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Wheat sentenced to 12 years for stabbing in Cortez

Maximum sentence needed to ‘protect the community,’ judge says

Christopher Wheat, who pleaded guilty to second-degree assault for repeatedly stabbing his girlfriend in Cortez in January, was sentenced Friday to 12 years in the Department of Corrections and three years of parole.

District Court Judge Todd Plewe handed down the maximum sentence, citing Wheat’s history of domestic violence in the past 10 years and the violent circumstances surrounding the crimes committed Jan. 5.

On that night, Wheat stabbed Ashley Jeter multiple times with a kitchen knife in her bedroom, according to police reports. He then went next door and stole his former wife’s car at knife point and drove off.

Wheat later returned to the former wife’s home, grabbed his 3-year-old son and held him in front of Cortez police officers while holding a knife. He released the child, locked himself in the bathroom, threatened suicide, then gave up and was arrested.

“The job of a judge is to protect the community. You are a person who commits acts of violence against women,” Plewe said before imposing the sentence. “Victims of domestic violence deserve protection from the courts.”

22nd Judicial District Attorney Matt Margeson recommended the maximum sentence. He showed police body camera footage of Jeter’s injuries.

Wheat committed an “absolutely brutal attack,” that caused “serious bodily injury,” Margeson said. He added that Jeter survived because “she fought back and the knife broke.”

Jeter, her mother and a mental health counselor attended the hearing, testifying about the ongoing physical and mental suffering from the attack.

“It was vicious and his intent was to kill my daughter,” said Andrea Jeter. “She carries physical and mental scars” and requires long-term help in order to move on and not live in fear.

Christopher Wheat’s friend, father and father’s fiancé also testified, and urged for sentence leniency. His father asked for a new lawyer, which was not an option. Plewe stopped testimony of the fiancé and admonished her after he said she made statements that indicated victim blame. He then ordered her out of the courtroom when she remarked his mind was already made up.

Wheat’s public defender, Jonathan Jourdane, sought probation, or a jail sentence not to exceed four years. He called for Plewe to be consistent in his sentencing compared with other second-degree assault cases.

Plewe responded that on a previous second-degree assault case, he sentenced the defendant to seven years, and there was no history of domestic violence.

“This is way worse,” Plewe said.

Jourdane pointed out the defendant is Black and the victim is white, and that there has been a societal history of disproportional sentencing against Blacks.

Plewe said he is aware of the racial disparity issue in society and that his decision was based on the facts of the case and not race.

In a statement, Christopher Wheat apologized to the victims and said he was regretful and remorseful. Jourdane said Wheat has struggled with addiction and mental health problems.