modeling agency and was going to help JJ get a job at the modeling agency.”
Little time had passed before Jellis explained to Vanamtre that he had gained $50,000 from the sale of a house to his father. Vanmatre said he was skeptical and never saw any of it until they went to a motorcycle dealership, where Jellis bought a brand new motorcycle. The next day, Vanmatre returned, buying a motorcycle for himself at $6,900, with a $2,000 tire protection plan.
Vanmatre and Jellis had previously discussed getting an apartment together, but Vanmatre had little of the $11,000 left to contribute. After Jellis drove his new motorcycle to Wyoming, visiting friends and family, he returned and the two decided on an apartment complex but just needed a co-signer.
To their dismay, Vanmatre’s mother refused to cosign for the two of them.
“She knew I didn’t have the financial ability to pay for an apartment of that size, magnitude I guess,” Vanmatre said. “She said as she was getting a new house and could not put it on her credit as a co-signer.”
Vanmatre’s mother mentioned this detail in her testimony.
“I didn’t think it was a good idea for them to live together. Both of them had just spent their money unwisely,” she said. “They had just bought these expensive motorcycles. Just a day ago, I had found drugs in the house.”
She referred to a bong, marijuana, pipes and other paraphernalia found in a backpack belonging to Jellis under Vanmatre’s bed. She added that these items were listed when a Lakewood sheriff’s officer came to pick up Jellis’ belongings after the incident.
She added that Jellis said his father would not cosign the lease because he was upset that Jellis had spent most of his money partying. She added that that day, Jellis told her he only had $6,000, while previously he had told her husband he had $50,000. He also said he lost his wallet driving back from Wyoming.
Vanmatre and his mother’s testimonies, however, differed at one point: His mother claimed that Jellis became agitated when she refused to sign the lease.
“He said, ‘This is (expletive). Just sign the (expletive) lease,’” she recounted, adding that she decided to give Jellis one day to leave her house.
Meanwhile, Vanmatre did not remember this outburst but did recall Jellis sitting in his room, complaining about “something along the lines of my rich mom won’t sign the lease,” Vanmatre said.
These events took place on Sunday, the evening before the alleged attack.
UP TO SUMMIT
Vanmatre noted that he, Jellis and his close friend Henry Nelson were at the house the following morning, Monday, June 16, 2014.
“We were hanging out … I’d say we were kinda bored,” Vanmatre said. “There wasn’t anything exciting going on that day.”
They were sitting in Vanmatre’s garage. Both Vanmatre and Nelson agree that Jellis’ helmet was on his motorcycle, and Nelson was on his cell phone. Jellis left to take a shower. When Jellis returned, he said he had lost his wallet, which contained $3,000.
“I honestly don’t think he actually lost it,” Vanmatre said.
They all searched the house, the garage and Vanmatre’s motorcycle, and Jellis asked both of them if they took his wallet.
The three gave up, left for the mall and then a friend’s house. Vanmatre said he wanted to celebrate, as he had an opportunity to do auditions in California.
“I said I just got a job today. That job was never robbing anybody. It was just a job opportunity,” Vanmatre said.
He added that Jellis suggested they do acid. Vanmatre maintains that he has never consumed LSD.
“JJ is actually the one who said the best thing is to do it where you can see the stars,” Vanmatre said.
At this point, he claims a friend, who was 16 at the time, said he had done acid and wanted to join. The same juvenile was charged as a co-conspirator following the incident.
“The only plan that was ever made was to go and do acid,” Vanmatre said. “I did not invite (the 16 year old) along to do anything, to harm anybody, of any sort.”
Nelson did not join. Vanmatre said that he did hug Nelson before they left but did not say “I love you,” as Nelson claimed.
“I wasn’t going off to the army or anything,” Vanmatre said.
According to his testimony, Jellis, Vanmatre and the juvenile decided to go to Swan Mountain, where Vanmatre said he knew of a location where he had previously gone to parties. Referring to the small shanty partway up the hill, he said this was the “John’s house” he had referred to in his interviews with police.
“He would hang out there often. We called it the house,” Vanmatre said.
He also mentioned seeing three bears in Frisco before but didn’t think bringing his younger brother’s rifle would be the right choice.
“I didn’t want to carry a 22 rifle up a hill,” Vanmatre said. “I don’t think that’s going to do anything more to a bear than a short sword, truthfully.”
He added that he gave Jellis a strap-on army knife, his motorcycle gloves, a black hat, the Tony Hawk jacket and an Underarmor shirt. Vanmatre thought Jellis strapped the knife to his leg. They brought the stun gun because it had a flashlight on it.
Vanmatre’s testimony ended at that point, and will resume Wednesday with additional questions from private defense attorney Douglas Romero at 8:30 a.m. Prior to the testimony, Judge Thompson denied a motion from the defense to dismiss all 10 charges against Vanmatre.
“Accordingly based upon this analysis, the motion for acquittal is denied in its entirety,” Thompson concluded.
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