A man charged with stabbing his girlfriend, endangering a child and stealing his ex-wife’s car was denied a reduction in bond Tuesday in district court in Cortez.
Christopher Wheat, 29, was charged earlier this year by the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, felony menacing, aggravated motor vehicle theft, child abuse and obstructing a police officer.
District Attorney Matt Margeson offered a plea deal this month in which Wheat would face up to 12 years in prison if he pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree assault, a Class 4 felony.
The other charges would be dropped if Wheat and the judge accepted the deal.
The usual range of jail time for second-degree assault is two to six years. But the district attorney’s office added a crime of violence sentence enhancer. In Colorado, judges may impose enhanced sentences on individuals convicted of violent crimes if the offender used a deadly weapon or caused serious bodily injury.
According to an incident report from the Cortez Police Department, Wheat allegedly stabbed his girlfriend, Ashley Jeter, on the night of Jan. 5.
He then allegedly stole his ex-wife’s car at knife-point and drove off, returning an hour later and broke into his former wife’s home.
When police arrived, Wheat grabbed his 3-year-old son and held him between the officers and himself. He pointed a knife at officers and retreated farther into the home.
Wheat eventually released the child after numerous commands to let him go and locked himself in a bathroom.
Wheat finally complied with police, dropped his weapons and was placed into custody.
Wheat told officers he had taken some “bad drugs.”
Jeter was taken to Southwest Memorial Hospital and treated for “serious bodily injury” from the stab wounds, according to the incident report.
Wheat’s attorney, Jonathan Jourdane, argued in court Tuesday that his client’s bond should be reduced to $25,000 from the $500,000 bond set by Montezuma County Court Judge JenniLynn Lawrence.
Jourdane mentioned that Wheat had been assaulted by other inmates in jail and didn’t feel safe due to racial animus.
“Mr. Wheat, quite frankly, feels safer outside of Cortez,” Jourdane said.
Defense argued that Wheat should be able to post bond and spend time in Albuquerque with his son and former partner.
Jourdane also argued that a protection order be modified to allow Wheat to communicate electronically with his son while in custody.
Margeson responded by detailing Wheat’s prior criminal history, which includes two convictions on domestic violence charges. Wheat also failed to appear in court four times.
“The defendant has posed a threat of violence in the past,” Margeson said. “He certainly poses a threat of violence in this case. He’s alleged to have stabbed Ms. Jeter multiple times, stopping only when the knife in this case broke. A high bond is necessary to ensure the safety of the community, to ensure that Mr. Wheat appears for court.”
Margeson also mentioned that the mother of Wheat’s son told him the 3-year-old is still having a difficult time processing the events of that night.
The mothers of both the victim and the defendant spoke in court.
Mary Heard, Wheat’s mother, attested that she never expected to be in this situation.
“My son is really a good, good son,” Heard said. When I got a call and was told what he had done, I could not believe that was my son. My son is a loving father. He’s a good-hearted person.”
Andrea Jeter, the mother of the victim, argued forcefully that Wheat’s bond should not budge.
“The only reason my daughter is alive today is because the knife broke,” Jeter said. “My daughter has scars all over her. To let him out right now on a lower bond amount is just absolutely ridiculous in my mind.”
She also expressed sympathy for Wheat’s son.
“That poor baby is going to have years that he is going to have to deal with what has happened to him,” Jeter said.
District Court Judge Todd Plewe decided to maintain Wheat’s bond at $500,000. No modification was made to the protection order.
A plea hearing has been set for April 20 at 9:30 a.m. Wheat will be required to enter a plea, and if he pleads not guilty, a date will be set for trial.
If Wheat and the judge accept the plea deal, he likely would face up to 12 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.