Bar Nunn Man Admits Threatening, Endangering Grandparents
A Bar Nunn man who was accused earlier this year of making daily threats to kill his grandparents and other family members entered two guilty pleas Friday morning in Natrona County District Court.
Jesse James Dewitt, 22, pleaded guilty to one felony count of abusing a vulnerable adult and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangering. Wyoming law allows for penalties totaling 11 years behind bars and $11,000 in fines.
Under a plea agreement, Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen will recommend Dewitt receive first-time offender treatment for the felony, and that Dewitt serve supervised probation for the misdemeanor.
"Frankly, he would not be receiving this disposition if it were not for the intervention of his grandparents on his behalf," Blonigen told Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey during Friday's change of plea hearing.
The abuse, charging papers say, began at the beginning of March and continued through mid-June. After Dewitt was arrested, investigators asked his then-girlfriend about how often Dewitt threatened and intimidated the people living at the house.
"It happened every day," she told authorities.
When Dewitt's grandfather went to the Natrona County Sheriff's Office in mid-May to seek assistance regarding Dewitt's threatening behavior, he told an investigator that he only wanted Dewitt arrested on his outstanding warrant. Court documents say the grandfather believed it to be a "drug warrant" which would send Dewitt to prison and put a stop to Dewitt's "death threats and intimidation."
But the investigator explained that Dewitt was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant for failure to comply, which would not result in a prison sentence.
Two weeks later, on May 30, a deputy responded to the grandparents' home where Dewitt also lived. The grandfather told the deputy Dewitt had threatened to kill him.
The deputy reportedly found a history of Dewitt threatening and intimidating the family. The family told the deputy that Dewitt needed to be arrested away from the house, because they believed Dewitt's irrational behavior could endanger Dewitt's grandmother, who was in failing health.
The grandparents and other family with whom Dewitt lived "feared for their safety and personal well-being," investigators determined. The grandfather's initial reluctance to speak about the "numerous death threats," court documents say, made it clear that the family feared retaliation by Dewitt.
Based on several health issues and a recent medical procedure, investigators determined the grandfather to fit the definition of a vulnerable adult.
The next day, an investigator returned to the grandparents' house in Bar Nunn and told the grandfather that Dewitt's arrest would likely have to happen at the house due to the reported threat the previous evening.
The grandfather agreed, adding that just before he left the house, Dewitt had thrown a major temper tantrum and said multiple times that he'd kill his grandfather if he did not allow Dewitt to take the truck.
The grandfather left the house with the truck, due to Dewitt's behavior, so that Dewitt would not cause problems for anyone else in the house. The investigator asked the grandfather to call Dewitt's grandmother to make sure she was alright and that Dewitt was still in the house.
As the investigator spoke to the grandmother, he overheard Dewitt in the background say, "F--- them, I am not leaving."
The investigator then went to the house and arrested Dewitt on the outstanding warrant. Afterward, the investigator met and spoke with Dewitt's then-girlfriend.
The girlfriend had been living with Dewitt at his grandparents' house for the previous two months. She said she saw Dewitt intimidate and threaten to kill everyone who lived at the house.
"It happened every day," the girlfriend explained.
She went on to say that about a month prior, Dewitt had a handgun. While at the house, he pulled the handgun from his waistband and held it down at his side. With the gun in plain view, Dewitt walked up to his grandfather and threatened to kill him.
The girlfriend also watched Dewitt threaten to kill his grandmother, while holding the gun. She said Dewitt had never directly pointed the gun at anyone, but was very angry when making the threats.
She added that Dewitt never directly threatened her, but usually threatened his grandparents when he didn't get his way. The girlfriend also said she had seen Dewitt throw food at his grandfather, and scream at both of his grandparents.
Following Dewitt's arrest, his grandparents told the investigator that they felt much safer with Dewitt out of the house, and asked that he be trespassed from the residence.
Going into Friday's change of plea hearing, Dewitt's bond was set at $75,000 cash or surety. Public defender Curtis Cheney asked Forgey to reduce the bond to a personal recognizance bond, or $10,000 cash or surety.
"My understanding is that his family would like him to be out of jail," Cheney said, adding that Dewitt would not be staying with his grandparents if released.
Blonigen opposed any modification, saying he was concerned about the role methamphetamine played in Dewitt's behavior.
Forgey agreed to reduce the bond amount to $15,000 cash or surety, and added the condition that Dewitt must submit to drug and alcohol testing should his bond be posted.