Editor's note: This report contains graphic content that some readers may find disturbing.
The attorney for a former mixed-martial artist who pleaded guilty to murdering and mutilating his friend in Del Norte County said Friday that the killing wasn't premeditated.
Jarrod Wyatt, 27, pleaded guilty Thursday night to first degree murder involving mayhem, with a special enhancement for using a weapon. Under the plea deal, he will serve two consecutive sentences of 25 years to life -- or a total of 50 years to life in prison.
Wyatt's attorney James Fallman said Friday that his client didn't kill his friend in a premeditated manner, as stated by Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander.
"He was too damn high on drugs to premeditate it," Fallman said.
Alexander said Thursday that he not only wanted Wyatt to admit he murdered his friend, but to acknowledge the killing was premeditated and wasn't the result of drinking psychedelic mushroom tea.
"I wanted him to admit this wasn't the product of drug delusion," Alexander said.
He said he declined a plea deal offer from Fallman on Wednesday, in which Fallman suggested that Wyatt plead guilty to second degree murder, ultimately serving 41 years to life in prison. Alexander said that wasn't enough.
"We wanted him to admit he'd done that to this poor kid," Alexander said.
Wyatt had previously entered dual pleas of not guilty and not
Wyatt stood accused of murdering his friend Taylor Powell, 21, in the early morning hours of March 21, 2010, after the two men and two other acquaintances reportedly ingested psychedelic mushroom tea. Wyatt later attacked Powell, killing and brutally mutilating him.
According to court documents, Wyatt was arrested after Del Norte County Sheriff's Department deputies and Yurok Tribal Police arrived at a Requa home near the mouth of the Klamath River, finding him naked and covered in blood from head to toe. When officers approached Wyatt, the documents state he told the officers, "I killed him," and said he had cut out Powell's heart and tongue.
Officers searched the residence and found Powell dead on the couch, his chest cut open, his heart, tongue and the skin of his face removed, court documents said. An autopsy determined that the organs had been removed while Powell was still alive. What was later determined to be Powell's heart was found charred in a wood-burning stove in the residence, according to Dr. Neil Kushner, who performed the autopsy.
Fallman said Wyatt decided at the last minute that he didn't want to take the stand, and didn't want his family members to testify. He said a plea deal was the only way to give Wyatt the opportunity to go before a parole board at some point in the future.
Going into the trial -- which was slated to start Monday -- Fallman said Wyatt faced charges of murder, aggravated mayhem and torture. Charges also included special circumstance allegations of mayhem, extreme cruelty and depravity. He said Wyatt would never see a parole board if found guilty of the special circumstances.
"We felt that if the jury got a hold of that and photos, they would slam him with every possible thing," Fallman said.
If found guilty of all charges, Fallman said Wyatt could have faced at least three life sentences.
"He would've had to reincarnate a few times to serve the time," Fallman said.
With his client no longer willing to testify and his defense dwindling, Fallman said, they opted for the plea deal. He said Wyatt is very remorseful and apologized to Powell's family when he pleaded guilty Thursday.
"He didn't want to put the mother of the victim through this (trial) and have the photos paraded in front of 12 people," Fallman said.
Wyatt is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 4 at the Del Norte County Superior Courthouse.
Megan Hansen can be reached at 441-0511 or email@example.com.