Vanmatre sentenced to life without parole following Swan Mountain attack
verdicts and respective sentences
1. Guilty of first-degree kidnapping, resulting in serious bodily injury, a class-one felony.
Sentence: life without parole
2. Guilty of attempted second-degree murder, resulting in serious bodily injury, a class-three felony.
Sentence: 32 years
3. Guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping, resulting in serious bodily injury.
Sentence: 48 years, served concurrent with counts one and five.
4. Not guilty of second-degree kidnapping. (no sentence)
5. Guilty of first-degree assault, a class-three felony.
Sentence: 32 years
6. Guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault, resulting in serious bodily injury.
Sentence: 16 years served concurrent with counts three and five
7. Not guilty of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping.
8. Guilty of menacing, with the use of a deadly weapon, and not in self-defense.
Sentence: Three years served concurrent with all other counts
9. Guilty of reckless endangerment.
Sentence: Six months served concurrent with all other counts.
Months after his conviction, 21-year-old Tyrus Vanmatre was sentenced to life without parole, in addition to several consecutive years on Thursday.
The sentencing was originally set for October but was postponed after a motion for retrial was filed by the defense. On Sept. 4, 2015, a jury found Vanmatre guilty of first-degree kidnapping resulting in serious injury, a class-one felony, and attempted second-degree murder, a class-three felony, and five other charges.
The trial followed a June 17, 2014 machete attack on Swan Mountain that resulted in several deep lacerations to Jadon Jellis’ face, head and hand and a punctured lung for Vanmatre.
“Mr. Vanmatre, it’s very difficult for this court to sentence such a young person to life imprisonment,” Fifth Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson said. “This is an incredibly heinous crime. It’s a miracle that Jellis didn’t die. Frankly, it’s a miracle that you didn’t die. But justice has been done in this courtroom.”
Thompson noted that the crimes were not only “shocking, horrific and tragic,” but also “representative of a profound loss”: For Jellis, the loss of trust in the world; for Vanmatre, a loss of liberty as he faces a substantial mandatory sentence.
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Vanmatre will have 45 days to appeal the sentences or the underlying conviction.
ASKING THE MAXIMUM
For the remaining felony counts, deputy district attorney John Franks requested the maximum for each charge. In addition, he asked that they be served consecutively, rather than at once, with the exception of the conspiracy charges.
“He is facing life without parole or death. We did not seek the death penalty,” he said. “Having said that, that does not mean the other sentences are meaningless. There is likely to be a cavalcade of appeals that we can only speculate.
“These cases are only over if the people lose,” he added.
Both Jellis and his mother spoke at the podium, recounting their interpretation of the morning of the incident. Jellis’ mother received a call that her son had been in an accident and rushed to the hospital in Littleton.
“I wanted it to have been an accident. I needed it to have been an accident,” she said. “He was covered in dried blood. All I could think to do at the time was to wash his face with a warm cloth.”
She called her son a hero, adding that her son asked, over and over, why the two would have tried to kill him.
“I had no words to console him,” she said.
Jellis’ statement, addressed to the gallery, took on a markedly different tone.
“The person who did this to me is getting exactly what he deserves — here and in prison. I hope he’s read up some books on how to survive,” he said. “If anybody thinks they can do more to me than he did with knives, I’ll see you out in the parking lot.”
He apologized after Thompson asked him to refrain from shouting in the courtroom.
FROM MOTHER TO MOTHER
Vanmatre and his mother also took to the podium, each briefly addressing the court.
“I would first like to say, to court, to all families, that I thank God all three boys walked off the mountain that day,” his mother began. “There are no heroes in this room today.”
Having known all three of the parties involved, she noted that there was no indication of any resentment between them prior to the incident. She also noted that Vanmatre had never showed any propensity to violence throughout his years in school up to this point, gesturing to the family members who sat in support behind him.
“As a mother, I, too, went home to see a son who had a stab wound and a punctured lung,” she said. “My family, too, has been destroyed by this.”
Vanmatre’s Denver-based defense attorney, Douglas Romero, maintained his argument that the incident stemmed from “a bad acid trip” and was not planned in malice. He asked the court to merge the crimes of violence into one sentence, life without parole, with no additional years of jail time.
“It takes two to tango,” Romero said. “I’m actually really perturbed by the fact that there was no merit, no deference given to Mr. Vanmatre for all that transpired during this case.”
He added that he did not believe the trial had been fair and challenged Franks’ statement that Vanmatre could not be rehabilitated.
As for Vanmatre, he merely gave a brief address, thanking Thompson.
“I would like to appeal this because this is absolutely ridiculous, these stories,” Vanmatre said. “But like I said, I hold nothing against you, and thank you for your time.”
Before he read his sentence, Thompson reminded the court that a sentence should not be a time of celebration for anyone but is a “solemn and dignified” occasion.
To address Jellis’ question of “why”, he concluded: “I suspect there isn’t any answer to that question. Instead, there is only a loss that I have addressed.”
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